STATE OF THE ART DREAMING
Every great step into the future was driven by a vision of what could be. Explorers and dreamers knew that although the future was uncertain and murky, it was inevitable. When Neil Armstrong’s foot touched the moon’s surface, it was a step into the future that reflected the dreams, plans, trials, and errors of those who believed in the reality of that outcome.
While state-of-the-art technology is employed at all levels at Jackson Prep, the goal is to facilitate learning. The “magic” is not the technology. It is the enthusiastic engagement in learning. Jackson Prep teachers select and utilize the best technologies to engage each student’s power of inquiry and innovation.
Across the Prep community excitement has spread. Again this summer, faculty members have immersed themselves in technology exploration and training workshops; students have anticipated using personal devices at Prep, and administrators and parents have realized the communication opportunities that have been opened to them through technology.
Prep’s ongoing strategic planning process places emphasis on student use of technology. Jackson Prep, a mission-driven school, is governed by a strategically-minded board of trustees, led by an executive leadership team with over 150 years of professional experience, and staffed by 86 dedicated and experienced professionals, including 46 who have earned post-graduate degrees, and eight faculty members with doctoral degrees. Years ago our technological initiatives put into place a world languages lab that utilized technology to increase student skills. Prep students who benefited from the languages lab were rewarded with top scoring outcomes on national Spanish and French exams. More funds continue to be invested in innovation which will enhance student performance and ability in all areas.
Prep is guided by three major principles as it relates to the student use of individual technology: 1) Jackson Prep is a multi-platform school; 2) Jackson Prep believes parents should choose the device for their student’s use in school; and 3) Jackson Prep believes that student use of technology should be grade and age appropriate.
The multi-platform principle ensures our students’ technological training and experience will not be limited. In most cases, the convergence of applications to a web based platform makes the delivery device irrelevant. The world is multi-platform; therefore, in keeping with Jackson Prep’s mission, the aim is to give students facility in many arenas of technology. College engineering programs have adopted the PC model for the most sophisticated software, while professional art and publications have found the Mac platform more adaptable for creative endeavors. For example, one method of Prep’s adaptation of the world beyond the classroom is the science curriculum which incorporates wireless interfaces compatible with both platforms. Prep’s state of the art publications room houses nine MAC workstations, exposing students to the media tools they would find at regional newspapers. Student journalists now spend their time developing desktop publishing skills needed for careers in media. Additionally, Lain Hughes, sponsor for the newspaper, The Sentry, believes technology is changing the interaction between student media and the student body through the use of blogs and digital editions.
Though the market strategies of most companies would have consumers believe that they must purchase the latest products, the truth is, except for specialized areas, digital needs can be met many ways. Jackson Prep gives parents the choice of which device suits their family needs, as opposed to a single market solution for everyone. Efforts have been made to make technology accessible to all socio-economic groups.
Jackson Prep educators have an awareness of and methods for instructing students in skills across the curriculum needed at each level. The curriculum demands that students have facility with multiple literacies, including technology. Teachers have long understood that knowledge is expanded by experience. Each experience must be suited to the age and maturity of students. As students age, they assume more responsibility and independence, particularly when they have been given the tools needed to make the appropriate choices. At Prep, Junior High students will have the opportunity to use a wide variety of school-owned devices, including net books, laptops, desktops, iMacs, tablets, slates, and iPads, allowing them to understand technology beyond a single platform and increasing their technological literacy. Students in the high school will bring a device daily for use in the classroom as directed by their instructors. Senior high students need access to technology throughout the day due to their more rigorous academic curriculum, increased socialization, and demanding after school activities. Effective additional technologies remain in place in areas such as the World Languages Lab.
Prep classrooms are no longer limited to the physical boundaries of the school. Through class websites teachers can provide links to tutorials, handouts, and announcements. Many teachers post videos of lessons or review topics, “flipping” the classroom and allowing the time students spend inside the classroom to be more student centered.
Likewise, Prep’s communication is enhanced with the use of technology. Parents can access grades daily throughout the school year; electronic calendaring allows downloads and integration with the personal calendars of parents, students, and faculty. The school website is constantly updated, keeping the Prep community informed of all events. Facebook and Twitter have become indispensable means of dispersing information to the Prep community.
Though we do not often think about it, NASA’s early vision and work on the space program lead to the communication systems upon which we rely today, not to mention technologies that were developed for the sciences of Medicine, Engineering, Robotics, Materials, Astronomy, Artificial Intelligence, and Agriculture. For these developments to take place, the human mind had to be given the space to imagine, explore, and dream. What Prep is doing today affords students the “space” to begin to dream, to innovate, and to create for the future.
By: Laura Bishop, Anna Freundt, Marsha Hobbs