iMHS begins . . .
Three facts constantly emerge as Magnolia Heights School considers its long-term future. First, our teachers are clamoring for greater access to information that is increasingly computer-based and Internet related. Second, no amount of computer labs could satisfy what our teachers feel is necessary for students to succeed. And third, technology continues to play an ever-increasing role in the lives of students, both in and outside of the classroom. The only viable solution is to reverse the traditional model of bringing the students to the technology, and instead bring the technology to the students.
This year’s seniors will be the first class of graduates that have never known a world without the Internet. The Internet was first commercialized in 1995, the year most of our seniors were born. You might even remember Netscape Navigator as the browser of choice. Since that time our world has become closely interconnected because of advances in technology. This has launched a whole series of initiatives that are called collectively 21st Century Learning. Our graduates today face a world that Thomas Friedman identified in his classic work The World is Flat. Twenty-first century learners must not only be well versed in their core academics, but also in skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration. While these skills are not new, they are in ever-increasing demand in a world that is more digital and more globally connected. Technology has evolved into a tool for fostering these 21st century skills.
Our little Chiefs in Mini-Magnolia will grow up in a world where utilizing technology in schools is as ubiquitous as books are today. As a matter of fact, many digital books are already selling faster than their print copies. While their graduation may seem like a long time from now, their educational journey, now just beginning, will greatly influence their future in a world that is different from the one that most of our graduates grew up in. What skills will a student need in ten, fifteen, even twenty years from now? We cannot know exactly, but we can predict that the world will change significantly, as it has in the past twenty years. Consequently, a student’s education will change as well.
Recognizing the need to prepare our students, from our littlest Chiefs to our graduating seniors for an ever-changing world, the Magnolia Heights School Board of Trustees and the administration developed a strategic initiative to create a digital learning environment for all students. The transformation will take several years to accomplish. During this time our outstanding faculty will mix traditional teaching methods with project and inquiry-based learning. This mix will allow teachers to work more closely with students on an individual and small-group basis. It will enable learning to take place outside the classroom as well as in it.
For the past two years teachers and administrators have been working to incorporate more technology into their teaching pedagogy. MHS was the first school in the area to host its own on-line course to prepare our students for the digital instruction many are already facing in college. This past year with the generous help of the MHS Parents’ Club, a MacBook Cart with 25 MacBooks, an iPad Cart with 25 iPads, and a Google Chromebook cart were purchased for classroom use. Junior High students this past school year completed individual and group projects utilizing technology. Elementary students used iPads to learn language arts, math, and handwriting skills.
As technology continues to evolve Magnolia Heights School has developed a strategic plan to facilitate the schools’ transition to a 21st century school. To that end the MHS is unveiling a 1:1 initiative beginning in the fall of 2012. We have partnered with Apple, Inc. to create a digital learning environment, which we are calling iMHS. This fall each senior, and senior teacher will receive a 13” MacBook Air laptop computer. These computers will be utilized in classroom instruction, as well as allow these students to utilize technology away from the school campus. With the ability to take the laptops between classes and then at home each night, the student’s learning environment will expand beyond the traditional classroom walls. At school, at home, or even on the bus back from away ballgames, our students will have access to their teacher, their classroom, and even the world.