At Wheaton Academy, we want to develop a 21st century-equipped student.
A number of years ago, in a conversation with then-COO Jon Keith, I asked him what parents wanted Wheaton Academy to provide for their son or daughter. He replied that there were two main things that always came up during the interview process with parents. First, they want their child to be mentored by teachers and have strong relationships with them. Second, they want their son or daughter to be equipped to engage the 21st-century world. It is obvious that technology plays a key role in this. What is also interesting to see is that we can use these teacher-student relationships to help guide students on how to use technology properly and therefore prepare them for the inevitable use of technology in the 21st century.
The characteristics of a 21st-century student are many, but at the forefront of the skill set of such a student is the ability to use technology as a productivity tool, not just a social networking and gaming tool. The Wheaton Academy student needs to learn how to use technology appropriately and in a way that helps them achieve the goals of thinking critically and working with others in a collaborative environment. But what does it mean to use technology appropriately for the Wheaton Academy student?
- It means to use technology practically and master the basics of managing their electronic resources so that they can achieve their learning goals. We want them to become completely comfortable with using technology and get rid of any “tech phobia” they might have from past experiences (which, believe it or not, is still quite present in our student body).
- It means to use technology in a healthy way to connect with people in the world through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Academy Central, etc.). We want this interaction to foster collaboration and community while drawing people closer to the Christian community.
- It means to use technology creatively and in a way that reflects the goals of their courses by showing enriched learning and depth of thinking.
- It means to use technology in a way that is in tune with a Christian worldview — to use technology in a way that fosters community and does not divide community; to use technology in a manner that does not push them away from a relationship with Christ but draws them closer to Him.
- It means to use technology in a manner that they can continue to develop “information literacy” — being able to sift through and discern important information that can be used in their academic pursuits.
- It means to use technology in order to discover what issues are going on in the world and how our students might be part of a solution in the future.
- It means to use technology in a disciplined manner so that technology does not become a constant distraction that takes away from relationships and productivity. One of our teachers was talking with a recent graduate about the distractions of technology. This alumna commented on the fact that since Wheaton Academy allowed her to have her cell phone with her and even out during classes, she had the opportunity to really develop a way to discipline herself on how and when to use her phone. This alumna went on to comment how her friends from other schools that prohibited cell phone use were now struggling with how to keep their ever-accessible device at bay so that they could focus on work. It is these kinds of life skills that we want to continue to teach students.
Other Student Benefits
A 1:1 initiative will certainly be the best way to equip students to meet these goals. In addition to these goals, a 1:1 initiative will benefit students in very practical ways as well:
- Students will be able to access school material (assignments, forms, podcasts, etc.) on a 24/7 basis and will be able to hone their organizational skills using technology.
- Students will be able to access programs and material that cater to their learning style.
- By having their own device, they can customize it how they see fit and even discover technological tools that we as a school have yet to find.
- Instead of having a textbook that is outdated (for most subjects) shortly after leaving the printing press, students will always have access to a world of up-to-date information that they can use to attain their academic goals.
- Students will be able to keep an ePortfolio so that they can track and assess their own learning.
- Students will have access to collaborative tools such as Google Drive, Academy Central and more that will help them hone their collaborative skills.
- There are a tremendous number of computer programs and applications that help students with various disabilities. As Wheaton Academy takes a closer look at expanding the Special Education program at our school, it is vital to make sure technology is keeping pace with this expansion.
- More and more colleges are using online learning systems and technologies. By implementing this program, students will be even better prepared for this technological expectation on the next level.
- It makes it more difficult for students to forget their resources for class, as most of them will be in electronic format and will be accessible through their device.
In addition to the student’s benefiting from a 1:1 initiative, teachers will also benefit as well. Teachers are chomping at the bit to harness the power of our 1:1 Technology Initiative and, in particular, the following benefits:
- Minimal Cart Checkout Logistics: Teachers will no longer have to spend significant time checking out laptop carts for class use. Although we will still have the carts for specific types of projects, teachers are greatly appreciative of the fact that students have their own device to pull out of their bags for a class project.
