Stephanie Castilla, our Technology Integration Specialist, is Honored with the Rhode Island Tech10 – Outstanding Achievement Award!

On May 17th, our very own Stephanie Castilla, Technology Integration Specialist at the Highlander Institute and the co-founder of Metryx, was honored at a celebration event, the the Tech Collective’s Tech10 Award. Not only was she among the 10 recipients of this exciting award, she also received an additional award for overall achievement.

“She stood out, even among the other nine winners,” said Tech Collective’s Melissa Punchak.

The Tech Collective’s Tech10 Awards program recognizes Rhode Island’s 10 most accomplished IT practitioners, digital media professionals, and entrepreneurs. These are the do-ers, to go-to guys and gals. They are the geeks, the brainiacs, the ones who make the rest of us look like dolts and superstars all at the same time. They are the innovators and designers bringing to reality a world even beyond our dreams. And sometimes, they are so busy, they don’t have time to stand in the spotlight. Not this time.

http://www.tech10awards.com/?page_id=273

http://www.pbn.com/Tech-Collective-announces-Tech10-winners,66750


Highlander Institute's Shawn Rubin in the News!

Shawn Rubin, technology integration director at the Highlander Institute, answered five questions about technology and education in today’s Providence Business News.

 

 

 

Shawn Rubin is the CEO of Metryx, a startup mobile software company that is building flexible assessment tools for teachers to use on tablets and smartphones, and serves as the Director of Technology Integration at the Highlander Institute. In this role, Shawn oversees the Institute’s new touch technology professional development programs throughout New England. 

PBN: What do you think students have to gain from integrating online learning into the classroom?

RUBIN: For far too long students have suffered under a one size fits all approach to education. The major barrier preventing systemic reform efforts has been the inordinate amount of time teachers must spend assessing, analyzing and then differentiating instruction to meet the needs of a wide range of student learning profiles.

The fallout is that “advanced” or “remedial” students are forced to sit through lessons that are either too easy or too hard – or they are pulled from the classroom to get the instruction they need. Previous attempts at differentiating instruction inside the classroom have not been economical or sustainable.

However, new app-based and cloud-supported technologies are able to accomplish many of the time consuming and challenging tasks that support effective differentiation. Tools like adaptive assessment, automated grading, classroom polling, and game based learning are aligned to national common core standards and allow students to interact with skills in an engaging format at exactly the level of challenge that they need. Not to mention that many of these programs are incredibly engaging and fun – students are naturally drawn to them and enjoy the time they spend learning online.

PBN: Have you faced any sort of criticism from people who stand by more traditional teaching methods?

RUBIN: Most teachers, administrators and parents who participate in Highlander Institute workshops, trainings, and conferences are eager to learn more about these new methods of teaching. Technology has been in classrooms for years but has never been leveraged well. I believe that parents and educators are sensing the shift that is aligning new technologies, rigorous standards and personalized learning. We need to consider, teachers and students are using technology in their everyday lives just like anyone else. They have iPads, smart phones, and all kinds of gadgets. Bringing these technologies into the classroom is not only inevitable, but necessary to maximize education in today’s world.

Yet, the deal-breaker for effectively integrating and using new technologies is the amount of professional development that accompanies the purchase of each new technology. Its here we see reluctance. Shifting from teacher centered to student centered instruction requires transformative changes in practice. This is truly a paradigm shift in education. And to get there, teachers need training to use and manage these new tools, and also support to understand what each tool represents in this new way of learning.

PBN: Does Internet-based learning work better for some age groups than others?

RUBIN: There are definitely different online approaches that are targeted towards the developmental needs of various age levels, but all students can benefit from current advances in education technology.

Consider, for example, iCreatetoEducate, an innovative stop-animation software that empowers students to create their own animated movies. The software is free to download and test, and so easy to use that this software transcends age. First graders can use it to explain the life-cycle of a frog and 10th graders can use it to retell “Romeo and Juliet.”

Personalization in learning is important no matter the age. There is not a classroom or group of students that would not benefit from a more focused and targeted learning experience. For this education technology can be extremely useful.

PBN: What sort of things are you going to be teaching educators attending the conference?

RUBIN: Our overarching goal for the Blended Learning & Technology Conference is to encourage more teachers from southern New England to explore, experiment and engage in blended learning. Too often teachers have no opportunity to tinker and explore with the latest and greatest tools either because they are not available at their schools or there is just not enough time in the day.

