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2013 Best Practices Forum: The Use of 21st Century Technology in Our Schools: Peaks and Pitfalls

January 31, 2013 @ 8:30 am - 12:00 pm

The Use of 21st Century Technology in Our Schools: Peaks and Pitfalls

See The Use of 21st Century Technology in our Schools e-Binder (Download MS Word Doc)

At Holton Arms

Best Practices Executive Summary

Three panelists from Holton-Arms, Woods Academy and The Langley School presented on the use of technology within the Lower School, Middle School and Upper School classrooms of their respective schools.

UPPER SCHOOL PRESENTATION David Rossell – Director of Technology at Holton-Arms

Academic Technology:

Holton-Arms is one of the early leaders in One to One computing-one device per student. The school’s philosophy and vision for academic technology strive to educate students as responsible technological citizens:

  • by working with them every day to learn to be capable of cataloging, sorting and evaluating information from a variety of sources to extract data. To know where to look for information and know how to read sources is critical.
  • by preparing them to be competent in technical expertise with any device and to be able to keep up with technological changes.
  • by teaching them to be responsible with electronic communication, to make right choices. Digital citizenship is addressed in all divisions and goal is to reduce unfortunate decisions. It is important to understand that information sent once lives on forever on a server somewhere creating problems in their future through association of past decisions that could affect college or job search.
  • by showing them how to be flexible and proficient in managing a variety of devices and knowing how to choose the appropriate tool (iPad, laptop or desktop) to accomplish the job necessary.
  • by helping them be sophisticated in media consumption and creation. To look critically at the images they are bombarded with in the media and make sound decisions. To create presentations and be able to present to a crowd of people.
  • by expanding the classroom and engaging with experts. Technology should be a force multiplier to leverage new capabilities through facilitating collaboration between students, teachers and parents and facilitating a culture of creative risk taking. Willing to take the appropriate steps to try new things in their intellectual lives.

To implement the school’s vision, Holton-Arms created the Online School for Girls for leadership and online education. Online education is a powerful tool for girls to communicate with other girls they may not otherwise encounter or have access to. It makes economic sense by pooling resources creating a way for students to meet girls from other regions and socio economic circumstances.

Holton-Arms is also a leader in blended learning using technology in combination with classroom discussion. Blended learning is not a substitution for personal interaction or to offer more homework, but a way to use time more efficiently and to enhance learning. Teachers are intrinsically involved with online work and in the classroom

Advantages of One to One computing program:

The focus is for students to be working on content. Good technology does not fragment the learning community, but instead enhances it and brings it together.

  • Blended learning is more difficult without it.
  • There is immediate access to a range of information.
  • Provides valuable research and study tool. It’s difficult to share a computer at home.
  • Offers the opportunity to teach girls media literacy for college now within a more controlled environment. Students able to try new things, make mistakes within a caring community with less severe consequences.

All Holton-Arms Grade 5 students have iPads for research in the classroom. Families purchase and own the device, but the school specifies the brand, model and who the family purchases the device from.

Does the type of device matter? Yes, a great deal. It should lay flat on the desk. A raised screen increases insecurity and the ability to know if student is really engaged in classwork. Classroom management and collaboration work better with flat devices.

Audiovisual equipment plays a significant role in combination with One to One computing. There is a difference on how teachers teach and students learn when there is the ability to project wirelessly.

David discussed the uncertainty of what the future of academic technology holds. He mentioned that it will still take time to get a handle on how things are going to settle out. It is an exciting, but also confusing time.

MIDDLE SCHOOL PRESENTATION JP Clubbs – Grade 7 & 8 Social Studies Teacher at Woods Academy

JP discussed that in order to prepare children for the next level, it is important to accept changes with technology and move forward with the ups and the downs. It is a challenge to always be flexible to change as technology is constantly changing, however it is amazing to see the progress from microfiches in the past to online textbooks today, students now have research tools in hand for whatever they want at their fingertips.

Peaks and benefits of using technology:

Technology does not hinder, but instead expands and enhances students’ learning experiences and that it is alright to fail. That is what makes students stronger. For example, a shy student who may not take the risk to raise his hand in class to respond to a question can anonymously do so through an iPad. Technology engages students who may not otherwise choose to get involved creating more confident learners and responsible digital citizens.

