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Ed Tech Bits-2014-07-08

Great article on Larry Cocco’s presentation at ISTE which gives an excellent overview of the state.

Complete article: ow.ly/yRy5D

Director of New Jersey’s Office of Educational Technology, Larry Cocco’s portion of the article below.

New Jersey

"We're not quite as far along as Indiana is on all those resources, but we do have a few things going on," said Laurence Cocco, director of the New Jersey Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology.

Within the educational technology office, Cocco's Division of Innovation is working with other offices in the department to create a "complimentary suite of resources for New Jersey educators."

Within that suite are: InnovateNJ, edConnectNJ, NJ CORE, an update to the state's technology standards aligned to the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, and the New Jersey Digital Learning and Assessment Portal. Oh, and among the proposed updates to the technology standards? The addition of computational thinking, which will include coding and programming, and updated terminology around things like social media. The standards were last updated five years ago.

The InnovateNJ initiative has three components: Community, which provides a place for educators to work together in developing innovative best practices; Clearinghouse, which provides insight into partners, providers, and solutions; and Initiatives, which includes information on programs currently sponsored by New Jersey's education department.

The state's instructional improvement system, edConnectNJ is federally funded by Race to the Top grants and gives districts applications that help meet student achievement and data goals. The resource exchange, NJ CORE, aims to be a one-stop-shop for teachers searching for resources for the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.

Finally, the New Jersey Learning and Assessment Portal is configured to help the state keep track of readiness for the incoming PARCC exams. "For the first year, the emphasis is on the minimum standards for the test," Cocco said. "But we're about to launch the second phase, where we'll be able to run readiness reports out of the database — not only on the minimum standards, but on the recommended standards."

In the next year, the state will produce digital learning data parameters letting districts see how they compare on digital learning. "Our mantra all along has been, 'Yes, we did join PARCC and we are doing Common Core State Standards, but it's not about assessments. It's about digital learning.' Learning comes before assessments."

Finally, the state contracted with a consulting group and hired a dozen consultants between November 2013 and May 2014 to prepare the state’s schools technologically for PARCC. A Regional Broadband Purchasing Consortium that was also launched is aimed at reducing bandwidth cost up to 85%.

As an aside, Cocco sees games in the classroom as something that's not really being embraced, but he is a guild officer in a group called Gamers Advancing Meaningful Education and studies how games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars are used in meaningful education, such as the "A Hero's Journey" English/language arts curriculum.

Cocco stated at one point during his presentation that the "entire paradigm of what education is needs to be reexamined.”

“It’s not teaching them content, it’s teaching them how to have a lifelong curiosity”