New Mexico uses technology to boost literacy

The New Mexico Public Education Department has kicked off the Building Blocks Project to improve literacy at the New Mexico Summer Institute in Santa Fe.

The Educational Technology Bureau of the New Mexico Public Education Department is working with 14 Local Educational Agencies (LEA's) in the Building Blocks Project to study the effect of a technology-infused, data-driven process to improve student performance in reading and language arts. The Building Blocks Project instructional model is a set of research-based strategies integrating technology and best teaching practices to create a learning community where teachers and students explore and create knowledge together using a variety of resources. Teachers facilitate learning through the use of essential questions on issues that matter to students to stimulate thinking, build curiosity, create connections, and generate long-lasting knowledge.

A grant through the Enhancing Education Through Technology program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides schools participating in the Building Blocks Project with the funds to implement the instructional model. Components of the program include technology to support 1-to-1 computing, professional development, and formative assessment. Educational search company netTrekker will provide educators with digital content and resources to personalize instruction and create 21st century learning experiences for students.

"netTrekker will provide the LEA's with a tool that supports best practices and fosters technology integration into daily classroom instruction," said Andrew Rendon, Educational Technology Bureau Chief of the New Mexico Public Education Department. "The educators participating in the project can easily and safely access relevant educational resources through netTrekker that will help drive teacher effectiveness in the classroom, along with improved student achievement."

netTrekker offers more than 300,000 safe, educator-reviewed digital resources that are aligned to standards and span the entire school curriculum. Features include Read Aloud support for struggling learners and special needs students, customized content for English Language Learners, a dictionary/translation Hot Key, and the ability for teachers to bookmark, organize and share resources.

Training and implementation for the Building Blocks Project began at the New Mexico Summer Institute, and will continue throughout the 2010-11 school year. The project targets students in grades 1-8, with a particular focus on School Improvement 1 campuses. A majority of students in these school systems are English Language Learners or from low-income households.

"We are proud to be a part of the state's effort to use technology as a foundation for building places of learning in which teachers and students work together, construct meaning, and achieve at higher levels," said netTrekker CEO Randy Wilhelm.