We researched and tested many of the technology programs, apps, and devices available, and we have found that a few key components have had a huge impact on our approach to a digital model. One program that has become a staple across our campus is StudySync, a cross-curricular reading and writing program that delivers content to any mobile or computing device, 24-7. With its built-in rubrics, fiction and nonfiction texts, writing prompts, and movie-quality SyncTV video lessons that model literary discussions, this literacy platform motivates students while addressing state and Common Core standards.
StudySync supports literacy skills across disciplines, and while it is, at this time, most widely used by our language arts and social studies teachers, it is so flexible that our math and science teachers can customize fields, questions, or items and generally use the program as they like. For example, they have found ways to use StudySync’s eMail template for its Blast writing prompts to engage students in review-related activities. Our physics teacher uses these self-created Blasts to encourage students to brainstorm together and respond to challenging questions that mirror the types of items that they will find on their assessments.
Another technology solution we are currently implementing is the Schoology Learning Management System. We chose Schoology because of the countless ways it can integrate with the programs already in use at the school, as well as its robust, familiar platform on which our students, parents, and faculty comfortably communicate. It is a program that we hope will grow with us as we move forward.
Aside from these technology programs, our research led to three major changes. First, we removed 16,000 largely untouched books from the library and replaced them with more than 10 database systems providing more than 140,000 primary sources for research.
Second, after removing the books, we installed a Technology Enabled Active Learning (TEAL) lab based on the models we found at the University of North Carolina and MIT during our research. These labs—we have since added four additional spaces—feature wheeled furniture, 52-inch touch-screen monitors, audio enhancement, a document camera, Apple TV, and an iPad cart.
Additionally, all of the walls are writable surfaces made of glass or whiteboards to encourage students to brainstorm and write out their thoughts while working together. The TEAL labs are fluid, collaborative environments, generic in technology and setup to encourage use by all disciplines.
(Next page: An example of a TEAL-based lesson)