Harborfields Central School District is looking to improve how teachers teach and students learn, with Tech 2.0, an education initiative meant to equip the district with technology-driven learning aids.
As soon as Superintendent Francesco Ianni took over at Harborfields, he said, he started to work with the administration to roll out this plan, which involves students and teachers using Chromebooks, lightweight laptops, with lesson plans.
“The nice thing about this plan is it’s a wonderful opportunity for the entire district,” Ianni said in a phone interview. “We’re not only providing Chromebooks, but a plan for teachers’ curriculum to revamp how we teach and learn here. We want to make sure these are meaningful changes, not just another machine we’re bringing in.”
Currently the district has a certain amount of Chromebooks teachers can sign out in advance for a class lesson. But Tech 2.0 would create a plan where every lesson has possibilities with Chromebooks to enhance the class. Ianni said the initiative is expected to begin in the 2018-19 school year, when every student and teacher in the high school will have a Chromebook, and right now the district is using a pilot program for selected teachers to get a jump-start on learning how to use the technology effectively with their students.
“We don’t know what the future will look like but we want to give the students every opportunity to learn and be prepared,” Ianni said.
Administrators have sat in on several classes involved in the pilot program, and said they have already noticed exciting new ways students are getting involved in lessons.
Jordan Cox, executive director of instructional services, said students have been able to go on virtual field trips, take polls on events and take quizzes attached to the end of a presentation.
“The students have the ability to look at 3-D objects and interact with classmates on Google Docs, which is especially helpful if a student is out sick and needs to work on a group assignment,” Cox said in a phone interview. “This changes the learning landscape.”
He sat in on a class of students learning about World War II and the Holocaust, and the kids were able to take a virtual reality tour of a concentration camp.
Ianni said he observed a lesson recently, in a class learning about applying to college and applying for financial aid. He said the students were able to use Google Earth to go on virtual tours of the campuses of schools they were interested in. He also said this plan will help teachers see what students are understanding in real time. In a math class he sat in on, the students were taking a quiz and the teacher was able to look at the grades right away, instead of taking them home to grade that night. She saw a majority of the class was struggling with a certain question, and she was able to go over it again with the class right then.
Rory Manning, assistant superintendent for administration and human resources, said another benefit of using the Chromebooks comes with the price tag.
“We used to have desktops in certain classrooms, but with these Chromebooks it’s cheaper,” he said in a phone interview. The district is now able to offer more resources than before, he said.
Administration is not the only supporter of Tech 2.0
The Harborfields Alumni and Community Educational Fund, a not-for-profit established to support educational programs in the district, made a $50,000 donation to the initiative, which is going to help purchase more Chromebooks for the classrooms.
In April HACEF hosted a Mardi Gras gala with members of the Greenlawn community, which raised $34,000 in a single night. HACEF then decided to donate $16,000 of its own funds to help bring the total to $50,000.
“It’s amazing the support from the community,” Karin Fey, vice president of HACEF, said in a phone interview. “This is the wave of the future, and we wanted to give something significant to show how important we think this is.”