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Learning Technology Grant Program Overview: Utica City School District

Award Years: 2018-2021

Utica TEAM (Technology Experiences And Media) has been designed to impact the Utica City School District’s library media specialists, teachers, and students for many years beyond the scope of this Learning Technology Grant’s funding. The Utica City School District (UCSD) is an urban district located in Oneida County, New York. The County’s population is 83% White, 5.67% Black, 5.21% Hispanic, and 11.8% non-English speakers.  The City of Utica’s population is 59.3% White, 14.3% Black, 11.5% Hispanic, and 28.7% non-English speakers.  Statistics for the UCSD’s students point more severely to our needs. 17% of our students are English Language Learners/Multilingual Learners; 14% are Students with Disabilities; and 81% are Economically Disadvantaged.  These demographics present a particular burden on the Utica City School District—the 3rd poorest district in the state—with a population that requires giving students more time and more attention to bring them into the world of educational technology. Within the District, seven of the thirteen schools are identified as in need of improvement by the State. Kernan Elementary is a Priority School. Both middle schools, John F. Kennedy and James H. Donovan, are identified as Focus Schools. Four of the ten elementary schools, John F. Hughes, Jefferson, Watson-Williams, and Martin Luther King, are Focus Schools. Three other schools within our District’s boundaries will be included in this grant: Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School, Notre Dame Elementary, and Upstate Cerebral Palsy (UCP).

Utica TEAM’s success depends on training all 14 of the District’s library media specialists and 120 teachers in all of its thirteen schools. Participants will also include: 3 library media specialists and 12 teachers from Notre Dame Junior/Senior High and Elementary Schools and one education technology specialist and one teacher from Upstate Cerebral Palsy (UCP). This structure will make the library media/education technology specialists the building “experts” and the schools’ libraries the hubs of Utica TEAM activities.  Utica TEAM will add participants over the three-year period. At the beginning of each year, the library media/education technology specialists will be trained by the Model Schools Technology Integration Specialist in both G Suite for Education and Creative Commons License. Under the direction of the Utica TEAM Coordinator, they will then explore and learn about creating culturally and linguistically responsive lessons that are structured to encourage personalized learning— goals that most directly impact student learning. In the second half of each year, the library media/ education technology specialists will conduct training sessions in their own schools. These small trainings, 8–10 participants each, will foster collaboration and participation. 

Each teacher and library media/education technology specialist will produce at least 2 complete lessons that will be published on the UCSD’s website at the end of each year under Creative Commons License. This ensures that all teachers can access the lessons. The effect of this lesson sharing will be systemic and long lasting. Beyond the use of educational technology, these lessons will focus on aspects that will change learning for students by focusing on personalized learning—giving students guided control over the ways they explore topics and ideas.  In addition, the lessons will be designed to be culturally and linguistically responsive which will empower a greater number of otherwise disenfranchised learners. Changing the focus of lessons will impact the ways our teachers teach and our students learn for years to come.  

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