School Tech Trends
How Local Schools Enhance Education with Modern Trends
Technology forms an integral part of most classrooms today. The current generation of students grew up knowing how to swipe a touchscreen or use the Internet, so it’s natural for schools to tap into that know-how and enthusiasm when it comes to education. Teachers, meanwhile, get access to content, resources and systems that aid instruction and personalized learning.
The challenge? The limits to what technology can do change all the time, and schools need to stay up to date on the latest and greatest educational tools.
To keep up, educators across the Delaware Valley implement initiatives that introduce kids to technology they may not have tried before. At Philly’s Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the new-media program aims to do just that. For instance, lower-school students create projects with an electronic building-block program called littleBits.
“The program helps the youngest students know what’s possible so they can become digital creators,” says Ellen Fishman-Johnson, director of The Arts and head of the New Media department at the academy.
As a member of Apple’s “distinguished educator” program, Fishman-Johnson also leads an after-school class for middle schoolers to test a new app-design program called Swift Playgrounds. Currently in the beta stage of development, the program works on iPads and, Fishman-Johnson notes, could be used successfully by students as young as fourth grade.
Hopewell Valley Regional School District in New Jersey met modern demands with the recent launch of its STEM Academy. With a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, the program began with the fourth grad- ers last year and will extend into middle and high school as the inaugural class moves into upper grades.
According to its mission statement, the STEM Academy hopes to “foster critical-thinking skills and hands-on experiences, with inquiry-based learning in a collaborative setting.”
Complement traditional subjects
Educators continue to find innovative ways to infuse technology into standard subjects. Fishman-Johnson says her school just introduced a 10th-grade capstone project in which kids combine their interests, such as animation or filmmaking, with a traditional subject like science or English to create a project that they share on the Internet.
“The goal is for students to come up with interesting ways to use the knowledge they’ve gained,” she notes. “We don’t want the creation to just stay in school; we want it to be out in the world.”
Tech is also a helpful tool in the library. Students at St. Anne’s Episcopal School in Middletown, DE use laptops to conduct author and genre research and scope out credible sources for projects.
“Not only are they able to research more efficiently, they can use these devices to synthesize and present their findings,” says librarian Amy Shepherd. Kids show their work via infographics, movies, Prezis (3D presentations) and other creative media programs.
Adding new tech
Investment in a new device or program, whether it’s iPads or an educational management system like Schoology, can be costly. Studies show that schools spend a total of about $56 billion annually on technology.
Jenny Randolph, director of alumni and public relations at St. Anne’s, says the school’s faculty and staff read professional journals and blogs, complete web courses and take part in podcasts to help determine whether specific technologies will fit its curriculum.
Another deciding factor, she adds, is input from students, who grew up with technology and are at the forefront of the latest trends.
Ultimately, technology in the class- room continues to grow increasingly popular in part because it reaches kids in a way that wasn’t previously possible. “The material they learn becomes relevant and exciting to them,” Fishman-Johnson says, “because technology is something they know.”
Cheyenne Shaffer is resource editor at MetroKids.