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How the New Tech Network model created a collaborative, inclusive elementary classroom environment and fostered 21st century skills like writing and oral communication.

hart elementary school

Hart Elementary School sits less than a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas; almost half of Bianca Provencio’s fourth-grade class crosses daily. “The majority of our students are from families with lower socio-economic backgrounds,” said Provencio. “The predominant language is Spanish.”

Many Hart Elementary students learn English as a second language. Developing social skills in elementary school is challenging, and the language differences add an additional complication that can result in less outspoken, more insecure students. New Tech Network’s (NTN) model encourages strategic social interactions in the classroom. Provencio facilitates such interactions called Community Circles each morning, which prepare students for collaboration with their classmates.

“One of the goals for our school was to implement Community Circles every morning. I’ve seen a big change,” said Provencio. “I had one student that English was his second language, and I’ve seen how the project-based model has helped him grow since he has to communicate with his classmates so frequently. Group projects help students open up and not be shy.” One of the projects Provencio’s students completed answered the driving question, “What Contributes to the Pride Which Exists in the Community?” The project required students to identify local places and interview community members to evaluate what it was like to live in El Paso.

Provencio shared, “In the interviews, we emphasized that this is a process they’ll experience in the future, when interviewing for jobs or being the one conducting them, so it’s important to be prepared.” The final project included presenting a website that the students created along with a booklet to share information about their local community.

Provencio believes that familiarity with technology will help her students in middle school, high school and beyond, in addition to the skills developed in the creative process. “The website was a collaborative effort, one website per group,” said Provencio. “When we set it up, we implemented a group contract, where they assigned roles to each other and took responsibility for their part.”

To Provencio’s delight, the NTN model created a collaborative, inclusive classroom environment while fostering skills like writing and oral communication.

“I can say everyone is friends with everyone in my classroom. I can move around the seating arrangement, mix up the groups, and everyone feels comfortable working with each other—no matter their native language.” Provencio said.

Photo provided by El Paso Independent School District