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  • 1. tfarhinn in q 29- world FOR THE FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY INSCHOOLS By CATHERINE J. HALL AND ALEXANDER C. PEARSON 62 INDEPENDENT SCHOOL
  • 2. f you could design your own school, what would it look like? This is not aI• Squestion many educators actually get to answer, but it is this very question -thatwe have been asldng ourselves at The Episcopal Academy (Pennsylva- Iia) for the last seven years - as we have planned, built, and now moved into our new 123-acre, nine-building campus. This tremendous opportunity to build an entire school is both the cchance of a lifetime and an incredible challenge. How do you build a campus ihat not only meets the needs of to- aay's students, but which will hold up over time, allowing for enough adapt- dbiity to grow and change in a climate vhere five-year strategic plans seem long-term? Even more challenging: how do you plan the technology for a caampus like this? WINTE 0 9 63
  • 3. While our project is larger in scale than most school construction proj- ects, the questions that guided our decision-making process are no dif- ferent than questions you'd use for a one-building renovation project. At the end of the day, the technology you put in place in your classrooms needs to be congruent with your school's mission and with your classroom pedagogy. It needs to help make teaching and learning better. What follows are some key questions and methods we used to design and build our ideal school. Know Who You Are The Episcopal Academy was founded in 1785 in Philadelphia. On the surface, you may assume that the school's 225- year history would leave it rigid and steeped in unbreakable tradition. But, in the competitive independent school market in metropolitan Philadelphia, the reality is that a school must be adaptable and innovative in order to survive. The move to our new campus is, in fact, just the latest in a series of moves for the school over the course ofits history, and the most recent case of the school needing to look to new ground to create a campus that could meet programming needs and accom- modate future growth. The way that the school has been able to change, while being true to its core beliefs, is tied to a central sense of mission and identity. The technology we put in place is no exception to this principle. When beginning the process of planning. technology in any building project, you need to start by know- ing both how teachers and students ,already use technology, and how teach- ers teach and students learn to iden- tify the new technologies that would make this process better. What The Episcopal Academy has built works wonderfully for us, but it may not be the secret ingredients to your own suc- cess. There is not a magic formula for designing an innovative and progres- sive technology program; rather, there are some best practices for how to plan for your own recipe. It is important to not just focus on what your school is doing now with technology, but to anticipate what you will be doing in the future. Think about how teachers and students adapted and grew to use what they use today: that will tell you something about how to prepare for your school's technology future. The best way to get to know your technology needs is to involve the right people in the discussion. Use teach- ers to pilot and test new technologies you are considering; ask students what they wish they could do on your campus but can't due to current limita- tions; survey faculty to see which ofthe technologies that you have already put money into are working and which are not, and why.There is not a consultant who can answer these questions for 1MCa-lid @,'[r1@pVA/ ýCsrr-
  • 4. you - and you should be wary ofthose who say that they can. At best, a good consultant can help you ask the right questions to get your own answers. Which Technologies Should You Buy? With limited budgets for technology in any building project, schools are faced with difficult decisions about which technologies to pick. It is very easy to be convinced that the classroom ofthe future looks a particular way. There are a lot of gadgets and very exciting technologies that look fantastic in classrooms and computer labs.if these tools do not connect to your classroom pedagogy, they will not make the dif- ference you are seeking in teaching and learning. What you would ideally do is invest in those technologies that both give you the most bang for your buck in the classroom, and are things you can build upon from year to year with additional funds. In our case, we made some deci- sions several years before we moved in order to pilot some key technologies to gauge how they fit with how we teach and learn. This gave us a chance to test them before we invested heavily. We looked at different types of interactive -technologies, different A/V classroom displays, and different video distri- bution systems, and we had lengthy discussions about how teachers use different resources both inside and outside of class. We wanted to avoid piloting something after we moved in and the investment was already made. In the world of interactive tech- nologies, we chose tablet computers as our standard teaching platform and flat screen TVs instead of projectors, screens, and speakers as our multime- dia hardware. Most teachers in third through 12th grades have their own tablet PC, which