Unjammed: Using Technology to Transform Teaching and Learning in the Classroom

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Article Author: Collaborative for Educational Services
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The Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) and its educational partners, the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) and Commonwealth Corporation, were among those selected by The Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS) for its Unjammed: Blended Learning Initiative. With CEEAS’ support, educators in selected DYS programs are being trained on how to use innovative and low-cost educational technologies to strengthen the education of young people involved with the Commonwealth’s juvenile justice system.

The CEEAS Unjammed: Blended Learning Initiative supports work by juvenile justice agencies interested in using technology to transform teaching and learning inside of their secure care facilities. Six states and Los Angeles County were selected in spring of 2014 for the introduction of the Unjammed Initiative, including Massachusetts. While the project phase of the initiative will continue through the end of the 2014/15 school year, work happening as a result of the initiative is already generating national attention.

NPR’s Marketplace recently featured coverage highlighting efforts in Wyoming to challenge the notion that the Internet can’t be used effectively and safely inside secure care facilities.

In Massachusetts, The DYS Educational Program at CES, led by Woody Clift, is implementing the Unjammed Initiative in four DYS facilities after attending the Unjammed Technology camp led by CEEAS, and Clift is optimistic that with additional CEEAS support, the program will expand to other DYS educational facilities throughout Massachusetts.

All four programs have seen an increase in student engagement as the teachers and students explore a variety of technology tools that support blended learning. Students have been involved in coding, creating digital stories with a restorative justice lens, and writing book reviews for authentic audiences. Not only are the students creating high-tech products demonstrating their learning, they are also using online portfolios and courses to direct their own learning paths. This initiative has been a fantastic experience for both student and teachers.

One program director shares, “From our perspective, the students are more vested in their education, which can be contributed to the removal of barriers such as the time and place of learning. Each student’s path is more personalized.”

About the Collaborative for Educational Services and the Division of Youth Services Education Initiative

Located in Northampton, MA since 1974, the Collaborative for Educational Services is a non-profit educational services agency, committed to reaching and educating all learners, and experienced in working with educators to help students learn and succeed. Since 2003, CES has been a partner to the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) and the Commonwealth Corporation in creating access to high-quality education and employment opportunities for youth in the care and custody of DYS. For more information, please visit www.collaborative.org./programs/DYS

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