2016-05-31

City Year and Microsoft working together

Today, City Year is moving to Microsoft’s Office 365 platform, expanding how City Year leverages Microsoft technology to collaborate across school teams and cities, thereby increasing our impact in the classroom! In addition to the technology support Microsoft provides City Year as a national partner, Microsoft is also helping City Year to expand student access to computer science and coding in after-school through programs like Hour of CodeTynker and Engineering Everywhere

To celebrate this important milestone for City Year, we’re excited to share how Microsoft technology specifically supports our work in the classroom by spotlighting the Microsoft sponsored City Year team serving at Chicago’s Nicholson STEM Academy.  

Microsoft technology is an integral resource to City Year AmeriCorps members at Nicholson STEM Academy, driving greater student impact in three key ways:

1) Making tutoring sessions more interactive and engaging using Microsoft Surface tablets

2) Easier tracking & inputting of student impact data using Microsoft Surface tablets

3) Enhancing collaboration through Microsoft SharePoint tools to share materials and resources

City Year and Microsoft working in classrooms together

1) Making tutoring sessions more interactive and engaging using Microsoft Surface tablets

“My students absolutely LOVE the days when they are able to use my Surface during tutoring, which I try to incorporate at least two or three times per week,” says Jenn Camello, City Year AmeriCorps member. “From using a flashcard application to build procedural fluency in multiplication to playing an interactive online game to review the order of operations, I utilize my tablet to help me cover a plethora of math topics.”

Using a Surface tablet makes a difference in small group tutoring because everyone can interact with learning.

“It’s very interactive. I didn’t expect it to be so integral to tutoring sessions,” says Warren Jackson, City Year AmeriCorps member. “Students can choose their favorite colors. I can pause YouTube videos for everyone to see and make a note, circling things in the video in their favorite colors. The Surface really work best one on one, much more personal, and students can learn how to teach themselves. It’s helpful for kinesthetic learners to understand the concepts in a way that’s most helpful for them.”

When the fourth grade students attend after-school programming, each student gets to use their own tablet for the first half an hour, which they use to play around on Tynker, one of the computer science after-school programs that City Year is piloting with Microsoft.

“As soon as my student walks into the City Year room for after-school, he always asks, ‘we doing Tynker today?’ A huge smile lights up his face every Wednesday when we pass out the Surfaces, indicating that today, indeed, is a Tynker day. They enjoy completing the lessons, and many also have fun designing projects and showing off their creativity. The Surface is easy enough for the fourth graders to navigate, and the touch screen adds another interactive dimension to the Tynker programming,” explains Camello.

Another great example of how the tablets engage students with different learning styles can be seen in Warren’s small group tutoring session about understanding the structure of a paragraph.

“We were watching a video about leopards on YouTube and we stopped it, pointing to things on the leopard that could be a part of a paragraph: their long tails used to make turns, their aerodynamic heads, spots, colors, etc. to support the main topic of informing others about leopards,” adds Jackson. “Being able to explain paragraphs in this way to include the kinesthetic learners is great. When I’m thinking about a lesson, I’m thinking about all the different learners and the tablet allows for every aspect of that.”

In addition to academic skills, students also practice social-emotional learning skills as a result of using the Surface tablets together.

“The Surface has become a tool not only for academic success, but for collaboration and communication as well,” says Camello. “I normally pull out three students per tutoring session and, because they share a tablet, they must communicate and check in with one another before submitting an answer. When I first introduced the Surface into my small groups towards the beginning of the year, a few students would become frustrated because somebody would take control and dominate over the use of it. As it became a regular feature in my sessions, students learned to share the Surface equally, and my more vocal and assertive students have even started asking for the input of my quieter students.”

2) Easier tracking & inputting of student impact data using Microsoft Surface tablets

The Surface is an effective tool for the school team, helping AmeriCorps members access data more easily and track student progress. They use it to input data about their academic interventions with students, and plan for future tutoring sessions. They are also able to access data more easily, facilitating productive conversations with school leaders and partners in the city.

3) Enhancing collaboration through Microsoft SharePoint  tools to share materials and resources

City Year teams across the country use Microsoft SharePoint to keep student data secure, share resources, access curriculum and training resources, and effectively collaborate between school teams and sites.

“We are able to aggregate and look at student data more frequently by using Microsoft SharePoint,” says Allison Meyer, Evaluation Manager at City Year Chicago. “We store and move all student data over SharePoint, and without it we would not be able to produce timely reports for AmeriCorps members to action plan around. We’re able to have conversations about the data in real-time."

“City Year Chicago uses the SharePoint resources to track students who attend after-school programming, track events that create a positive whole school climate such as an Attendance Rally or Hour of Code, as well as track reasons why students are tardy or absent to school,” adds Meyer. “Not only do AmeriCorps members use SharePoint to store student data, they also revisit training materials from a site wide Learning and Development Day, work on projects, and find out more about professional development and leadership opportunities.”

In addition to using Surface tablets in schools, City Year is able to deliver high quality access "anywhere, anytime" by leveraging the generous in-kind donation of Microsoft Office 365. Users benefit from increased productivity and collaboration with Skype for Business, Microsoft Project Center, SharePoint Online and Power BI.  

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Microsoft has been a long-time partner of City Year, enhancing our IT infrastructure with more than $11.5 million in critical in-kind technology support, sponsoring teams of City Year AmeriCorps members in SeattleSan JoseWashington D.C.New York, and Chicago, and providing critical capacity building funds to help City Year develop its math curriculum and after-school computer science program. We are so excited to add Office 365 to our toolkit, and appreciate Microsoft’s commitment to making sure City Year has the technology resources needed to help every student reach their full potential. 

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