  • The school feels it is good to be in 2nd place in the technology process. There is the chance to avoid all of the initial glitches and vet the process better. To make sure that the software programs are proven and reliable and continue to enhance learning for students.
  • This generation wants access to information immediately and needs to understand how to go about the process. How do we research? How do we find the answer?
  • Technology enhances ALL types of learners: auditory, kinesthetic or visual.
  • There are many programs and apps available offering endless opportunities to help enhance student learning, further developing student skills and addressing learning types. Woods Academy uses over 90 apps. JP mentioned Kurzweil as one program example. Kurzweil is an interactive based program that helps develop reading and writing. It can highlight words as students read or it can read words to the student.
  • Technology encourages collaboration among teachers, students and parents. Another program called Drop Box is useful to share and edit work using tools and providing immediate feedback.

Important factors for technology in the classroom to work:

  • Faculty buy-in is important to the success of the school’s technological programs.
  • Faculty training is also key for teachers to expand their knowledge.
  • Support from administration and parents creates the ultimate team. Children know they can do it.

Pitfalls of using technology:

  • The expense. School must budget for iPads it purchases for the students. Currently, Woods Academy 8th graders have access to iPads for the school year and return them at the end. The program will be expanding to 7th graders. Access to sites are limited and the school teaches the students how to understand the iPad and how to use it responsibly. The school maintains and updates the iPads and provides firewalls to prevent access to some sites.
  • Distractions can be a problem. There are different technologies available to work with this issue. iPads are sometimes not properly taken care of. The school works with the students to develop responsibility. Administration needs to monitor, manage and tweak to minimize pitfalls.
  • Besides the iPad program, Woods Academy also uses laptop carts and has a computer lab that is used by the Lower School. There are two computers within the classrooms and bright link projectors that incorporate the use of electronic interactive pens.
  • Technology and electronic devices enhance student learning differently than chalkboards, marker boards and whiteboards. It is more exciting for the students to use.

LOWER SCHOOL/MIDDLE SCHOOL PRESENTATION Christine Lindsay – Director of Technology at The Langley School

The Langley School developed an iPad pilot program for all 8th graders last year. This year, the program has been expanded to all middle schoolers 6th through 8th grade. iPads are purchased by the school and apps are managed by the school through a central management system. Students use the iPads for the school year and bring it home with them every day. The 3rd grade team employs project based learning with iPads within the classroom only. The 4th grade uses laptops and the 5th grade uses MacBook Airs. The different platforms allow the students to pick the tools they like to use. Both paper and electronic are chosen by the 8th graders.

The school uses Google Apps for Education. Everything is saved in Google drive for access from anywhere.

Goals were established for the school’s technology vision:

  • Offer instructional technology training for the teachers to change classroom teaching. This is accomplished through one-on-one instruction with a large tech staff, faculty meetings and teachers showing/sharing ideas with each other.
  • Create responsible use of technology through speaker presentations to students, faculty and parents to broadcast the same message and address the implications of what students do online. Common Sense Media curriculum units used in grade levels.
  • Develop a blended learning program. Moodle, Educate 2.0 provide outside discussions beyond the classroom. Student notes submitted on device result in better grades, more organization-no more lost papers.
  • Ensure a dependable hardware and infrastructure is in place to provide support. Network administrators are on board to help.

3rd grade pilot program:

Each student has the use of an iPad within the classroom. Apple TVs are interactive with the iPads on screen. Students can share with and walk peers through ideas. The goals include:

  • allowing students to be more independent and self-directed. Students learn how to use apps/iPads on their own.
  • offering students more flexibility and becoming more adept to working collaboratively. Students need to determine how to share iPads.
  • providing differentiated learning by figuring out what works for the students.
  • allowing for more frequent assessments of students.
  • developing research skills.

87% of the apps used by The Langley School are creative based apps. iMovie, Garage Band, iStop Motion, Book Creator and Toontastic are among a few examples. Students can create self portraits for their wallpaper through the camera feature to personalize their iPad.

Students play with the different apps and decide which ones to use. Some apps develop reading fluency allowing students to record voice memos as they practice reading. They can listen and redo, keep the best one and email to the teacher. The teacher can then assess the students and pull the ones who need the most help. Other apps provide math and technology assistance. Kahn Academy videos can be accessed. One class made their own mini Kahn Academy videos. Explain Everything app is also popular for students to show others and allow their personalities to shine. Daily reflection at the end of the day is included. Students can take pictures with their iPads throughout the day to use as launch for journal writing. Spell City is an example of one of the skill building apps.

