Harvard watching Piedmont for study on education methods
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Dec 25, 2012 | 3901 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Piedmont fourth-grade teacher Christina Woodard teaches her class at Piedmont Elementary School. Harvard University is including Piedmont City Schools in a study on e-learning and technology in the classroom. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Piedmont fourth-grade teacher Christina Woodard teaches her class at Piedmont Elementary School. Harvard University is including Piedmont City Schools in a study on e-learning and technology in the classroom. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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Harvard University is including Piedmont City Schools in a study aimed at determining how educators can best teach students.

The Ivy League researchers are following educators in school districts across the country, including three Piedmont teachers who are receiving training and using a library of online educational videos throughout the year. The data collected in Piedmont will be used to determine whether students learn best in classrooms where teachers use data such as test scores to drive instruction, or if students learn better in classrooms where teachers use strategy to drive instruction, said Piedmont schools Superintendent Matt Akin.

Harvard’s Education Innovation Laboratory, which is conducting the study, found Piedmont through the League of Innovative Schools. The league is a coalition of school districts located across the nation that are known for putting more technology in students’ hands.

Akin said being part of this small group of progressive districts made his small school system’s participation in the Harvard study possible.

“That’s one of the exciting things about being with the league,” Akin said. “If we weren’t part of the league, we’d never connect with Harvard.”

The laboratory’s scientists are working to transform education through data analysis, according to its website.

The researchers may be using Piedmont to collect information about education, but Harvard isn’t the only entity benefiting from the study.

The three teachers selected for the program, one math teacher from fourth grade, one from fifth grade and one from sixth grade, are already benefitting from the study. So too, are their students, teachers say.

Teachers involved with the study can also participate in professional development classes. The local educators said the information they’ve learned in the training courses has transformed their classrooms.

“She is a better teacher just because she is participating in this study,” Akin said of one of the teachers at his school.

Christina Woodard has taught fourth-grade math for seven years. She said using the video lessons from Khan Academy for the study allows her to provide more individualized instruction for her students.

“Without this my students who are advanced or gifted would be held back,” Woodard said. “I don’t hold them down. I let them go. Before this, that would not be possible.”

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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