we introduced four years ago. Similar to standard laptops, but with an interactive screen, teachers use tablets in class as a whiteboard, or at home to grade student papers electronically. We compared this op- tion to interactive whiteboards (such as Smart), and found that the whiteboards were used significantly less frequently by the teachers. In our case, it came down to comfort. Teachers brought their tablet home and used it for all of their day-to-day computing. Instead of having to learn two technologies - their computer and their interactive whiteboard - they only had to master one. They had confidence in using it and, therefore, used it more. There are certainly a lot of successful interactive whiteboard programs in schools. But it wasn't the right direction for us. Our decision to go with flat-screen TVs rather than standard LCD projec- tors was a bit more unconventional. We had been using projectors in our classrooms for several years. What bothered us was the ongoing cost of 10 WJC maintaining them, on top of a high installation fee. The TVs brought us a new option. The image quality was much stronger, but the tradeoff was a smaller display size. We installed one in a classroom prior to our move to get the feedback we needed. We found that the improved image quality made up for the drawbacks and the cost savings per room, both immediate with instal- lation and ongoing, was tremendous. We are using these flat-screen displays around campus as information bul- letin boards, enabling us to broadcast video announcements and to custom- ize information for students in differ- ent buildings. We have also connected Tips for Administrators BY GEOFFREY K. WAGG Learn and understand the possibilities. It is important to have a vi- sion for the future that is rooted in what is possible. Be clear about your educational philosophy. Building for the future can ensure that both classical and progressive educational cultures will remain relevant. Keep expectations in check. Building or renovating for the future can improve the program, but don't oversell the possibilities until it is all working. Hire good consultants that you like to work with. Nothing is worse and more expensive than working with the wrong people who do not have-your best interests in mind. Use proven technologies. Off-the-shelf technologies that have been tested and are in use are the safest investment. Focus on simplicity and training. Buy technologies that are simple to use and reliable, and then provide adequate time for training. Demo products. Have vendors supply samples and let your adventur- ous teachers take them for a test drive. Build a reliable infrastructure. Invest in a network infrastructure that is robust and reliable and keep it current. Hire great staff.The technology staff must be adept at the technology and great at helping others to use it. Have fun. Building for the future should be exciting and intellectually stimulating. GeoffrqK.Waggishead ofthe upperschool atThe EpiscopalAcademy (Pennsylvania). WINTER 2009 65 10A 2 so Boo ?0 00
  • 5. the TVs into our new video distribu- tion system, a robust system of cable television stations as well as thousands of educational videos for teachers to use in class. What is most important in buying classroom technology is knowing that your teachers will use it. They need to believe it is a technology that will both work and improve what they are do- ing. They also need to be comfortable using it and confident they can use it successfully in front of students. When buying technology for stu- dent use, the questions get more complicated. Most schools have atleast considered whether it makes sense for students to carry around their own laptops or tablets, with many deciding that this is the area in which to invest student computer dollars. These i:i initiatives are, in some cases, great successes and, in others, great failures. Typically, schools with unsuccessful programs failed to ask some key ques- tions up front about how teachers would incorporate the laptops into class time, what technology staffing changes are needed to support the additional hardware, and what train- ing both teachers and students need to make it work. We believe that, in some situations, i:i programs can be fantastic ways to leverage technology in the classroom. Ifthe conditions are not right, they are not a good fit. The key in this decision is taking the time to evaluate carefully both the school's readiness for laptops and its ability to use them wisely across the curriculum. At The Episcopal Academy, we have not yet made that commitment, but we will be studying this issue carefully in the next year to decide if it is the right time for us to start a one-to-one program. An area where schools can lever- age funds more easily with student computer use is in specialty computer labs. In looking across program areas at a school, there may be disciplines that lend themselves well to a special technology-rich classroom. At Episcopal Academy, we have built in a few such labs that enable our students to further explore academic areas of interest on their own, and for teachers in those disciplines to use these new resources to develop new curricular directions. For instance, we have built in a music technology lab, a multimedia studio for both graphics and video editing, an interactive language learning lab, and a cutting-edge control booth for our theater tech program. While these spaces cost a bit more than standard labs, they are targeted areas that tie directly into curricular initiatives, and, thus, we know they will be used widely. Our recommendation for other schools, therefore, is to consider picking one or more areas where your school thrives, or is looking to grow, and to promote technology labs in these spaces. We have found that it is important to have the right faculty members eager to push the program along and to have them involved in the planning. With key WAY/0 hfl Unr_',i)?WJ RPMs frLo zo NOII CoI long Lupo r11'M'Frr-a(@bo we hayw9-8-C f%WAYWLJW01' dm mo-V