Chris sought feedback directly from the faculty about the benefits of using technology within the classroom and some of the thoughts were that it instills cooperation and learning from peers, expands opportunities for choice and can be an important tool to more deeply assess students.

All three panelists agreed that Steve Jobs never realized the impact Apple products would make in schools and education. Schools are ordering iPads and incorporating them to change the way teachers are teaching. Apple still does not fully understand how much usage is going on with the schools today.

> View Langley School slides presentation.

Questions and Answers:

  1. How do you handle students who may not be able to afford iPads/laptops?
    Holton-Arms: Families contribute a portion of the expense. Tuition covers the rest.
  2. How can iPads be used for math and spelling?
    Spell City website and app are useful. Math Bingo is also an app available.
  3. Do students take notes on iPads?
    Holton-Arms: Notes are taken on iPads or laptops either typing or tablet mode. It depends on subject. Some students use Notability app or select another app that works for them.
    Langley: Middle School uses apps-paper and pencil ok too.
  4. How do you integrate technology at a young age?
    Langley: Kindergartners use iPads 30 minutes a day in the classroom when they need it. Talk to your school’s Director of Technology for advice on how to introduce slowly at home.
  5. Where do students go wrong when using One to One computing?
    Holton-Arms: Biggest challenge is Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram. These are the new venues for teens to make harmful mistakes. Social media networking has replaced passing notes in class or saying something damaging.
  6. How do you work with a student who may have difficulty taking notes by typing?
    Langley: Some students take pictures of teacher’s notes on the board with their iPads.
    Woods Academy: Multiple methods… Teachers email to students or students can use voice memos.
  7. With a wide range of media literacy in parent community, how can schools keep parents updated?
    Woods Academy: Parent training available through summer institute. Parents of students with iPads are invited to talk about computer apps, technology, permissions, content etc… Expert is also invited outside of school. Blogs are used to keep in touch/update parents.
  8. How do schools approach online reading/textbooks vs. traditional book reading since the brain processes differently?
    Holton-Arms: Approaches online textbooks cautiously. There are not any good standards in place right now. It is difficult to find a single platform. Publishers are not set-up yet and need more time to work out strategy.
    Langley: Middle School using online math textbooks only for problems. Videos are included to understand concepts, can be downloaded anywhere. Books are available for students who prefer that.
    Woods Academy: With any technology, a mix of traditional style of learning is also used.
  9. For notetaking styles and purposes, are schools providing keyboards or teaching typing skills?
    A stylus can be used for students who prefer writing.
    Langley: 3rd grade students have access to an online tutorial website for introduction to typing. 4th grade may not be typing traditional way, but can type fast (30-45 words/min).
    Holton-Arms: Physical keyboards are not as common. Glass keyboard on touch screen more common. Students learning how to type on different devices. Parents can purchase keyboards. There are many types to choose from to fit student. However, most students who thought they needed one, do not use it.
    Woods Academy: Students need to learn to double check spelling. School purchases keyboards for students who prefer working with them.
  10. Is there anywhere parents can go to learn more about technology?
    Youtube is a good source. Ask children to teach you what they know. Also opens discussion of what they have on their devices. Apple Genius Bar.
    Holton-Arms: School gives students detailed instructions on how to operate device. Parent seminars were organized in the past, but cancelled due to lack of participation. Parents can meet with Technology Directors to partner together.



8:30 – 9:15 Registration, Coffee and Networking

9:15 – 9:30 Opening Remarks

9:30 – 10:30 School Presentations:
Lower School – The Langley School, Chris Lindsay, Director of Technology
Middle School- The Woods Academy, Joseph Powers Head of School
Upper School- Holton-Arms School, David Rossell Director of Technology

10:30- 11:45 Questions and Answers


January 31, 2013
8:30 am - 12:00 pm
Event Categories:


Holton-Arms School
7303 River Road
Bethesda , MD 20817 United States


January 31, 2013
8:30 am - 12:00 pm
Event Categories:


Holton-Arms School
7303 River Road
Bethesda , MD 20817 United States