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In the towns of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, New York, you can find Public Schools of the Tarrytowns (Tarrytown Schools). You’ve no doubt heard of the Ichabod Crane story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Author Washington Irving set this tale in the real town of North Tarrytown, which was later renamed Sleepy Hollow in 1996. Tourists flock there during Halloween and take pictures in front of the Sleepy Hollow town sign, “Settled in 1640.” While the area is a tourist attraction, the school district is dedicated to serving the diverse learners who make it their home. One of the ways they support students is by using Hāpara tools to create an active learning environment.
Tarrytown Schools has five schools covering Pre-K through high school: John Paulding, Winfield L. Morris, Washington Irving Intermediate, Sleepy Hollow Middle School and Sleepy Hollow High School. Located in New York state’s Hudson Valley, the school district serves over 2,500 learners. The student enrollment by ethnicity for 2021-2022 was 61% Hispanic/Latino, 30% white, 3% Black/African American, 3% Asian/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 4% multiracial. English language learners made up 19% of the population. Additionally, 54% of students were designated as economically-disadvantaged.
Student enrollment by ethnicity for 2021-2022
Black / African American
Asian / Hawaiian / Pacific Islander
English language learners
Why the school district adopted Hāpara tools for instruction and learning
At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, students were learning remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tarrytown Schools adopted Hāpara Teacher Dashboard and Hāpara Highlights to help educators focus students and personalize learning.
Middle school social studies teacher Alyson Caloras-Nawrocki explained that it made remote instruction much easier. “I could see what they were writing and doing, and I could assess them right away.”
Teacher Dashboard gives educators visibility into their learners’ Google Drives, so they can view progress and leave formative feedback. Highlights gives them visibility into their browsing activity during learning periods.
Highlights was a great refocusing tool for remote learning because Alyson could close learners’ browser tabs not related to social studies content. Even though she wasn’t there in person instructing them, she could digitally be in proximity to them.
Hāpara tools have now continued to be beneficial beyond remote learning as many classes use Chromebooks during in-person instruction.
Using Highlights to develop digital citizenship skills
When educators close a learner’s browser tab in Highlights, they are asked to provide a reason for closing a tab. For learners in Tarrytown Schools whose primary language is Spanish, they see a translated version.
Providing a learner with a reason for closing the tab reinforces the digital citizenship skill related to making responsible decisions online. The goal is for the learner to refocus and consider their online behavior going forward. Alyson agrees that it gives her middle schoolers clarity about their online browsing behavior.
Alyson uses other Highlights features as well to develop an active learning environment. She uses the guided browsing feature to set up a filtered session during class that restricts certain distracting websites.
Using Highlights for personalized learning paths
Jean O’Brien, Technology Integration Specialist, recommends the “Share links” feature in Highlights because educators can use it to support a variety of learning needs. This feature allows teachers to share a link with an individual learner, a group or the entire class. The link then automatically opens on their screens. This is especially helpful for learners who need a more focused or structured experience.
Alyson also uses this feature in her classes, especially for research projects. Second semester her learners compare the enduring issues of the Progressive Era to today, create a 1920s Harlem Renaissance yearbook, develop a World War II Google Site and create a Civil Rights Movement virtual museum.
When Alyson wants to share reliable sources with her learners, the “Share links” is a valuable feature. “I love the idea that I can just send them a link, and it pops up on their screen. Because it’s so much easier than having to send an email or write in a private comment. It just pops right up for them. That’s perfect,” she said.
Using Highlights for communication
Alyson also uses the Snaps feature in Highlights as learners are working online in class. This feature allows a teacher to take a screenshot of browsing activity in the moment, which helps her communicate with parents.
She also takes advantage of the messaging feature in Highlights. It enables teachers to send individual students, groups or the class an instant message as learning is happening.
“I have a few kids, they don’t want you to call them out.” She is able to click on the Message feature and send them a quick note to check in with them. “Hey, I just checked your assignment, and it looks great. Let me know if you need help.”
This allows her to give feedback and build positive relationships with learners while also keeping the class focused on their activities.
Discover how a South Carolina school district supports SEL with browser monitoring
Watch the video to hear why Highlights helps educators like Kathryn combine monitoring with social and emotional learning.
Why Tarrytown Schools prefers Hāpara Filter over other web filters
The school district also uses Hāpara Filter to safeguard learners and provide immediate mental wellness interventions.
“The filter is a lifesaver for us,” said Jean O’Brien, Technology Integration Specialist.
The school district previously implemented two other web filters before making the switch to Hāpara Filter. Jean emphasized that Hāpara Filter is the best out of the three because of the customer support available, its real-time alerts, quick setup and ease of use.
The teachers also love it. For example, Alyson’s learners had been preoccupied with an online program called Scratch. While it’s a great program for a coding course at their school, Alyson needed her learners to focus on their social studies content in her class. Jean was able to quickly add the website to the blocked list solely for the eighth grade organizational unit.
Hāpara Filter’s mental wellness add-on that Tarrytown Schools uses has also helped learners in a time of need. The real-time alerts allow the school district to provide immediate intervention and connect learners to the guidance counselor.
“For me, this is a life or death situation for our kids,” Jean explained. “I’ve been able to get kids to the counselor to get them the help that they need.”
Parents, too, have given the school district positive feedback about Hāpara Filter. One Saturday, the school district received a self-harm alert about a child’s online activity through their school account. The district team contacted the parent immediately. Jean said the parent was thankful the district had reached out, even on a Saturday, and that the district used a web filter with real-time alerts.
Aside from the tools’ abilities to create an active learning environment, Jean appreciates that the Hāpara team always asks for feedback and is responsive. Alyson and other teachers are grateful for the Hāpara Instructional Suite as well. “We all really love Hāpara. It’s been very helpful.”