The iSchool also is partnering with two-year colleges to allow students to earn an associate’s degree with one additional year of coursework in high school.

Looking from class to class–each spacious, each with multiple teachers, each student with his or her own laptop, and each student able to collaborate with his or her peers–it’s clear that each student takes charge of his or her own learning.

“Students also have access to their own home page when they sign in to our school’s portal,” said Falah. “They can access their work, their class notes, notes the teacher has posted for all of their modules, resource links for each module, homework assignments, and can track their progress.”

Parents and teachers also can track student progress online, through a learning management system built on the open-source platform Moodle.

“I like being able to be at home and check my class notes, and sometimes teachers, after you post your homework, will leave notes for you saying what you did right and what you did wrong,” said Lewis.

“The students’ comfort with technology, their inclination to use it in very natural ways to solve their problems, is a resource that we’re wasting if we don’t bring [technology] into the classroom,” said Berger.

Early results–and looking toward the future

Since the iSchool opened, attendance is at 94 percent–ten percent above the citywide average.

Also, after just five months at the school, 62 percent of students passed the Regents Exam–a requirement for high school diplomas in New York.

There are already 1,500 applications for 100 spots in next year’s freshman class. The iSchool will be adding approximately 110 students each year until the school reaches a capacity of 450 students, serving grades 9-12.

“Mort [Zuckerman] called me the other day and he said, ‘Joel, you don’t get a lot of things right, but you got this one right,'” said Klein during a press conference at the iSchool. “And he’s right. I am so impressed by what’s happening here.”

Owing to the iSchool’s success, the DOE is preparing to roll out 40 additional schools within the next one to three years–all based on similar iSchool structures, said Gene Longo, engagement manager for global education at Cisco.

Nine specialized schools will open this September, Longo said, each focusing on a different theme. For example, one school will focus on green careers, and another on the history of cinema. One school will focus on gaming careers, and one on engineering and technology.

“Right now, Cisco is involved with every one of those nine schools to help with their tech support and much more,” Longo said. “One school, Quest to Learn, which will be a Career and Technical Education high school that focuses on gaming, will also be working with the MacArthur Foundation, the Institute of Play, and the University of Arizona. All these schools will [include] the best in innovation and technology.”

According to Longo, if a school wants to be considered for specialization and a program like the iSchool’s, it had to undergo a test of sorts.

Each school principal interested in participating has to create a video demonstrating what he or she envisions a day in the life of a student would be like if the school were specialized, and the principal has to imagine that he or she is the student.

“This certainly has national implications,” said Joel Rose, chief executive of human capital for the city DOE. “With the iSchool, we’re codifying lessons learned, implementing tools that can be scalable, using free and open-source resources, and leveraging the best experts to go online so that anyone who wants to learn, can. The iSchool really is the engine for educational innovation.”

Links:

New York City iSchool

Alisa Berger

Mary Moss

Cisco’s Global Education

New York City Department of Education

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Empowering Education Through Technology resource center. Integrating technology into the classroom can be a challenge without the right guidance. Go to: Empowering Education Through Technology

That success includes long waiting lists for future iSchool slots, average attendance 10 percentage points above the city average, and gratifying results on the state’s rigorous Regents Exams.