Across the New York City public school district (NYC Schools), educators are successfully using education technology (edtech) to support instructional objectives and student learning. These schools demonstrate that edtech is not a “silver bullet” or teacher replacement, but can be used enhance good teaching practice when integrated into instruction. We created this guide to support educators with small-scale implementation of instructional edtech tools by sharing insights, tips, and lessons learned from real-life cases of integrating education technology.
EdTech With A Purpose: An Introductory Guide to Education Technology for NYC Educators
AN INTRODUCTORY GUIDE TO
EDTECH FOR NYC EDUCATORS
Carmen Fariña, Chancellor
Across the New York City public school district
(NYC Schools), educators are successfully using
education technology (edtech) to support
instructional objectives and student learning.
These schools demonstrate that edtech is not a
“silver bullet” or teacher replacement, but can
be used enhance good teaching practice when
integrated into instruction.
While there is no best or single answer to what
edtech looks like in the classroom, especially in
a large and diverse district such as ours, strong
implementation starts with a clear purpose.
Determining that purpose and assessing which
technology tools are appropriate and easy to use
can be challenging for even the most tech-savvy
educators. We created this guide to support
educators with small-scale implementation of
instructional edtech tools by sharing insights,
tips, and lessons learned from real-life cases of
integrating education technology.
This guide was developed with input from fellow
teachers across the city who saw firsthand the
benefits of integrating technology into their
classrooms. We also drew from findings and
lessons learned from iZone projects and pilot
programs focused on adopting and evaluating new
technologies. By sharing these practices from the
iZone community and beyond, we as a district can
overcome common challenges and misconceptions
around using edtech.
This introductory guide may be read alone to help
you get started with edtech or used as a discussion
tool for teacher teams. It may also be used as a
resource in professional development settings.
The New York City Department
of Education established the
iZone to incubate new ways
of teaching and learning.
Through education technology-
focused programs and
engagements we aim to foster
a forward-thinking community
of NYC Schools that supports
educators in creating relevant
and personalized learning
experiences for their students.
Digital literacy is the knowledge and ability to use a range
of technology tools for varied purposes. A digitally literate
person can use technology to find and evaluate information,
connect and collaborate with others, produce and share
original content, and use the Internet and technology to
achieve academic, professional, or personal goals.
Personalized learning bases the pace of instruction and
pedagogy on the needs of each student. Learning objectives,
instructional approaches, content, and sequencing all vary
based on learner needs. Additionally, learning activities are
more meaningful and relevant to the students because they’re
driven by their interests and often self-initiated.
Blended Learning refers to an environment or classroom
where technology is integrated to augment or support
instructional practices. Student learning occurs in person and
online. Blended learning approaches often allow students to
have some control over time, place, path, or pace of learning.
Three Steps to Getting Started
Identify your goal
for using edtech
sourcing edtech tools
Planning advice and
tips for using edtech
in your classroom
pages 6-7 pages 8-9 pages 10-11
WITH A PURPOSE
Mr. K teaches a self-contained special-education
class with 12 students. The classroom is equipped
with two desktop computers for student access.
Mr. K uses IXL Math, an online site with practice
questions aligned with Common Core and New
York State Standards, to facilitate differentiation in
his classroom for remediation and enrichment. He
likes the scope of grade-level skills covered on the
site and the reporting features that provide instant
feedback with corrective guides for students.
During a math unit on circles, Mr. K noticed that
one of his students, Jeremiah, was advancing
much faster than the rest of the class — he had
completed all of his classwork and reviewed it with
his paraprofessional. While the other students in
the class focused on reaching the learning objective
for the day, Jeremiah logged in to IXL to learn and
practice a higher-level skill of circle math. Initially,
Jeremiah struggled at the start of the activity, but
was able to work through the problems and nearly
master the advanced skill within the remaining
Using IXL allowed Mr. K to individualize Jeremiah’s
learning experience with the support of technology,
enabling him to focus his pedagogy on the other 11
students in the class who needed help to reach the
learning objective for the day. The technology also
enabled Jeremiah to initially fail at the higher-level
problems, get immediate and targeted feedback,
and independently improve towards mastery.
Online Math Practice For
Mrs. F teaches a social studies class with 30
students. Mrs. F shares a laptop cart that she uses
with her students frequently with several of her
colleagues. This year, Mrs. F introduced Actively
Learn, a digital reading product that allows teachers
to integrate questions and discussions into online
texts, to encourage higher-order thinking skills.
Having had difficulty finding engaging articles for
teaching social studies to her class, she was excited
to try the tool.
Mrs. F was able to group her students by reading
ability and have each group read articles that
corresponded with their levels. Alexa, a long-time
reader, enjoyed analyzing articles with her peers
and felt that the online discussion allowed her to
interact with them in a new way. Mrs. F thought that
the program fostered collaborative problem-solving
among her students, especially those who were at
or above grade level.
