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Amityville Teachers Earn Grants For Terrific Tech Use

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The innovative ideas of three teachers in the Amityville Union Free School District resulted in $2,000 in grant awards, which will be used to further enhance learning opportunities for students. 

Amityville teachers received two out of the five Model Schools awards from Western Suffolk BOCES for their creative use of instructional technology. Northwest Elementary School co-teachers Kerrin Faulkner and Jenny Smith earned one of the $1,000 awards and Amityville Memorial High School social studies Jack Zider received the other. 

Ms. Faulkner and Ms. Smith have taught second grade together for the past four years and have continued to expand the use of technology to engage their students. Every year, students complete nonfiction writing pieces, including a research-based project on topics of their choice. This year, the project came about right after holiday break, but with Amityville schools on remote learning for the first two weeks of January, they looked for a new way for students to complete their projects.

The teachers turned to Book Creator, an app that students could access from their Chromebooks at home. Instead of paper projects, students created digital books on topics ranging from animals to historical events to sports. 

Ms. Faulkner and Ms. Smith said the addition of the technology component raised the level of engagement among students, who worked extremely hard to create their digital books. They were so proud of their finished products, the teachers said, they couldn’t wait to share with their classmates. All of the books were compiled into a digital book museum. 

“This technology really lifted the level of their writing,” Ms. Faulkner said. “It also really opened our eyes to new possibilities for the future.”

The teachers added that in addition to helping them with their research skills, the project showed students the important of including different text and non-text features in their writing, like photos and graphics, a table of contents, a glossary and fun facts pages.

For Black History Month in February, ninth graders in Mr. Zider’s social studies classes created a “Periodic Table of African-American Achievement in History” using Google Slides and Jamboard. Students, working independently or in small groups, created an interactive database in which they identified the accomplishments of notable Black figures throughout history. 

In addition to their Google Slide and Jamboard presentations, students created Flipgrid videos describing the impact those individuals made on society. The ninth graders explained why they chose their particular subjects and why their accomplishments should be celebrated. The projects were uploaded to their digital portfolios on Google Sites and shared with sixth graders at Edmund W. Miles Middle School.

“It’s very exciting,” Mr. Zider said of receiving the grant, “but all of the credit goes to the students. They really made it come to life. I’m just happy that they're being recognized for how dedicated they were to this project.”

Mr. Zider, who taught at the middle school for six years before moving to the high school this year, said that digital citizenship is an important part of social studies education He explained that the work his students do now should prepare them for the digital world they will experience after graduation, which is why he uses technology to such a great extent in his classroom. 

Ms. Faulkner, Ms. Smith and Mr. Zider will be able to use the grant money to pick out instructional resources of their choosing for their classrooms to enhance opportunities for their students. They will be honored at a Model Schools virtual celebration later this year and will be invited to speak for a few minutes about their projects. 
Monday, May 17, 2021