Avenues: The World School (“Avenues” for short) is an innovative, multilingual school based in New York City. Founded in 2012, its first campus is located in Chelsea, and has enrolled 1,400 students from nursery school to 12th grade.
This year, Avenues launched its second campus in São Paulo, Brazil, and will be admitting students beginning in 2018. The founders plan on opening campuses all over the globe, becoming the first integrated “world school.” Avenues teachers and students are active users of Showbie.
Avenues’ mission is to help its students become global citizens, conversant and comfortable with many different nations and cultures. In order to achieve this goal, Avenues is creating a coherent system of widespread yet interconnected schools, featuring Spanish and Mandarin language immersion programs. Teachers will be encouraged to take year-long assignments at different sites, creating an international team of highly experienced and collaborative professionals. Students moving to different cities, either because of family work changes or simply to study abroad, will be able to transfer seamlessly to the local Avenues campus and experience the same high level of teaching. In anticipation of the establishment of these multiple campuses, the school is integrating innovative tools for teaching, communicating, submitting material, and delivering feedback that will allow far-flung members of the Avenues community to maintain a consistent educational experience for students and teachers alike. Showbie helps Avenues educators meet some of these challenges.
Avenues has adopted a “headquarters” model to bring together diverse campuses in diverse locations into a cohesive whole. Anchor practices are centralized at the New York City site. These include everything from language curriculum planning to professional development to college counseling. Avenues’ vision requires serious technological planning and resources — which is where Kristen Paino comes in.
Kristen taught kindergarten to third grade for fifteen years, in both public and private schools. She has been at Avenues since its inception, helping it grow from a start-up concept to the large and expanding school it is today. Kristen started off as a Technology Integrator and is now the Academic Technology Manager. She facilitates the development and integration of technology into the curriculum, enabling students and teachers to create, collaborate, investigate, and connect. Kristen talked with us about how Avenues is leveraging cutting-edge technology to create a school rich in innovation.
Their unique mission and organizational structure, and their commitment to forward-looking methods for continuous assessment and multilingual instruction, means it is crucial for Avenues to use technology in a smart way. Avenues was one of the first schools in the country to adopt Showbie. Five years and 1,400 students later, they now have more than 150 very enthusiastic Showbie users. Avenues teachers are using Showbie in two main ways: to coordinate curricular content amongst the faculty, and as a workflow tool to provide and track a holistic system of student feedback.
Seamless Content-Sharing Capabilities
Language learning is a key component of the Avenues mission. Currently, all students in the early learning center (Nursery, PreK and Kindergarten) and lower division grades (1-5) are in full immersion Mandarin or Spanish classrooms every other day; the middle and upper division students take intensive pull-out language classes. Because of Avenues’ global ethos, language plays an integral role in all of the courses, and teachers use Showbie in order to quickly and easily share material across departments.
For example, the first grade math specialist has developed a “number of the day” lesson, using Book Creator on her iPad to make a template for the students to fill out. She uploaded the file into Showbie; the Spanish teacher translated it; and they pushed the now-Spanish book out to all the first grade teachers who then delivered it to their students.
Collaborating on and circulating a high-quality Spanish math assignment in Showbie was smooth and painless for teachers and students. This capability will be even more valuable as Avenues expands internationally.
Providing timely feedback and building a comprehensive picture of student progress and achievement is a high priority for Avenues. Teachers are using Showbie’s features in exciting ways. For example, the upper division music students are recording their independent practice sessions using Showbie’s audio tools, and sending the clips to their teacher, who then uses the comment function to give critiques and suggestions. This opens up rich, new pedagogical avenues. He now has a window into his students’ practice time; he is able to see what they’re doing and whether they can identify for themselves what they need to work on. He then can use differentiated, targeted instructional techniques to address each learner’s needs for their personal practice time, complementing the immediate feedback he provides during lessons. Even more exciting for the students, since Showbie stores all of their audio files as well as the teacher feedback, they can listen to weeks- and months-old recordings of their pieces and hear their own improvement over time. How motivating to have access to this vivid picture of hard work and development!
Similarly, the lower division Chinese teachers use Showbie extensively to support at-home language practice for their students and assess their progress. The ELC/LD Chinese Immersion Coordinator created leveled books and shared them with all the teachers, who pushed them out to the students on their devices (Avenues is 1:1 iPads in the lower division). The students record themselves reading the books out loud in Showbie, and the teachers listen to the audio and provide feedback. Crucially, Showbie’s formative assessment tools allow the teachers to write comments in Chinese, using Chinese characters, and the powerful platform means that they don’t need to flip from app to app when delivering the material, commenting on the work, and saving their assessments.
Jenny Guo, a grade 1 teacher, points out that Showbie is a “helpful and useful platform, especially for second language learners. Using Showbie’s Voice Notes, students and teachers are able to speak and listen in Chinese. It is really efficient and keeps students engaged.”
Moreover, parents also can monitor and help with the homework, getting access to all the Chinese language material through their parent accounts. This has proven to be very popular in the Avenues community.
Finally, Avenues teachers are using Showbie’s Portfolio to encourage self-assessment, which research has shown to be critical in training young learners to become autonomous, lifelong learners. Students continually add material to their account throughout the year, receiving assessments from their teachers and iterating on this feedback. At any point, they may evaluate their work and decide it is ready; with a simple swipe, they can slide their piece over to their Portfolio. Through this process of self-reflection they are becoming more self-aware. And because their Showbie accounts carry over from year to year, Avenues students can always see their progress over time.
As Academic Technology Manager, Kristen conducted extensive research on the best learning and classroom management systems before choosing Showbie.
She praises Showbie’s “seamless integration with other applications that the students already have on their iPads,” and, in particular, the way it allows teachers to upload and receive digital content, especially audio, to and from their students.
Kristen claims that Showbie had been a “lifesaver” for a community of teachers, learners and families with incredibly high expectations of each other.