Scaffolding Texts and Fostering
Student Discussion With a
Digital Reading Software
EXAMPLES OF EDTECH
IN THE CLASSROOM
While there is no best or single answer to
what edtech looks like in the classroom,
especially in a large and diverse district such
as ours, strong implementation starts with
a clear purpose. These examples illustrate
promising edtech practices employed by
Mrs. X teaches in a 1:1 iPad school where each
student is assigned a device at the beginning of
the school year. Students sign contracts to assume
responsibility for the devices and use them daily
in their classrooms and at home. Ms. X leverages
the devices to create a blended learning classroom
At the beginning of her class, students use their
iPads to access Padlet, an online collaboration
tool, to review their daily learning objectives and
instructions for a “Do Now” activity. Students post
open-ended responses to the activity and can
view other students’ responses as they post in real
time. Additionally, Ms. X uses a SMART Board to
project what students are viewing on their individual
In the back of the classroom, Ms. X has created a
vocabulary word wall, but instead of writing out
definitions, she printed and hung up QR codes,
which are matrix barcodes that students can scan
using an app on their iPads. When students need
to look up the definitions of certain words, they can
walk to the word wall and scan the QR code and
the definition will promptly appear on their devices.
Students can save those definitions on their iPads
and refer back to them at their desk or at home
Using iPad Apps in a Blended
Ms. S and Mr. Z co-teach in a tech-enriched
classroom equipped with a set of Chromebooks and
Samsung tablets, Google Apps for Education, and
MakerWare. In the spring of each school year, they
participate in a school-wide “Integrated Project
Week,” during which students engage in
an intensive inquiry-based project.
During “Integrated Project Week” last year, Ms.
S and Mr. Z used edtech to engage students in a
design process to solve a local school problem.
They asked students to design, critique, and
prototype models of school recycling bins to
encourage better and more efficient recycling habits.
For the project, students used Google Drive to
collaborate on the research, planning, design, and
presentation process. Students also used Tinkercad
to design digital prototypes for 3D software and
a MakerBot 3D printer to turn them into physical
prototypes in order to scale models of the final
product. Finally, the students used GoPro and
Windows Movie Maker to document and edit a
short video on their process (vimeo.com/128986643).
Your school’s culture and
environment will be the biggest
factor for determining whether an
edtech product will be a good fit
for you and your students. These
are questions to ask yourself, your
colleagues, or school leaders prior
to trying a new edtech tool.
What’s your school’s vision or
Aligning with the priorities of your school will
help you garner support from your administration
and colleagues and increase the likelihood of
successful implementation. Consider how open your
administration is to using technology and whether
there are other teachers implementing technology
in their classrooms.
Consider the supports and resources that
are available at your school:
Does your school have a bring-your-own-device
Does your school provide students with their own
What hardware or devices do you have access to
at your school (e.g., laptop cart, desktop, tablets,
etc.)? How many are functionally operating (e.g.,
full classroom set, 1-2 devices for group use, etc.)?
How strong is the Internet connection in your
classroom? Does the connection vary by time of
day or number of users?
Consider the needs and capabilities of
Do your students have basic technology skills?
Will you need to introduce procedural steps to
Are there special needs or considerations that
you will need to account for?
Curate digital and multimedia content to
help teach or reinforce a new concept.
Differentiate instruction for small groups
or individual students.
Scaffold content and activities that
enable students to move at their
Help incorporate or meet standards
(e.g., New York State and Common
Core State Standards).
Facilitate student collaboration and
Enable students to create original
work with digital tools.
Introduce digital or online practice
problems for independent remediation
WHAT’S YOUR GOAL FOR
Conduct real-time checks for
Administer online formative assessments
for diagnosing student learning needs.
Capture student work over time to
gauge progress and improve instruction.
Track student progress or mastery.
Here are some examples of goals educators have set for using edtech.
Choose a goal from the list below or write your own:
Knowing your overall goal for using technology before searching for specific apps,
websites, or software will help you prioritize what you are looking for in a specific
edtech tool. Many teachers start using edtech tools as new ways to better engage their
students. Others start with an instructional problem of practice and look to technology
to help address or “solve” their challenge.
Many educators look to websites and social media
channels as leads for new edtech tools to try.
Educators have also reported that they often learn
more about edtech products from peers either
through informal conversations and word of mouth
or formally through product reviews.
The NYC Schools Tech Facebook group
(bit.ly/NYCSchoolsTech) is a Division of Instructional
and Information Technology (DIIT)-moderated
technology forum. Join to share ideas and build
your personal learning network.
The NYC School Technology Summit
(bit.ly/NYCSchoolsTechSummit) is an annual event
typically held in June that connects educators,
administrators, and other staff to share best
practices in education technology.
Graphite (graphite.org) is a free service from
nonprofit Common Sense Education designed to
help preK-12 educators discover, use, and share
apps, games, websites, and digital curriculum
by providing ratings and insights from an active
community of educators.
