Investing in technology for the classroom often requires taking a leap of faith. There is no guarantee implementing technology will enhance student learning, and many schools have to make mistakes first in order to succeed in reaching their goals.
Beaver Country Day School, in Chestnut Hill, Mass., has refused to be intimidated by the idea of failing, especially in regards to using technology in the classroom. About eight years ago, Beaver implemented a 1:1 program in hopes of expanding the nature of the classroom and opening up new learning opportunities for students.
At this time, 1:1 programs were a relatively new concept, and Beaver knew this technology initiative would not be met without challenges.
“We have our motto, ‘Make excellent mistakes,'” says Peter Hutton, head of Beaver Country Day School. “Go ahead and make a mistake and figure out what you’ve learned from that. All teachers have to be somewhat comfortable with what they can do and what their potential is and not be afraid to mess up.”
Beaver Country Day School’s tech initiative has involved more than just providing laptops to students. The halls of Beaver proudly exhibit digital displays, and the implementation of Google Chromecast has allowed teachers and students to easily connect what is being displayed on their computer screen to a TV monitor.
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Students also have access to Google Apps for Education, where they can pick and choose from a range of productivity tools that facilitate collaboration and interaction. Beaver has continued to expand its technology initiative without too much expense by finding little to no-cost web-based tools that help students learn in new and innovative ways.
“Beaver believes firmly that we don’t want students to pay for fancy software that costs a ton of money, so I spend a lot of time finding web-based solutions that will work for both PCs and Macs so the experience is exactly the same for everyone. We feel very strongly about that,” says Jenna Wolf, director of research and technology at Beaver Country Day School.
One of the most impactful technologies Beaver has used to enhance student learning is one of these free solutions. Through the use of Skype, students at Beaver’s upper and middle schools have been granted the opportunity to speak with students and experts all over the world to build on the material they are learning in the classroom.
“We tried Skype out in our curriculum because we do a lot of work with current events and we can spend a ton of time reading resources that are said to be multiple perspective, but why not include the actual perspective of people who are living through these events?” says Melissa Alkire, an Upper School history teacher and tech integration specialist
After the head of Beaver’s history department, Kader Adjout, connected his class with a class of a friend who was teaching abroad, many teachers followed suit and began using Skype in the classroom to connect their classes with students in foreign countries.
By speaking with students in cou-tries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt and Germany, students at Beaver have been able to hear unique perspectives on controversial topics such as civil war and religion.