The Conference will expose teachers to incredible hardware and software directly through the edtech entrepreneurs who are building them. We are living in the age of free beta testing in which teachers can gain access to incredible products free of charge, communicate with developers, and inspire the creation of the tool of their dreams. By bringing teachers and developers together, tools become more practical and students ultimately benefit.

While we are at the very beginning stages of an edtech explosion, there are teachers right here in Rhode Island who are pioneers with these technologies. We are bringing these pioneers to the Conference as well to talk about their experiences and to encourage more teachers to take the plunge.

The Blended Learning & Technology Conference will provide easy access for educators to begin the process by learning hands-on themselves from with the people that are developing the tools or already using them.

PBN: What do you think the biggest challenges are facing the wide-spread adoption of this sort of technology in schools?

RUBIN: Equity and professional development are the two biggest challenges. So much of the software that is available today is free or incredibly cheap to use, but without the hardware on which to run it and/or without the proper training to use it, then ultimately we are creating an even bigger achievement gap between the districts that have and the districts that don’t.

Grants will continue to pop up that will bestow designated public schools and charters the resources they need to enter the digital world, but will it ever be enough? Can urban schools properly implement a flipped classroom when families don’t have internet access or computers at home? Can urban districts with decaying infrastructure and large concrete buildings figure out a way to wire their classrooms so they can leverage free Web 2.0 tools?

I have no doubt that these technologies will drastically increase learning for students, but it will take serious commitment from our education and political leaders to make sure that this edtech boom doesn’t exacerbate the already expansive achievement gap between the rich and poor.

By Emily Greenhalgh, PBN Web Editor

Summer Internships with Metryx and the Highlander Institute

Summer Internship at Exciting Providence Based EdTech Startup

Metryx is an innovative, Providence-based startup company dedicated to developing mobile applications for education. Our first product, the Metryx Mobile Tracker is an assessment application for educators that tracks student progress efficiently and effectively on all mobile devices.

Metryx will launch its full-featured Beta version on May 19th and will use the summer to build a version 1 that will be released in the beginning of September.

Metryx is offering internship opportunities for the summer starting the end of June and ending the second week of August (start and end dates are flexible). This is an exciting opportunity to work directly with the founders of a start-up.

Applicants must be focused, hard working and able to learn on the fly.

Education Research Intern – We are looking for teachers, teachers-in-training or retired teachers who are interested in helping us rewrite the national Common Core Standards for Metryx. This is an ideal position for educators interested in learning more about the incoming Common Core standards.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Research

Spreadsheet/Database creation

Product Planning

Market Research

Product Testing and User Feedback Analysis

Mobile Application Research Intern – We are looking for computer savvy individuals who use mobile devices like tablets and SMARTphones. We need individuals who enjoy exploring new applications, and are interested in documenting their thoughts and feedback around features and problems they find with targeted education applications.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Research

Data Entry

Reviewing of applications

Market Research

Product Testing and User Feedback Analysis

Web and Coding Intern – We are looking for interns with beginning web-design, or coding skills who want to work alongside talented web professionals to learn more about this field. This summer we will be creating several websites that will need design and coding work. On the job training will be provided, but we are looking for people with prior experience.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Graphic Design (Adobe Suite experience preferred)

Web Design (Word Press or other Content Management experience preferred)

Web Design (HTML, CSS, and Javascript skills are a bonus)

Writing and Editing

Photographic/Video Editing

Social Media Publishing

Details:

Schedule: Part time, 15 – 30 hours per week

Compensation: $500 – $1,000 stipend depending on length of committment

Commitment: June through August

Application Deadline: Open until Filled

Location: Highlander Dunn Institute, 42 Lexington Ave. Providence, RI

Experience and Ability:

  • Must be web and social media-savvy
  • Must be able to learn new programs & applications with relative ease
  • Must have some work experience with a letter of reference from a manager at previous location
  • Must have an interest in helping to advance the role technology plays in the educational system
  • Must be prompt, cordial, and appropriately able to work well in a school and office environment
  • Must be self-motivated, proactive and driven to meet deadlines
  • Must be positive and upbeat

How to Apply:

Please submit a resume, with any samples of work to shawn@MyMetryx.com

Please use “Summer Intern” in the subject line

Website: http://www.mymetryx.com/

Highlander Institute’s Stephanie Castilla in the News!

Stephanie Castilla, technology integration specialist at the Highlander Institute, and RI Tech Ten award winner, answered five questions about technology and education in today’s Providence Business News.

Stephanie Castilla, technology-integration specialist at the Providence- based Highlander Institute and co-founder of Metrx LLC, talks about her Tech10 overall achievement award, the best tech-tools out there and the future of Providence’s technology industry.

PBN: As a recently named Tech10 award winner, what advice do you have for other IT professionals?

CASTILLA: I believe many people are drawn to the field of IT because they truly enjoy solving problems and this can be a tremendous asset to any organization. For this reason, IT professionals tend to be very busy people and there is usually no shortage of work to go around.

If I could offer any advice to others like myself it would be to strike a balance between offering high quality IT support in the workplace and providing much needed outreach in the community.

Mentoring others can be a highly rewarding way of expanding one’s knowledge-base and nurturing the next generation of IT practitioners.

PBN: Why do you think you were chosen for the Tech10 Overall Achievement Award? CASTILLA: It is a tremendous honor to be presented with this award, and I am very grateful to the Tech Collective for recognizing work being done in education.

When I first set out to get involved in the “edtech” space, I knew I wanted to help teachers solve everyday problems by raising technological awareness and discovering new ways of implementing the latest and greatest tools in the classroom.

The community has been very receptive and I have had the opportunity to get involved on many fronts, including running professional development workshops and launching my own startup, Metryx, in which my partner Shawn Rubin and I are developing a mobile application that supports classroom assessment.These activities have given me the opportunity to connect with teachers all over New England and learn from their experiences.

PBN: What are some of the best tools you’ve encountered in your work both at the Highlander Institute and at Metryx.

CASTILLA: I love working with tools that are flexible and demonstrate a completeness of vision. When a developer or designer has thought through the user experience (from initial use to full implementation), I feel satisfied to see that technology is being used to support current practice not supplant it.

Some tools, such as Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Apps have become an invaluable part of my team’s workflow and help us collaborate remotely and keep things organized in the day-to-day.

At our workshops, we passionately recommended these tools to teachers since we believe they have the power to make their work more efficient and manageable.

For purposes of instruction, I believe the myriad of content-rich applications available on the web and on mobile devices are helping educators differentiate their instruction to meet individual student needs.

One of my favorite tools is Educreations, an app that lets users record a video as they draw and speak into the iPad and publish it immediately online.

This tool provides an amazing way for teachers to explain key concepts and for students to show their work as they solve problems.

PBN: How do you view the Tech community in Rhode Island?

CASTILLA: I feel that the tech community is really thriving in Rhode Island and that we are only at the beginning of

harnessing its full potential. RI attracts people working in IT due to its strong academic community and its inherent culture of collaboration.

I love working in Rhode Island because I have found that many people feel deeply invested in their work as the effects and outcomes are so tangible in such a small state.

I feel inspired by my colleagues at the Highlander Institute and Highlander Charter School on a daily basis and look forward to seeing more interdisciplinary collaboration between tech professionals and the communities they serve.

PBN: How do you think that community will grow or change in upcoming years?

CASTILLA: I hope that as the Rhode Island IT community grows stronger over the next few years and more high tech startups come to the area, we will see a larger number of our talented graduates choosing to call Rhode Island home.

I finished my studies in Providence, RI and I truly feel this has been a great place to grow professionally. Looking towards the future I am excited to see what new innovations will spring forth from within our borders.

By Emily Greenhalgh, PBN Web Editor

Highlander Institute's Stephanie Castilla in the News!

Stephanie Castilla, technology integration specialist at the Highlander Institute, and RI Tech Ten award winner, answered five questions about technology and education in today’s Providence Business News.

 

 

 

Stephanie Castilla, technology-integration specialist at the Providence- based Highlander Institute and co-founder of Metrx LLC, talks about her Tech10 overall achievement award, the best tech-tools out there and the future of Providence’s technology industry.

PBN: As a recently named Tech10 award winner, what advice do you have for other IT professionals?

CASTILLA: I believe many people are drawn to the field of IT because they truly enjoy solving problems and this can be a tremendous asset to any organization. For this reason, IT professionals tend to be very busy people and there is usually no shortage of work to go around.

If I could offer any advice to others like myself it would be to strike a balance between offering high quality IT support in the workplace and providing much needed outreach in the community.

