CEO Brizard Celebrates Digital Learning Day by Teaching Virtual Science Class 

Districtwide ban on YouTube is also being lifted for teachers to expand digital learning opportunities in the classroom


February 1, 2012


In recognition of the first national Digital Learning Day on February 1st, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is leading a series of digital initiatives this week that will provide principals, teachers, and students with increased access to technology and online learning opportunities designed to boost student achievement.


“Developments in technology are opening doors to exciting new opportunities to expand learning in the classroom,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “We need to equip our students with the skills needed to be competitive in this global economy. Exposure to digital learning tools is key in giving them an edge as they prepare for both college and career.”


To demonstrate the impact of digital learning, CEO Brizard, a former physics teacher, is teaching a science lesson today to middle school students at Spencer Technology Academy using an iPad. The lesson, which focuses on gravity and the solar system, will also be broadcast to nearly 400 additional middle school students in 19 remote classrooms at 10 additional CPS schools. As part of the lesson, students are using the Orbits iPad application to explore the relationship between the mass of celestial bodies and their orbits. At the end of the lesson, students will use iPad applications to create narrated screencasts explaining what they learned. The lesson will be made available on the District’s website.


Last fall, CPS expanded its iPad Initiative to 39 additional elementary schools, providing students with access to innovative learning options that aim to increase student time on task and boost academic achievement. The CPS iPad Initiative includes 62 schools serving 10,000-plus students this school year.


CPS is also responding to recommendations from teachers on expanding access to digital learning tools in the classroom by lifting the districtwide ban on YouTube access for teachers and staff. CPS received feedback from 600 CPS teachers through the Viva Teachers Chicago Ideas Exchange, a partnership between the Viva Project and National Louis University, on implementation around the Full School Day. Feedback included providing access to YouTube and similar websites to allow teachers increased flexibility, quantity, and variety of educational materials. Additional Internet access also allows teachers to be more creative and individualized in their instruction, which can lead to an increase in student engagement. Thanks to a new enhanced Internet filtering solution, CPS will now be able to balance both the need for staff access to these sites and the responsibility it has to protect students. 


Last Monday, Brizard became the first CPS CEO to host a live “tweet” and personally answer questions from parents, teachers, and community members on the District’s Twitter feed, @ChiPubSchools. During the live twitter conversation, held on the hashtag #CPSchat, CEO Brizard answered questions on topics ranging from the Full School Day to the role of social-emotional learning in education.  To view CEO Brizard’s first live Twitter conversation continue reading here.


Over the past several months, the Education Technology department at CPS has focused on improving teaching and learning by providing transformational technology opportunities and curricula aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Some of the initiatives include:


  • Providing YouTube access to expand online learning tools for teachers. CPS is revamping the Social Media Policy to include access to educational content on sites such as YouTube as well as providing guidelines for our schools on what is appropriate. Fifteen schools are currently piloting this program, and the goal is to allow access at all schools this spring.
  • Implementing innovations in the classroom, such as iPads. CPS has rolled out the largest and most successful iPad program in K-12 in the nation.  Educators from across the globe have visited CPS classrooms to learn and replicate this program. CPS has defined an ideal model with best practices for implementation, professional development, management of equipment and content. Currently, CPS is planning to work with teachers to host an iPad academy open to all districts around the US to attend.
  • Digital media such as eTextbooks. Also as of last August, Safari Montage was made available to all CPS schools. Safari Montage is a media delivery system that maintains digital instructional resources tied to Common Core standards. Teachers and staff use these resources to supplement teaching and learning, and are increasingly uploading resources to create playlists for lessons. Safari Montage is fast becoming a critical tool as content is all moving to digital media and is one of the key delivery systems that CPS is using.
  • Video conferencing. CPS recently won the 2011 CIO innovators of the year award for work around video conferencing.  Saving the district roughly $1 million last year, this is being used for the purpose of webinars, linking up schools to schools, schools to other countries, etc.  We have used video conferencing to connect our classrooms to schools in countries such as Japan, Morocco, Guatemala, Ireland and others to engage students in cultural learning with their peers abroad.
  • Providing professional development. Giving teachers the tools needed to integrate technology into the classroom. 
  • Increasing Digital Citizenship. Through a partnership with Common Sense Media and the Mikva Foundation, CPS has rolled out a robust curriculum to address Internet safety, cyber bullying and proper use of the internet. The curriculum was rolled out beginning last May and can be seen here


About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.


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