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More SJ schools embracing technology

By Nicholas Filipas

Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON — Parent-teacher conferences at John McCandless STEM Charter School are not quite as traditional as in public schools.

While parents file into their child’s classroom and sit in chairs three sizes too small, they pick up dark-colored Chromebook laptops stacked on the table and log in.

In Kaci McCoy’s third-grade classroom, a chat room is projected on a large television screen. Parents who wish to ask questions on everything from test scores to field trip reminders can do so anonymously. Later on, McCoy’s class website that she designed herself appears, allowing parents access to see what their child is working on.

In the class webpage are student blogs where McCoy has her 25 students post reflections on their how their writing has grown. Classmates were asked to check each other’s blogs to leave comments, which acts as online collaboration, McCoy said.

“What I found useful, as a parent, looking at other teacher’s websites to upcoming years on what I can expect,” she said to the dozens of parents attending the meeting, here called “Academic Parent-Teacher Teams.”

“We really try to hit 21st century skills (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity) here at McCandless.”

The Lincoln Unified charter first opened its doors three years ago, initially serving Grades K-3. What used to be an old, dormant, hollowed-out church on the 1700 block of Porter Way was converted into a thriving school. Now, the charter boasts two campuses serving grades K-7 with plans are in place to expand to eighth grade beginning in 2019.

An average school day for the more than 400 students lasts from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Students receive a core curriculum of language arts, writing and math during the first half of the day. They then shift gears to Project Based Learning based on science and/or social studies standards.

The last hour of the day is what the school calls the “Genius Hour,” where STEM electives, such as introduction to robotics, solar powered cars and coding, are offered.

Total, students here receive 27½ hours a week of instructional time, nearly two hours more than in traditional Lincoln Unified schools, with an additional four hours a week of STEM-focused classes after the school day.

Embracing technology is being felt district-wide. Lincoln Unified officials announced at the start of the school year the addition of 1,600 new Chromebook “What I found useful, as a parent, looking at other teacher’s websites to upcoming years on what I can expect,”

Kaci McCoy’s

electronic devices and 150 staff computers. Lincoln Unified has a 1:1 device ratio to students in second through 10th grade and Superintendent Tom Uslan has said that ratio will be district wide to include 11th and 12th grade in the next few years.

Over at Lincoln High School, visitors are are required to provide their driver’s license to be scanned, with certain information placed into a database. Emergency messages can be electronically sent districtwide in a matter of seconds through email, text and robocalls.

Jessica Wagner has been teaching kindergarten at McCandless STEM since its inception. They, too, she said, use technology to lay the foundation of how to research online. Parents are positive to the fact that their child begins using a computer — to some extent — to build basic computer skills, typing, knowing where the letters are to drag-and-drop methods.

Said Wagner: “I think we’re experiencing changes in what we have available to us … most jobs are going to be using a computer. We’re a school of choice, so parents know of what they’re getting into and that’s a draw for both them and their kids.”

Contact reporter Nicholas Filipas at (209) 546-8257 or nfilipas@recordnet. com. Follow him on or on Twitter @nicholasfilipas.

Isaac Arredondo, 8, left, and Isaiah Leal, 9, help kindergarten Rylan Bryant, 5, work on code at John McCandless STEM Charter school in Stockton. [CALIXTRO ROMIAS/RECORD FILE 2015]

John McCandless STEM Charter School 5th grade teacher Justine Sares checks her computer in her class at the school in Stockton.


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