This adventure about technology in schools was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, absolute account alignment focused on inequality and addition in education. Sign up for Hechinger’s newsletter.
MINEOLA, N.Y. – Earlier this academy year, the aboriginal graders at the Hampton Street Academy were about to booty a coding class, article they’ve been accomplishing back kindergarten. “Coding gives us addition way to break our problems,” Diane Nodell, the library media specialist, reminded them. “Are you accessible to apprentice the basics?”
The accouchement were. They opened their iPads and aural account were afterward arrows about the filigree on their tablets, bearing altered colors with anniversary set of directions. As they worked, Nodell assured them the appointment was allowance their brains. “You’re activity to abound neurons,” she said.
First graders appointment on a coding assignment. They will accelerate their answers to apprentice advisers at a adjoining university who will analysis the work. (Photo: Gail Robinson for The Hechinger Report)
The coding lesson, with acceptance borer abroad on abandoned iPads, was archetypal in the Mineola Union Free Academy Commune in the New York City suburbs. For about a decade, alike adolescent kids actuality accept spent hours a day on screens as Mineola’s educators approved to transform ancestry here.
Mineola was added able than best districts back the coronavirus shuttered schools about the country, banishment accouchement everywhere to absorb added time on screens, aggravating to accumulate up with academy work, or aloof accumulate busy. Few added districts had accepted the affiance of technology as agilely as this Long Island district. Anniversary apprentice already had a accessory that all but the youngest took home every day, and some spent hours a day alive online in school. Accouchement and agents were accustomed with a array of acquirements apps and added educational software. Educators had years of acquaintance amalgam technology into their teaching.
Superintendent Michael Nagler said a abecedary told him, “Little did we know, but we’ve been advancing for a moment like this for years.”
Mineola’s acquaintance could become alike added valuable. Some proposals accept appropriate acceptance will abide to absorb some canicule acquirements at home back schools reopen in the fall. At the least, schools are abandoned acceptable to use added technology, not less.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appear he would appointment with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and added technology experts “to reimagine” apprenticeship in the accompaniment – and accord technology a greater role.
“I accept that abounding of the systems that Mineola currently has in abode would be exemplars,” Nagler wrote in an email. He said has not heard from either Cuomo or Gates. (The Gates Foundation is amidst the abounding supporters of The Hechinger Address and USA TODAY’s apprenticeship coverage.)
For a added tech-focused academy arrangement to work, Nagler said the accompaniment needs to actualize added infrastructure, such as a centralized adviser to online courses, to advice schools get there.
The Cuomo administering has recruited experts but hasn’t yet categorical capacity for how technology ability abode assorted apropos about apprenticeship in New York, such as inequality. Cuomo, who appeared to catechism this week whether acceptance accept to be in classrooms at all, drew actual blaze from abounding educators and parents, and his secretary afterwards wrote on Twitter that “nothing could anytime alter in-person learning.” Nagler said maybe the governor should accept been clearer, but that alike those who may abide alien acquirements and technology now could change their minds. “Parents don’t see the allowances back you acquaint them,” he said, abacus that back article like coronavirus happens, that changes.
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And yet, alike in a abode like Mineola where classrooms were already steeped in technology, educators are able-bodied acquainted that computers can’t do everything. The district’s acquaintance and its new efforts to brainwash accouchement abundantly bedfast to their homes for the butt of the academy year highlight both the possibilities and the restrictions of appliance technology to bear an able apprenticeship to millions of American children.
Even Nagler, the tech enthusiast abaft Mineola’s about-face online, has been quick to point out the banned of what his commune can do now that academy barrio are closed. “This is not school. It’s a bridge,” he said anon afterwards schools closed. Whatever schools do now, he said, “it has to be about amusing and affecting learning, not about sending home abundant appointment to accumulate (students) busy.”
Mineola Aerial Academy apprentice Pamela Lopez annal a podcast with the advice of librarian Jeffrey Appelbaum. (Photo: Gail Robinson for The Hechinger Report)
On a backing day aftermost November, the library at Mineola Aerial Academy had added than abundant online and offline activities to accumulate acceptance occupied. While some apprehend or alike colored, four girls donned basic absoluteness headsets and in an adjoining flat Pamela Lopez, an English accent learner, formed on a podcast on dubstep music. “Dancing to dubstep makes your close anatomy stronger,” she said into a microphone.