  • 6. teachers behind the effort, adding in a few high-profile spaces can make a big impact on curriculum. Don't Forget the Basics It is very easy, when planning new fa- cilities, to focus on the bells and whis- tles - -those technologies that draw attention and show that your school is cutting edge. Butit is very important to remember to invest adequately in the "basics" of your technology program. Nobody will be singing the praises of the video lab if the network is too slow for students to useit and e-mail doesn't work. It is critical to assess what your priorities are and to be sure to build an infrastructure - cabling, servers, switches, bandwidth - that can sup- port it. It is also important to allow for room to grow in your infrastructure. You want to avoid creating a situation where you have outgrown your capac- ity in two years. In our case, we invested in the hidden technologies strongly. We have ioGB fiber connections between buildings (it's fast) with CAT 6e cabling inside buildings (also fast). We partnered with Cisco Systems to implement some key areas of our core network, including the switches that direct network traffic around campus, the wireless network, and the phone system. Depending on the scale of your project, you can speak openly with major vendors to see if they are interested in special pricing arrange- ments to outfit more than one part of the project. Often, prices for large proj- ects are negotiable and you can get top- notch vendors like Cisco at a discount. In addition to Cisco, we partnered with Hewlett-Packard, who provided our servers, printers, and desktop comput- ers, also at a discount. 68 1N D E P E N D E NT SCHOOL We also paid attention to our band- width. This is our connection from campus to the outside world. Having a blazing fast internal network only gets you so far. If it still takes a long time to download a video to a classroom, the speed of the internal network is -notworth the money. We opted to go with an option that not only gave us a lot ofbandwidth to the Internet, but which also connected us to Internet2, an initiative that connects educational groups to a wide range of online learn- ing content. Our bandwidth is what is called "burstable," meaning it can adjust as needed to change based on usage. Rather than having every- thing grind to a halt while someone d6wnloads a large file, our connection expands and allows for greater band- width when needed. You can evaluate what your current usage is with your Internet service pro- vider and then use competing offers of service to look at the options that match both your budget and needs. Telecommunications plans and fees change so often that it is worth review- ing your account frequently. You may be able to upgrade to a much faster connection for the same money you are currently paying. One of our guiding rules was to make sure the core technologies were solid before diving into extras. These core pieces - servers, network traffic flow, e-mail, and phones - are essen- tial for students, faculty, and staff to work and learn in our school. We used the opportunity with the project to up- grade servers, to re-assess how our data is stored and backed up, to upgrade our e-mail system, and to invest in a phone system that would be reliable and easy to use (in our case, Cisco's VoIP system). Investing in these core pieces built confidence in the system and allowed teachers to take the time to try new technologies rather than fret over an unstable network. Another "basic" is wireless network access. While seemingly costly on the front end, a good wireless network can take the load off of your wired network, minimizing how much ca- bling you need to run and how many network drops you need to place in each classroom. Beyond the cost factor, a good wireless network can transform your learning spaces. We wanted our wireless network to allow for the use of technology anywhere on campus, opening up how we think about the classroom as a space. We envisioned, for instance, our classes heading out- doors with laptops to learn, creating classrooms out of non-typical spaces. It was a priority for us to have wireless coverage all over campus, inside and outside buildings. It was also important for the wire- less connection to be stable and robust enough to support what our teachers want to do in the classroom, including showing videos and other bandwidth- heavy uses. We turned to Cisco for some guidance on what would get us there, and ended up investing in a somewhat emerging technology - the n standard. Ifyou are familiar with the different letters assigned to wireless standards - a, b, g - n is the latest iteration, which promises significantly better range and connection speeds. In deciding what type of wireless network to put in place, there are sev- eral things to consider. If you want to cover all or most of your campus, you may want tolook to a managed system, which allows you to monitor all ofyour access points, tweak their ranges, and make sure all of your spaces are coy- _tea c UrtgJrt_a__?__0_wAdd_ 0(g)UluIr 0 Frý(rm,, hi11 ný01,tihn ft:Ch[-nobpo Lfdo ciýPIFMý 9 V MfIR 0:1C-b&e.g-0roi,Fv rr mui na anrt 00 na WO) [_'Ov,-CýV'k,-W pin @#Nft Mrrime.-Fr%E-011M furom Ow
