Parent Profile: Xiao Wen Zhen
Nine-year-old Maggie Liu always did well in school, but it wasn't until her teacher had access to new digital resources to personalize learning that Maggie, her parents and her teacher all realized how strong of a student she really was.
"It helps Maggie a lot with math and reading; she was always a good student, but the technology gave her a better idea of how good of a student she really is and she's now much more motivated to do even better," her mother, Xiao Wen Zhen said. "Maggie loves to be on the computers in class so much that when she comes home she wants to continue her work. I'm very happy that she's not only learning, but having fun at the same time, too."
Maggie is a student at P.S. 307 Daniel Hale Williams in Brooklyn where adaptive learning software, laptops, Netbooks and Smartboards are a part of her iZone designated classroom. The Assistant Principal, William Diederich, says these new resources have been the driving force in pushing Maggie to work even harder.
"Maggie's class uses Pearson Successmaker's learning software and her teachers are really able to extend what is prescribed by the program and further learning," he said. "Usually, we are trying to move up the low level students instead of pushing gifted students and this software is a great tool to differentiate learning and challenge higher ranked students to work at their own pace and level. She's doing work in math that other students are nowhere near and now that Maggie can see how advanced she is, she wants to work even harder. Instead of teaching to the middle the teacher can meet the needs of everyone which is a great advantage."
Successmaker also allows Maggie and her parents to track her progress online, an effort that has helped them all increase their web skills. It's an added bonus for Ms. Zhen, who was born in China and is still learning English. "I help Maggie at home and her father helps her to track her progress and see how she's doing," Ms. Zhen said. "I wasn't nervous about the technology; I felt very confident it will help her learn even more. And it has. I'm still learning English and Maggie is helping me study online since she now has experience with technology."
According to Mr. Diederich, the school also made sure to educate parents on the new resources. "These software companies came in to demo their product at parent teacher conferences so parents would know what it looked like and how to use it at home," he said. "One of the reasons Ms. Zhen loves Maggie being in this school, especially now, is that she can see what kind of growth Maggie is making."
And Ms. Zhen isn't alone in her enthusiasm. "Our major reaction from parents is excitement because a lot of students don't have access to technology at home," Mr. Diederich said. "Parents know that in order for their child to be successful in this global world they have to be adept at technology. They are now much more comfortable with technology because they see their child do it."
Looking forward, Assistant Principal Diederich says the school plans to increase their efforts to parents even further. "We are looking at having phone and online tech support next year in case there is any difficulty accessing the software from home," he said. "The iZone has pushed the whole school forward and made technology a part of the whole conversation in the building."