It was the affectionate of address acceptance commonly bear orally to their classmates. But library media specialist Jeffrey Appelbaum anticipation podcasts accommodate a claimed attendance and let students accelerate their appointment out to the world. He declared how acceptance created a podcast featuring an account with a Apple War II veteran. “He’s 89 years old, so this is the way to annal a association member,” Appelbaum said.
Though agents at the aerial academy did not accept to use technology, it was everywhere. All acceptance had iPads, pop-up screens lined the hallways and a artifact lab featured computer-controlled cutters that enabled acceptance to design, actualize – and advertise – products.
Years afore coronavirus became a domiciliary word, educators in Mineola saw technology as a way to adapt acceptance for what they said will acceptable be an added agenda future. “Technology is vital,” Mineola Aerial Academy arch Whittney Smith said. “We alive in a apple area all facets of appointment crave a aerial akin of ability in how you use technology, and we’re affectionate of on the bluff of technology replacing abounding jobs, so it’s bounden on us to accord acceptance skills.”
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Since 2017, acceptance in Mineola accept been alien to coding through accessible classes in preschool, and by aboriginal grade, accept been accustomed to booty the accessories home. Because of the accessories and added technology, agents accept activated and tracked apprentice advance added calmly than was ahead accessible and provided added abandoned learning. Acceptance accept been able to admission a abundant added ambit of texts, abstracts and accoutrement than the schools could physically banal in classrooms.
Not every classroom or assignment is bedeviled by tech. Anon afore Thanksgiving, additional graders in dual-language classes at Hampton Street formed in baby groups to acknowledgment questions about the origins of the holiday. One did the appointment on paper, the added on their tablets. The acceptance “are acceptable either way. They’re flexible. I absolutely like that we use both,” arch Margarita Maravel said. “Otherwise, we’re not accomplishing our job.”
In a preschool chic at Hampton Street, acceptance formed on acquirements the letter L by acid it from cardboard or fashioning it from clay. Still, the accouchement are accepting accessible for the technology they will acquisition in approaching classes. They booty “unplugged” coding classes and clue their advance with badges, a low-tech adjunct of a movement in which adults and earlier acceptance actualize agenda markers advertence they accept baffled a assertive accountable or skill. In Mineola, preschool acceptance like Elena Wagner, a aerated red-haired girl, accept the befalling to win cardboard badges.
“I accomplished all day but I couldn’t do it, but I approved my best,” she said. Elena kept at it and assuredly got the brand for alive her ABCs, which she proudly pasted in her brand book. The book additionally includes QR codes that parents can browse for admission to pointers on allowance their child, educational songs and added materials.
Preschool apprentice Elena Wagner becoming a brand for alive her ABCs. (Photo: Gail Robinson for The Hechinger Report)
Mineola academy lath admiral Christine Napolitano said the district’s schools were not bad afore all the changes took place, and parents were not unhappy. But, she said, there was a activity that the commune could do added to appoint its accouchement and “really try to get our kids accessible for whatever the apple is activity to bandy at them.”
Nagler, who became administrator in 2009, had lots of account about how to do that.
“We’re in this anarchy that is affective quickly,” said Nagler, a finalist for National Administrator of the Year in 2019. “The iPhone didn’t abide back today’s aerial academy seniors were in kindergarten, so how do you advice your 5-year-olds get accessible for back they graduate?”
Nagler has additionally pushed the abstraction that the advance of technology agency acceptance should apprentice abilities rather than facts; the chic in Mineola reflects that. In the afterwards elementary grades, for example, acceptance investigate ample capacity spanning several accountable areas, such as the battle amidst individuality and acquiescence or how area affects survival. Instead of demography a test, acceptance actualize a activity of their own choosing, such as an infomercial, a diorama or a achievement to appearance their understanding.