  • 7. ered. We found it important to estab- lish how andwhere students and faculty connect (and want to connect) to the network and the Internet and invest based on that priority. Who Leads the Way? Most schools do not have internal exper- tise to guide the process of designing and implementing a new data and A/V network. The consultants we brought into the process were specialists in key areas and were very competent. More importantly, however, they understood their role in hearing us as the client - our priorities, our vision, our expecta- tions - and in taking their cue from us in making recommendations and in designing systems. Our internal team was integral in conversations about all aspects of the project, including design and budget. For this relation- ship to be achieved, the school needs to have an internal group empowered to work with the consultants in order to be certain the end result matched the school's vision of what the facility will enable teachers and students to do. Educational spaces are unique and it is important to hire experts who under- stand schools and have a solid record of working in education. Having an internal team does more than having someone to act as a watch- dog over consultants. It gives members of the school technology program an opportunity to gain skills and knowl- edge through the process that will help leverage the new technology the school is buying. Outsourcing the project and dumping new equipment on a technol- ogy department without their input does nothing to further their under- standing or ownership of the tools. In the end, the technology department is the team leading the effort for students and teachers to use the tools, and it needs to be a vital part of the conversa- tion from the beginning. The Future of Our School On many levels, what we have built can certainly be described as a "school of the future." It is built with growth and progress in mind. This campus, however, is also a school of the present and the past as well. We built a school that could meet us where we are in our technology use while giving us some new tools to push us forward. Where appropriate, though, we stuck with tried and true measures, includ- ing chalk boards in several classrooms and dedicated Harkness-method seminar rooms. There is also capacity to grow in areas we have not even en- visioned yet. We can only assume we made some mistakes along the way. Time inevitably reveals that not all choices are the best - in which case. you play the game ofconsidering what you would do differently if you could. We are confident, however, that our processes of investigation, trial, and design have led us on the right path with the tools we need to move our program forward. Your next building project may be different in size, scope, and budget, but the same process ofdeciding which technologies best fit your school's mis- sion and pedagogy will undoubtedly help you invest your technology dollars wisely. So what does your new school look like? Have fun discovering it. CatherineJ.Hall isthe directoroftechnology at The Episcopal Academy (Pennsylvania). Alexander C. Pearsonisthe school'sassociatedirectoroftechnology. Good Things to Do Expert Suggestions for Fostering Goodness in Kids We've asked several of the foremost names in child development and education to offer their practical wisdom for helping young people grow in goodness, academic integrity, compassion, understanding, development ofthe spirit, and more. Each expert's sug- gestions are presented in short, almost bullet-point format, easy to read and written specifically for educators and parents in independent schools. Partiallistofcontributors: Pat Bassett, President, National Association of Independent Schools Thomas Lickona, Director, Center for the 4th and 5th Rs (Respect and Responsibility) Judith Smetana, Ph.D., educator and editor,HandbookofMoralDevelopment Marilyn Watson, Ph.D., past Director, National Teacher Education Project at the Developmental Studies Center Hal Urban, Ph.D., author, Life's GreatestLessons:20 ThingsthatMatter Nancy Eisenberg, Ph.D., editor, Social, Emotional, and Personality Development, vol. 4 ofHandbookofPsychology Eboo Patel, Ph.D., Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Corps Marvin Berkowitz, Ph.D., Director, McDonnell Leadership Academy in Character Education Elizabeth Dabney Hochman, Editor-in-Chief, KidSpiritMagazine Mimi Doe, author and founder ofSpiritualParenting.com Matthew Davidson, Ph.D., President and Director, Center for Excellence & Ethics publication date: January 2009 Price: $12 to order, visit www.csee.org THE COUNCIL FOR SPIRITUAL AND ETHICAL EDUCATION PO Box 19807 0 PORTLAND, OR a 97280 WINTER 2009 69
  • 8. COPYRIGHT INFORMATION TITLE: How to Build for the Future of Technology in Schools SOURCE: Indep Sch 68 no2 Wint 2009 The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. To contact the publisher: http://www.nais.org/

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