The EdSurge Product Index (edsurge.com/product-
reviews/) is a community-driven database of
Online discussion groups like the Google Apps
for Education (bit.ly/NYCSchoolsGEG) and BYOD
groups (bit.ly/NYCSchoolsBYOD), Twitter Chats
(bit.ly/19TwitterChats), and in-person NYC Meetups
The market for edtech products is vast
and open, and finding what works
often requires educators to invest
their time. Luckily, there are resources
that provide information about edtech
products available in the market. •
Think about pricing, especially when trying new
edtech tools. If your budget is limited, consider
trying edtech tools that offer a free trial or basic
version of the app, website, or software free of
charge, before advocating for the purchase of a
wider implementation of the app. Other teachers
have found workarounds by sharing licenses
or subscriptions and applying for edtech pilot
It is more beneficial to choose an edtech tool
that is relatively easy for your students to
navigate within the instructional time allotted.
Also, it should not take you an excessive amount
of time and effort to learn the tool.
Tips for Finding EdTech Tools
Use this checklist to assess whether an edtech
app, website, or software will be an appropriate
match for your local context and goal(s).
This tool aligns with my school’s instructional
vision or priorities.
This tool is compatible with the hardware or
devices at my school.
This tool can be incorporated into my lesson
and unit schedule.
This tool does not conflict with other school-
wide technology use or data systems at
I have enough time to learn or receive
training on basic use of this tool.
I am excited to use this tool.
This tool is accessible for my students’
technological skills and learning capabilities.
This tool has supported a student population
similar to mine, or has features to suggest
The majority of my students will be excited
to use this tool.
Considerations for curriculum
The content aligns with my school’s
curriculum and instructional practices.
The content is rigorous enough to push
The content supports and encourages
Checklist for Instructional EdTech Tools
If the edtech tool you choose is web-based,
check to make sure the website or app
is not blocked at your school. With the
NYCDOE Websense Filter Lookup Tool (bit.ly/
WebSecurityChange) you can request to block or
unblock certain categories of websites, like social
media sites, and game-based sites with approval
from your school principal. (Note: you must be
connected to the NYCDOE network to access
Edtech tools that require individual logins
can be difficult to manage. Apps, websites,
or software that offer single sign-ins or
interoperability with existing accounts save you
time and headaches, especially if your students
already have individual, school-issued email
1. Test before you implement. Make sure that the
app, website, or software will work in your school
and is not blocked before rolling out. Try to test
far enough in advance that you can get support
through the proper channels to troubleshoot issues
prior to implementation.
2. Start small. Begin with one new edtech tool at a
time with the devices you have available. Consider
testing the software, app, or website with a small
group of students before introducing it to the whole
classroom. This allows you to troubleshoot and
better understand how the tool works before rolling
it out, which will help you meet your objectives
3. Collaborate with like-minded colleagues. Don’t
go at this alone. Planning with other educators
on your content or grade-level team (or even
teachers beyond your school) can provide a helpful
4. Be realistic about what you can accomplish.
Consider the amount of time available for
students to engage with and get the most out
of the edtech tool. This will help you determine
whether the product should be one component of
a larger lesson, as is common in blended learning
environments, or whether the majority of class
time will be devoted to using the tool.
After identifying promising edtech
tools that support your teaching and
learning goals, the next step is to
plan how you will integrate it into
your classroom. Implementing edtech
is similar to incorporating other
content or analog tools into your
unit or lesson planning, with extra
technical considerations — it will
be more effective if it is scaffolded
and relevant to instructional
objectives. In this section, we provide
implementation tips and advice from
experienced NYC teachers about
integrating technology into
10 Teacher Tips
for EdTech Integration
5. Establish classroom procedures for using
edtech. Based on the product or tool you are
using, identify what procedures you’ll need to cover
(e.g., checking out and returning devices and login
processes). Determine how you will share these
systems with your students. Some methods to
consider: creating a how-to presentation or video
or creating a flowchart.
6. Set up your classroom. Gather all the
resources you will need in advance. This includes
hardware devices (laptops, desktops, tablets,
etc.) and accessories (headphones, microphones,
powerstrips, etc.). Before your lesson, check that
the devices you plan to use are charged. If you plan
to use the devices throughout the day, determine
how and when to charge the devices in between
7. Anticipate student needs. Just because you
start using technology does not mean that students
will automatically be engaged. While some students
may be excited to use new tools or products,
others may experience frustration, especially when
faced with tasks that require higher-order thinking.
Remember that this is part of the learning process.
8. Have a backup plan. It is inevitable that
something will go wrong when using edtech. On
any given day, the Internet or Wi-Fi at your school
may be down, devices may need troubleshooting,
or students may forget their login info, causing
delays and disruption to limited instructional time.
Anticipating what challenges may occur or the
worse-case scenario will help you troubleshoot
these common issues.
9. Don’t expect to have all the answers.
Remember that your knowledge of content and
pedagogy trumps technology savviness. It’s far
more important to facilitate student learning and
assess student work than to know the ins and outs
of a particular product.
10. Reflect. After implementing, review what went
well, what landed, and what needs to be changed
the next time you use the edtech tool. Some
educators use exit tickets or online surveys after a
lesson with their students to assess both learning
objectives and effectiveness of an edtech tool.