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Flint Hill Hopes Technology Transforms Instruction

Private school expands 1:1 initiative to require Lower School students to use school-issued iPads

When opened its doors for the new school year last week, its students were armed with iPads and MacBooks.

After a pilot program last year that gave fourth- through 12th-graders MacBooks, Flint Hill School has extended its 1:1 technology initiative to the younger students. Junior kindergartners through fourth-graders will each will have an iPad2.

The program adds $350 on top of the tuition of iPad users and $400 for laptop users. Tuition stands at $25,650 for junior kindergartners, $28,075 for fifth- through eighth-graders, and $29,185 for high-schoolers.

"The purpose of it was not to teach software," said Shannan Schuster, dean of faculty and a math teacher. "The reason we did this was because we thought we could create deeper learning for kids, more creativity for kids, more differentiated options for learning styles."

Teachers are encouraged to utilize the sites and programs the students frequent to better engage their students, and find new tools the kids may not have known existed. They are also encouraged to take technology tips from the kids, as the pilot last year showed the teachers did not have to give in-depth training of the software. Instead, they found the programs are intuitive for the students.

"If we look at this really philosophically, school used to be the place that when you walked there, someone knew more than you did. So you were walking there to be given the information," Schuster said. "Now, it's really just a place to collaborate and brainstorm. The Internet will always know more than I do."

And as for worrying about the students accessing social networking sites during the school year? The school has moved beyond worrying about it.

Students are well within their rights to post an update to Facebook or send out tweet during school hours.

At Flint Hill School, it's about embracing the technology the students have not only become accustomed to, but will be working with in college and beyond. Sure, the students can't waste away class time on Facebook, but they can browse through it during a break or study hall.

"Part of what we want to teach is, how do you balance your responsibilities within a world with so many distractions?" Schuster said. "When kids go off to college or get a job, they're going to have access to these sites. They need to learn now how to deal with all of it now."

Flint Hill also wants this push toward technology to eventually add an online component to learning that didn't exist before to help students and teachers interact beyond school hours, using podcasts or video chats to give direct instruction or tutorials.

Schuster believes technology has the potential to help reverse what is now standard practice in education: lessons during the school day and application of those lessons — through homework — at night. Instead, students could learn through podcasts or other online sources during the hours normally dedicated to homework, then apply those lessons with the teacher during the school day.

"I am so excited to be an educator at this time," Schuster said. "The more there is more access to the best information, the more it's going to force the changes in education that have needed to happen for a long time. Lecture was never a good teaching strategy."

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