Mentoring others can be a highly rewarding way of expanding one’s knowledge-base and nurturing the next generation of IT practitioners.

PBN: Why do you think you were chosen for the Tech10 Overall Achievement Award? CASTILLA: It is a tremendous honor to be presented with this award, and I am very grateful to the Tech Collective for recognizing work being done in education.

When I first set out to get involved in the “edtech” space, I knew I wanted to help teachers solve everyday problems by raising technological awareness and discovering new ways of implementing the latest and greatest tools in the classroom.

The community has been very receptive and I have had the opportunity to get involved on many fronts, including running professional development workshops and launching my own startup, Metryx, in which my partner Shawn Rubin and I are developing a mobile application that supports classroom assessment.These activities have given me the opportunity to connect with teachers all over New England and learn from their experiences.

PBN: What are some of the best tools you’ve encountered in your work both at the Highlander Institute and at Metryx.

CASTILLA: I love working with tools that are flexible and demonstrate a completeness of vision. When a developer or designer has thought through the user experience (from initial use to full implementation), I feel satisfied to see that technology is being used to support current practice not supplant it.

Some tools, such as Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Apps have become an invaluable part of my team’s workflow and help us collaborate remotely and keep things organized in the day-to-day.

At our workshops, we passionately recommended these tools to teachers since we believe they have the power to make their work more efficient and manageable.

For purposes of instruction, I believe the myriad of content-rich applications available on the web and on mobile devices are helping educators differentiate their instruction to meet individual student needs.

One of my favorite tools is Educreations, an app that lets users record a video as they draw and speak into the iPad and publish it immediately online.

This tool provides an amazing way for teachers to explain key concepts and for students to show their work as they solve problems.

PBN: How do you view the Tech community in Rhode Island?

CASTILLA: I feel that the tech community is really thriving in Rhode Island and that we are only at the beginning of

harnessing its full potential. RI attracts people working in IT due to its strong academic community and its inherent culture of collaboration.

I love working in Rhode Island because I have found that many people feel deeply invested in their work as the effects and outcomes are so tangible in such a small state.

I feel inspired by my colleagues at the Highlander Institute and Highlander Charter School on a daily basis and look forward to seeing more interdisciplinary collaboration between tech professionals and the communities they serve.

PBN: How do you think that community will grow or change in upcoming years?

CASTILLA: I hope that as the Rhode Island IT community grows stronger over the next few years and more high tech startups come to the area, we will see a larger number of our talented graduates choosing to call Rhode Island home.

I finished my studies in Providence, RI and I truly feel this has been a great place to grow professionally. Looking towards the future I am excited to see what new innovations will spring forth from within our borders.

By Emily Greenhalgh, PBN Web Editor

 

Highlander Institute gets 200 Likes!

Thank you for your 200 likes on Facebook! We appreciate you following us. Help us continue to grow by recommending us to more of your FB friends.

We will continue to bring you fantastic online resources as well as a variety of professional development opportunities. Some of them just one easy click away like Little Speller’s new Sentence Maker app, which is wonderful for early and struggling readers, and free in the App Store this weekend.

Gift to Highlander Honors Bryant Wick

The Highlander Institute recently received a $50,000 gift to develop tools that help teachers efficiently implement Response to Intervention (RTI) processes and services in their classrooms and schools.  These tools will directly impact teachers and increase the power of their instruction; however, the ultimate goal behind the tools is to improve the academic trajectories of struggling students.

The anonymous gift was granted by a foundation who felt that the collaborations nurtured by the Highlander Dunn Institute had broad implications for school reform work in the educational community. The gift was made in honor of Bryant Wick.

Born in 1961, K. Bryant Wick was an avid sportsman and philanthropist, serving on his family’s foundation for over 20 years.  He suddenly and tragically died in 2009 from injuries resulting from an automobile accident.

The motivation behind the Highlander Institute gift is to assist parents and teachers of children confronting learning difficulties and disabilities.  But the heartfelt element of this gift is in honor of a wonderful man who loved life, his family, friends, and those young people who deserve a hand in their struggle with learning disabilities.

Bryant was a part of a substantive tradition of philanthropy directed at dyslexia and learning disabilities. He brought to the table a level of passion and spirit that comes only through the adversity and pain one feels when dealing with dyslexia firsthand.  Bryant’s attitude towards life showed a drive to succeed and to persuade and encourage others with learning disabilities that they were indeed remarkable individuals, with skills and insights that would see them clear of any hurdle.

