It’s no secret that technology has pushed its way to the forefront of our lives. From personal email to everyday work tasks, it has become omnipresent. So too has it become the center of children’s’ lives, for better (i.e. interactive learning videos and applications) and for worse (strong reliance on computers, MP3s and tablets leads to less physically-active play). It’s true that technology use for kids is controversial; however schools these days are taking a positive approach to tech usage. North Allegheny School District wants to use it to enhance the classroom experience.
Education Then and Now
Do you remember your elementary school days? Teachers wrote with chalk on a blackboard, showed you slides on an archaic black-and-white projector, maybe even popped a VHS tape in to better illustrate a lesson. Those days are, by-and-large, gone. We’ve entered an age where technologically-advanced teaching has prevailed, which is why North Allegheny will undergo a 7-year endeavor to update its elementary school facilities with the help of a $4 million loan from PNC. NA says that its 7 elementary schools are sorely in need of upgrades, as the wiring systems alone date back to 1999.
NA’s Educational Technology Goals
North Allegheny would like to surge back to the forefront of education for young children, and doing so means providing the same educational technology that Pittsburgh and schools in cities around the country are already using. To fix the aforementioned wiring issue, the schools will install Wi-Fi systems, currently only in use at the two high schools, which promise to enable the use of devices like iPads both for in-class activities and for enhanced communication with hearing-impaired students.
And remember those chalk boards and projectors we mentioned earlier? Adios! NA says that upgrading from these traditional tools (or at least supplementing them) to the more innovative “white board” technology would broaden the ways kids learn and afford teachers more flexibility in preparing and sharing lessons. Electronic “white boards” enable teachers to prepare lessons on their own laptops at home, and then use a plug-and-play method of sharing, where the teacher can plug in their computer to the classroom device and display the lesson materials easily on the screen. School officials have traveled to other districts to see this technology in action, noting the benefits of being able to take students on “electronic field trips” to far-away places through interactive learning without ever leaving the classroom.
North Allegheny looks forward to the changes to come, noting that they currently have 400 gently-used laptops from the high schools to use in classrooms when the wireless overhaul is complete. The district is excited by the possibility of allowing students to take state-sponsored standardized tests like the PSSA completely online, a move not yet made due to fear of hundreds of test takers overloading the current computer network.
North Allegheny is climbing its way back up the totem pole with improved educational technology for its Pittsburgh students. Chalk boards and projectors have gone away; iPads, Laptops and smart whiteboards are here to stay. And in addition to improving overall learning opportunities, NA has made a few steps toward improved student safety, with a two-step security system to identify and admit visitors via phone and video connections. It’s clearer than ever that offering world-class education means staying ahead of the technological curve, and North Allegheny School District will do just that.