- Minimal Copying and Printing: Thanks to Academy Central and the fact that all students have their own device, teachers will spend significantly less time making copies. Instead, teachers will upload these resources for students to access via Academy Central. Students can download resources to their device and then print things out on their own or simply annotate the file on their device. Not only is this a time-saver, but will significantly reduce paper costs for Wheaton Academy.
- Improved electronic feedback to students on electronically submitted assessments: Academy Central has a number of assessment tools that allow teachers to give better feedback on assessments. Teachers can type up comments on either their laptop or iPad and submit them to students and have students react to their assessment. Teachers can also voice record their feedback so that students can listen to the critique that a teacher has to offer. This now can be combined with a new feature just released where teachers can actually annotate on a submission (type text on a document, highlight, circle, etc.) to give even clearer feedback to a student. With a 1:1 initiative, students will submit things online more and more to take advantage of these feedback tools.
- Online Assessments: Assessments on Academy Central can give real-time feedback and therefore give students an immediate picture of where they stand in their learning. This also increases the level of organization for teachers and limits the amount of paper they have to lug around in their bags. Again, with every student having their own device, this makes such a tool easier to use for teachers. For example, while students are reading a short excerpt, a teacher can create a quick quiz on the fly for students to take after they are done a reading. The teacher can then get a sense of where students are in the learning process and use their responses as a jumping off point for the rest of the class. Teachers can, of course, have more extensive assessments online as well.
- More flexibility for curriculum: If a teacher spots a great activity on the Internet or new application that would benefit the class, the teacher can literally change the activity for the day without having to worry about arranging for the appropriate amount of technology to be available for a student to take advantage of such an activity. This also gives the opportunity for the student to shape his or her learning. A student can find interesting activities as well and submit them to the teacher as a possible class activity.
- Enrichment of class information: There are times when a teacher is asked a question to which they do not know the answer. The answer can simply be looked up on the spot by the class without interrupting the flow of instruction. Technology can also empower students to discover resources, rather than just sitting in class doing nothing when they legitimately do not know the answer to a question – now they can look it up and contribute to class.
- Enhancement of curriculum delivery: It is important to note that the device we choose is not intended to completely change the curriculum. We have a good curriculum at Wheaton Academy and teachers have worked incredibly hard to get it where it is today. The idea of 1:1 is that it will help teachers deliver this curriculum in a more efficient and engaging manner. Conversely, 1:1 should help the students learn this material in a more efficient manner.
Finally, parents stand to benefit from our 1:1 initiative as well. Under a 1:1 initiative, parents are forced a bit more to face the technological realities that students either will have to face in the future or are already engaged in every day. Matt Levinson, author of From Fear to Facebook, writes about this parent dynamic when the Nueva school implemented their 1:1 laptop program:
“Schools need to help parents find the language to use to speak to their children about limits online. Parents feel alone. Some resent the wave of technology sweeping their children out to sea, while others simply are at a loss when it comes to engaging in a conversation with their teenagers, who, naturally and developmentally, are pushing away from them to be more independent.”
We can continue our partnership philosophy in the area of technology and help parents face the reality of our technological world. Technology is going to continue to be a reality for student and parents alike. How we deal with this reality, especially from a Christian worldview, is incredibly important to assess and cultivate in the coming years.
Wheaton Academy’s 1:1 Technology Initiative will meet the 21st century needs of students, teachers, and parents alike. Students will learn essential skills that will help them in their social lives, academic lives, and whatever careers they pursue. Teachers will be able to use unique tools to deliver their curriculum in an even more efficient and engaging way. Parents have the opportunity to become even more in tune with how technology affects their family and keep in touch with their son or daughter’s learning on a daily basis.
If parents, students, or teachers would like more data and research supporting 1:1 initiatives, the organization “Project Red” has put together a comprehensive study on the benefits of 1:1. The full research report can be ordered here.
“Change is happening at lightning speed, and if educators respond to it at a turtle’s pace, we run the risk of failing to prepare a generation of our future workforce for jobs that don’t exist today but will tomorrow, jobs that require citizens to be engaged, think critically, and act together.”
– Matt Levinson,
From Fear to Facebook