Young people need spiritual mentors like Bryant Wick to sustain them when they can only see their own faults and weaknesses.  Through this gift and the memories of everyone who knew him, Bryant is still with us, supporting all those who work in the field of learning disabilities and reminding us, repeatedly, that we can if we will.

Highlander Dunn Institute and Metryx: Developing one of the "5 coolest apps" in RI

Tech startups have to start up somewhere. Ambitious entrepreneurs, well aware of a smartphone apps’ ease of delivery, set sights high—regional, national and global—right out of the gate. Several such startups are being developed right here in Rhode Island.

One locally grown touch-screen application has already started to increase the rate at which teachers can gather and organize information about their students’ progress.

Education App

“We want students to be taught at the appropriate level,” said Metryx cofounder Shawn Rubin. “The more teachers understand where their students fall in terms of their proficiency with a skill, the better they will be able to prepare their lessons to meet students’ needs.”

But before this new formative assessment tool reaches the hands and fingers of educators in every corner of the U.S., some Ocean State teachers are test-driving the new app on iPads and providing Rubin and cofounder Stephanie Castilla valuable feedback ahead of extensive Beta testing this winter.

“Currently there are 15 teachers piloting the Metryx app at Highlander Charter School,” Rubin said. “We will be expanding to between 30 and 50 by the end of January and then looking to grow our Beta pilot well into the hundreds nationwide by the end of the winter.”

“RI is a great place for startups to get support, funding and traction,” Rubin continued. “Nonprofits like the Highlander-Dunn Institute are always looking for locally-grown ideas that they can bring to the rest of the state.”

Highlander Recognized for Innovation by the Providence Business News

Creative Curriculum Sparks Results at Highlander

Oct 3, 2011

By Alli-Michelle Conti, Contributing Writer

Charter schools are a chance to involve entire communities. Highlander Charter School takes that notion and runs with it. Other area public schools are, in fact, looking to them as a model.

At the forefront of their innovation is touch technology, extensive after-school programs, a unique approach to math and science learning, along with a commitment to community service and family engagement.

They have seen significant gains in student proficiency and parent satisfaction. Like other urban schools, Highlander has struggled to overcome low standardized test scores. Yet over the past three years, student aptitude levels have increased by 17 percentage points on the literacy New England Common Assessment Program and 15 percentage points on the math NECAP.

They are also showing steady progress towards closing the gap not only with science but literacy and math. Still, these are not their only measures of success.

It’s a “nurturing the whole child” approach that has garnered the school recognition, as well as the R.I. Department of Education, which granted Highlander $140,000 to share its best practices.

“Every single teacher goes to every single one of their students’ houses to meet with families to create common understanding for the year’s expectations,” said Rose Mary Grant, head of school.

Teachers are drawn to the Providence school for its creativity within the curriculum, small class sizes of only 16-18 students, and the extra support. The instructor turnover rate is low. In the past two years, only a few teachers have left due to relocation.

“Flexibility in a charter school allows teachers to explore their passions and their students’ passions,” said Grant.

With 82 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch and 14 percent of students receiving special education services, Highlander reflects many of the state’s urban schools. However, their original ways of teaching have set them apart.

“We are able to test innovative ideas across different backgrounds,” said Grant.

This is due to the fact that not all students come from a concentrated area like Providence. Highlander is able to draw upon somewhat of a diverse socio-economic background stretching across the state.

Each year, the admission lottery gets more competitive. In March, 46 spots were filled for 890 applicants.

Confident in its recent test scores in literacy, due in part to their work with The Highlander Dunn Institute, the school has chosen to focus on advanced ways of teaching math and science.

Smart Math, a program designed by its teachers, allows repetition across grade levels to ensure mastery. It is not a “canned” product. The Smart Math curriculum is electronic.

Using a mostly electronic curriculum in math, teachers are able to easily adjust the lesson to compensate for skill sets, explains Grant.

A multisensory approach to learning has recently developed further with a touch-technology integration into classrooms using iPad applications. They are used to improve skills such as reading and at the same time enticing students into learning.

Teachers at Highlander have created student-assessment software to make it easier and faster for teachers to enter evaluation data, resulting in an automated analysis of skill levels and challenges.

This allows a teacher to immediately adjust lesson plans according to a student’s ability.

http://pbn.com/Creative-curriculum-sparks-results-at-Highlander,61534