At The Shipley School, we’ve embraced how technology can aid in the learning process for all of our students, particularly in our Middle School (grades 6-8) and Upper School (grades 9-12) classrooms. With laptops, students can quickly access information while in class, use audio and video tools to complement traditional assignments, and collaborate more easily on group projects.
We’re a Pre-K-12 coeducational independent school located in the competitive Philadelphia education market, so we’re always looking for ways to differentiate ourselves, and we pride ourselves in providing a world class education for our students.
Shipley has always been interested in student technology use, and for years that meant laptops available via computer labs and carts for teachers to reserve for their lessons. As computer use and personal laptop use became more common, we allowed students to bring their own devices to school, but recognized not every student comes from a family with the financial means to buy an extra laptop for their child.
This created a disparity, and we wanted to level the playing field by giving all students access to the best resources and learning tools, including technology. In 2013, Shipley made the integration of technology a priority, and the Board of Trustees approved a 1:1 program—a program where we provide each student (grades 6-12) with a school-leased laptop.
Training for Teachers
Long before our students had laptops in hand, we began working with our Middle School and Upper School teachers. We balanced specific technical training on our learning management system and particular web tools with discussions about best practices for classroom management and room design.
We had honest conversations about how to exist and teach in this new environment.
Having a classroom full of students with laptops can be a challenge for even the most seasoned teachers, especially for those who may feel less confident with technology. So when providing professional learning for our colleagues, we discussed different challenging classroom scenarios, like how to tell when laptops are becoming a distraction or determining if a student’s laptop “emergency” is actually something that warrants time out of class to visit the tech department.
On a practical level, teachers had to rethink how their classrooms would be configured. For instance, would they want to be able to get behind screens to check their students’ work? Where should the teacher’s desk be? When students collaborate on digital work, do all of them need an open laptop or is one enough? What tools are easiest for student collaboration and teacher supervision? Since we had many teachers who were already doing great work with technology, we were able to take advantage of many in-house experts.
(Next page: Where to begin; 1:1 pains and successes)