Improving Teaching and Learning with an Intentional Approach to Technology
Country Day teachers regularly look for ways to improve the classroom experience by using technology in ways that deepen and broaden the learning experience.
Upper School modern and classical language teachers use tools like Flip, a Microsoft video discussion app. Spanish teacher Paty Prieto leaned into this technology while teaching students remotely during the pandemic. It was so effective that she continued its use for in-person teaching as well. Within a secure online space, Ms. Prieto can make a video with instructions and a prompt. Students, in turn, respond with their own videos. The process allows students to build confidence and present their best selves via video before doing live presentations for oral mid-terms and major presentations. Additionally, both students and teachers can easily access past recordings to assess progress in fluency.
Understanding process is critically important in all disciplines. We all look back at draft versions of documents or presentations to edit and improve our work; Microsoft Office 365 and Google Suite allow users to “roll back” the clock to review earlier versions of students’ work to see edits and changes. In a similar fashion, the iPad has become an indispensable tool for our Middle School visual arts students to record and review their off-device process as well.
Using the time-lapse function of the iPad’s camera, students capture the off-device work of sketching, painting, and sculpting. By recording the entirety of the creation process, students can review hours of work in a few minutes, and art teachers can gain a focused, “over-the-shoulder” view to witness the effort and steps taken by each student to get to the final piece of art. iPads also allow art students room to experiment with techniques before committing to a change in a project. "Using digital art apps frequently provides students the opportunity to quickly explore ideas with more confidence because it lessens the fear of ruining their original drawing or painting," says Middle School art teacher Dwayne Wilson. "These digital apps provide instant access to a plethora of creative ideas that can then be transferred to traditional means."
3D Printing Lab
Country Day’s 3D Printing Lab, located in the engineering classroom in the Purdy Center for Science and Mathematics and supervised by Stewart Peery and the 3D Printing Club, allows for rapid prototypes, iterative designs, and final models to be created for classes in all three divisions. Rather than having printers across campus, Country Day has centralized the finicky devices and implemented a print-job workflow, where teachers submit student projects to the queue, and Upper School students assign prints to individual machines using a centralized server and web-based tools. Club members maintain the printers, load filament, and keep the shop running.
The print jobs (which can take multiple hours for complicated designs) can be remotely monitored via webcam, and a time lapse of the print can be shared with students. Projects have ranged from Lower School students designing pen holders to Upper School students creating game board characters in Design Class to insulin models for advanced science-minded seniors participating in our ongoing computational biochemistry research. The expertise and commitment of club members allows students and teachers to focus on the creative design process, without having to learn the specialized skillset and nuance of running a 3D printer.
Ready for the Next Step
We can’t predict the future, but we do know that technology will only continue to advance. Looking ahead and making educational technology decisions, not only for today but for tomorrow, is always on the forefront of our minds. Some of the key goals of the 1:1 initiative rolled out in 2013 was to:
- Ensure students and faculty members could work collaboratively with the same set of tools.
- Put a staffing model and resources in place to support user training, security, and device deployment and support, all with the explicit goal that there would be no additional financial burden to families, and that all students in a grade level would have the same device, regardless of means.
Although teaching and learning during the pandemic had its challenges, our existing 1:1 technology greatly aided students in their remote learning endeavors. Because we were already well-equipped with hardware, well-versed in software, and had the support team in place, Country Day was able to help students succeed academically under difficult circumstances.
In the same way that we want to ensure that our school is prepared for future unknowns and the unpredictability that comes with technology, we want to equip our students with the skill set to use the tools of tomorrow.
Navigating Tech Transitions and Developing Essential Skills
As students navigate a “tech transition” from iPads in Lower and Middle School to Microsoft Surfaces in Upper School, freshmen work through the challenges of moving to a new device, building confidence and resilience along the way. When students enter lab results in a shared Excel sheet in ninth-grade biology, they learn that cloud computing resources in Microsoft Office 365 are analogous with Google tools like Docs, Drive, and Sheets.
Lessons across subject areas show students that word processing and presentation skills are transferable no matter what platform they use—the rubric for a solid presentation focuses on skills and outcomes, not the platform used. This purposeful transition and technology platform shift will be one of many that our students experience as they move through college and the workforce.
Joe HernickDirector of Educational Technology
As we look to the future of AI, including ChatGPT, we are collaborating to answer deeper questions regarding the skills that students need as they head into their futures. Just like the math teachers of the past worried about access to the graphing calculator, teachers today have to look at their teaching to ensure that they are truly preparing students to not just regurgitate something that a robot gave them, but truly understanding, critically thinking, collaborating with others, and creating something even better that can make an impact on the world."
Fostering a culture of experimentation and exploration with technology, students develop problem-solving skills and become lifelong learners, equipping them with the skills to be “Country Day Ready” and well-prepared for the challenges of the future. This approach empowers students to leverage technology as a tool to make the most of what’s yet to be invented, which is critical in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape.