Technology can help align education, modern workforce

TRAINING FOR THE FUTURE: David Moscarelli, Rhode Island’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, says he has students applying for a wide range of science-related fields, including health care and engineering. / COURTESY DAVID MOSCARELLI
TRAINING FOR THE FUTURE: David Moscarelli, Rhode Island’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, says he has students applying for a wide range of science-related fields, including health care and engineering. / COURTESY DAVID MOSCARELLI

David Moscarelli, Rhode Island’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, is known as a “technology guru” by his peers.
Besides teaching science, he is the digital portfolio coordinator and the technology integration coordinator at Ponaganset High School in Glocester.
Moscarelli is in the running for national teacher of the year, an honor that will be bestowed in the spring.

PBN: What does the digital portfolio system you developed entail and why was it important?
MOSCARELLI: It’s a collection of documents and reflections on those documents that are aligned to specific standards and evaluated based on those standards – locally developed standards that are also aligned with national standards for writing, reading, problem-solving, [and] critical thinking. The idea of looking at a body of student work based on these standards is that it’s another measure beyond a credit in a course or state or national test to determine if a student is really worthy of a diploma.
[These portfolios] are used in the majority of schools as a component of performance-based graduation requirements, which also may include senior exhibitions or comprehensive course exams.

PBN: And what’s the advantage to the student when moving on to college or work?
MOSCARELLI: There are several advantages. At our school students are required to reflect on every entry they put in, as well as an end-of-year summary reflection. It is tied to how the work in your portfolio aligns to your academic and career goals.
For example, we have students, starting with ninth graders, creating resumes. They do interest inventories and career-compatibility inventories and career planning. All of it becomes more narrow in focus as they go from ninth grade to 12th grade. It’s imperfect because not all work given to students in high school is relevant to that student’s career interest, but that’s an area that we’re paying a lot of attention to now: developing tasks that require skills also required by employers.

PBN: What responsibilities have come with your role as 2015 Teacher of the Year?
MOSCARELLI: I am required to work for RIDE for 50 percent of my time. As part of that, businesses and individuals have donated money to offset the cost of hiring a first-year teacher who is teaching my classes and is being coached by me.
At RIDE, I have several different projects. I am co-facilitator of the Rhode Island strategic plan for education. I am also supporting the roll-out of the next-generation science standards in Rhode Island.

PBN: What do you see as the most important aspect of producing the next-generation science standards?
MOSCARELLI: The [standards] shift the emphasis to what scientists do and how they think and work. The emphasis is shifted away from discrete facts that can be looked up on the Internet.

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PBN: So there’s more of a focus on problem-solving?
MOSCARELLI: More of a focus on skills or practices which would include problem-solving, analysis of data. The other piece, which is radically new for those of us who are classic science teachers, is there’s a whole new practice in engineering and design skills and that’s something that comes out of the development of all the [science, technology, engineering and math] education work that’s happening. It’s also one that really does align with the needs for the 21st-century workforce and having students that can really begin with a problem and solve a problem through design.

PBN: What types of jobs are your science students targeting?
MOSCARELLI: I have students applying for a wide range of science-related fields. The most popular is health care, followed by engineering. I’d say students are well-prepared for the next phase of their academic education, so that part I think we have done.

PBN: Do teachers have a favorite technological approach?
MOSCARELLI: That’s shifting. A few years ago the main use by teachers was to digitize the chalkboard. Now what people are doing is shifting from technology that helps students consume, to technology that helps students produce. It could be anything from producing videos to collaborative production of traditional things like lab reports, ones that are infused with data acquired through digital means.

PBN: Is the current generation of students better than older generations when it comes to online learning?
MOSCARELLI: I think the “digital natives” term is real but limited. It’s real in that they’re so comfortable with technology that they’re fearless with it. They know there’s an undo button; they know they can make another account. And so their willingness to engage and try new technologies is laudable. I don’t know if that translates to them being better learners online.
I do think it does present a challenge to the current traditional way we educate students. They live a life where you communicate through a 140-character tweet or send a Snapchat message, so their lives are quick, instant and vibrant. It really challenges the teacher to rethink the teacher’s role and student’s rule in learning. •

David Moscarelli
POSITION: Science teacher, digital portfolio coordinator and technology-integration coordinator at Ponaganset High School in Glocester and 2015 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year
BACKGROUND: Born in Bronxville, N.Y., Moscarelli grew up in Framingham, Mass., and developed an early affinity for computers. At 22, he became a science teacher. For the past 12 years, he led the design and implementation of one of the first digital-portfolio graduation requirements in the country. For the past 20 years, he has held various technology leadership positions in Glocester, working with colleagues on the integration of technology in the classroom.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in education, University of Rhode Island, 1992; master’s degree in biology education, Brown University, 2000
FIRST JOB: Bottle-redemption center
RESIDENCE: Providence
AGE: 44

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