SAVE THE DATE!  JFYNetWorks at MassCUE 2024 Fall Conference, Oct. 16-17th, Gillette Stadium

The MassCUE Spring Conference

JFY at MassCUE Spring Conference 2024

Leveraging AI and Blended Learning for Equity and Achievement

JFYNetWorks participated in the MassCUE Spring Conference May 31-June 1 at Polar Park in Worcester. The theme of the conference was  “Leveling the Playing Field.”  JFY showcased our blended learning and AI tools and strategies that close equity gaps for diverse learners and lead to grade-level skills, learning loss recovery, higher MCAS performance and college and career readiness for all students. JFY demonstrated the full range of blended reading and math support and our new AI Teacher Assistant for writing assessment. 

JFY’s 10-year partnership with East Boston High School was featured in an Ed Talk with EBHS department heads Audrey Schindler and Jayson Smith. They described how JFY and EBHS leverage blended learning to close equity gaps for diverse learners.

In the Innovation Fair, JFY demonstrated the new AI Teacher Assistant for writing analysis using artificial intelligence. We developed this tool in response to the need to improve student writing, a challenge to teachers because of the time burden of critiquing student papers.  JFY’s AI Teacher Assistant reviews and critiques student essays in minutes.

 JFY staff members Cathie Maglio, Eileen Wedegartner and Greg Cunningham conducted the events. They filed the following reports.

Swinging for the Fences

MassCUE conference levels the playing field

by Greg Cunningham

In the early days of baseball pitchers threw from flat ground, making any pitch in the strike zone a hittable ball.  Baseballs were flying around and out of ballparks in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with the scores  sounding  like  basketball blowouts. Teams eventually figured out that raising the surface from which the pitcher threw would give hitters a harder time. With the pitch traveling on a downhill trajectory, pitchers could use gravity to  put movement on the ball and to make the pitch  faster. Paradoxically, raising the pitching mound leveled  the competitive playing field  between pitchers and batters.  

Greg Cunningham at MassCUE

At the  MassCUE Spring conference May 31st and June 1st in Worcester  the theme was “Leveling the Playing Field.” Keynote speakers and  breakout sessions focused on making technology accessible to students of all economic backgrounds,  demographics  and abilities.  The location of the conference was  Polar Park, home of the Triple-A affiliate Red Sox baseball team, the perfect frame  for the title  metaphor.

What I realized during  the two day conference is that sometimes the turf  need not be flat  in order to level the playing field.  To make technology accessible for all, some schools, teachers and students may need to be raised up just to be level with others.

The height of the pitcher’s mound has changed over the years, from  no standard at all to a standard 15 inches in 1950 which was lowered to 10 inches in 1969 after the lowest- scoring season ever.  Similar adjustments need to be made for schools and students.  Some schools may need all 15 inches just to stay level  with other schools, while some  need only 10 inches or no mound at all to level their field. Many standards  vary from ballpark to ballpark. Fenway’s Pesky Pole in right field is 302 feet from home plate, the shortest home run in baseball.  The short right field fence in Yankee Stadium  is 314 feet. The center field wall in Coors Stadium is 415 feet. Each of the 30 major league stadiums has a different footprint. But every pitcher’s mound is 10 inches high and 60 feet 6 inches from home plate.  

Our 1750 schools in 316 districts  are even more variable. Each has a unique social, economic, demographic and political footprint.  The only constants are the 180-day school year and the state curriculum standards measured by the MCAS.  But unlike baseball, there aren’t supposed to be winners and losers in education. It’s not a game; it’s the future of our society.  That’s why we need  to level the playing field.

The focus of this conference was the potential leveling power of technology. We may not be able to change the height of the mound or the distance to the fences, but we can increase bat speed and exit velocity. It doesn’t matter how far the fence is as long as the ball clears it.

Greg Cunningham is a JFYNetWorks blended learning specialist.

Take Me Out to the MassCUE Conference

My first education conference in a ballpark

by Cathie Maglio

I have been to many conferences, both as an attendee and as an exhibitor. These conferences were always held  in large exhibition halls or big hotels. Until MassCUE, I had never been to a conference in a baseball park.  Polar Park in Worcester was my first.  I enjoyed walking  around the exhibits and talking with the exhibitors. There was a wide range of products and services. 

MassCUE 2024 Spring, EdTalk with Cathie Maglio and EBHS

Because of the layout of the park, exhibitors were spread over long concourses on two floors. I logged more than two miles of trekking in the course of the two days.

I had a nice chat with the man in the booth next to ours. He was from Brigham Young University in Utah, displaying information on high school, early college, and college programs. I was surprised to see a Utah school in Massachusetts, but there he was talking about the same issues we deal with. 

The highlight of the conference for me was the ED Talk that I did with the ELA and math department heads at East Boston High School. Audrey Schindler and Jayson Smith are two outstanding professionals with whom I have had the pleasure of working for going on ten years. We discussed the whole range of instructional issues in urban schools. The talk was moderated by my colleague Greg Cunningham, who pointed out that East Boston High has the highest academic attainment of all open enrollment schools in Boston. He underlined the fact that in 2022, the first year after the pandemic, East Boston recovered all its pandemic learning loss, the only open enrollment school to close that gap.

I made a point of expressing my admiration for Audrey and Jayson and my enjoyment of our long professional collaboration. It’s no mystery to me why Eastie is at the top of its class.  I’ve seen these two leaders at work.    

The Ed Talks were held in small meeting rooms strung along a concourse.  They had seats for 10 or 12 people.  I was glad that our session had a full house.

 Cathie Maglio is a JFYNetWorks blended learning specialist.  

Improving Educational Outcomes through Inclusive Practices

How MassCUE reinforced my commitment to equity

by Eileen Wedegartner

The MassCUE Spring conference last month  at Worcester’s Polar Park   underscored the importance of leveling the playing field in education. As a vendor and a presenter, I showcased the innovative  strategies developed by JFYNetWorks, aimed at providing equitable learning opportunities through interactive platforms and AI technology. Engaging with educators and industry professionals offered valuable insights and feedback, enhancing my understanding of current educational challenges.

Eileen Wedegartner at MassCUE 2024

The  keynote addresses by Jenna Mancini Rufo and Dr. Glenn E. Singleton were  particularly impactful. Jenna’s insights on inclusive learning environments and Dr. Singleton’s emphasis on racial equity and courageous conversations reinforced my commitment to educational equity and inspired a renewed passion for advocacy and innovation.

Housed in  the beautiful Polar Park, home of the Woo Sox, the conference  highlighted the collective effort to ensure educational equity through inclusive practices. At JFYNetWorks we are dedicated to using technology, particularly AI,  to enhance educational outcomes by providing personalized instruction, feedback and support to students, helping to close achievement gaps and foster success for all learners. The connections made and knowledge shared in Worcester reinforced my dedication to improving educational outcomes and my determination to advocate for inclusive practices.

Eileen Wedegartner is a JFYNetWorks blended learning specialist. 

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