“You absolutely don’t accept to advise facts anymore. What you do with those facts and the appliance of those facts is abundant added critical,” Nagler said. “Children charge to administer what they learn, not aloof regurgitate.”
He cited his son as an archetype of a adolescent applying knowledge. Back the boy’s iPhone broke, he didn’t appetite to pay addition to fix it, so he researched how he could do it. He’s like “every kid in Mineola,” Nagler said. “They apperceive area to acquisition the advice if they appetite it.”
But added educators accept argued de-emphasizing facts is agnostic and alike dangerous. Some analysis suggests acceptance advance back the chic is focused on agreeable knowledge, while added studies accept begin a focus on skills, such as analytical thinking, isn’t able if acceptance don’t accept accomplishments knowledge. “Your academician has to accept article to angle on to,” said Joe Clement, co-author of “Screen Schooled” and a abecedary in Virginia. “Knowing the aberration amidst Jacksonian capitalism and Jeffersonian capitalism can advice kids accept what’s activity on today.”
And analysis on the furnishings of appliance technology in apprenticeship has been mixed. A RAND Corp. abstraction begin actual bound improvements in bookish achievement back abandoned learning, which is generally delivered via technology, is used. Addition study, by the Reboot Foundation, bent that U.S. fourth graders who acclimated tablets in best classes denticulate lower on a connected account analysis than those who never acclimated them in school. Eighth graders seemed to get some account from the devices.
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While Napolitano and Mineola educators said parents are agog about Mineola’s innovations, it’s still cryptic whether the changes accept reaped bookish allowances for the district. Mineola’s array on New York State’s connected tests accept bigger and are aloft average, but abide beneath boilerplate for its county. Located some 20 afar from Manhattan, Mineola has about 2,800 students, a bit added than bisected of whom are white. In 2017-18, the commune spent about $32,000 a year per student, compared with a New York Accompaniment boilerplate of about $25,000.
A additional brand chic completes a Thanksgiving activity on paper. Accouchement in addition additional brand chic acclimated their iPads to do the project. (Photo: Gail Robinson for The Hechinger Report)
Annahita Ball, a assistant of amusing appointment at the Accompaniment University of New York’s University at Buffalo, afresh advised fourth and fifth graders who accustomed academy tablets. She begin bookish action went bottomward amidst acceptance with assigned tablets and beneath alike added amidst acceptance who could use the iPads at home than those who kept them at school.
“It’s absolutely what you don’t appetite to happen,” she said. “We charge so abundant added analysis to accept what is absolutely accident here. What tends to appear in college apprenticeship – and it’s accident actuality – is putting the barrow afore the horse.”
In our agenda world, debating the amount of technology in apprenticeship ignores the absolute issues, said Karen Cator, CEO of the Agenda Promise, which works for addition in schools. “The acknowledgment is, it depends. It depends on how it’s used,” she said.
She and others accept Mineola is accomplishing it well.
Many schools, hasty to advise online in the deathwatch of the coronavirus shutdown, accept not been able to amount out how to bound acclimatize their acquaint to use technology. While Mineola had already fabricated that antecedent adjustment, and reportedly done so successfully, the apple its educators envisioned is not the one we’re seeing now, one area conceivably millions of acceptance sit abandoned accounting on devices. “You can’t annihilate agents and you charge schools,” Nagler said. “Children accept to allocution to anniversary other” and apprentice how to alive in society. He argued that devices, programs and apps are tools, annihilation more. “If you amusement technology as curriculum, it’s not activity to work,” he said.
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While accouchement at Hampton Street accept iPads by kindergarten, arch Margarita Maravel estimated afore the lockdown that her acceptance were on their iPads for beneath than bisected the day. Alike that ability be boundless for parents who anguish about accouchement spending too abundant time staring at screens – a affair bolstered by a abstraction in JAMA Pediatrics assuming that awning use by actual adolescent accouchement has a abrogating aftereffect on academician development.
Children in Mineola’s preschool affairs actualize belletrist appliance clay. (Photo: Gail Robinson for The Hechinger Report)
But Nagler said the absolute affair both now and afore the coronavirus crisis is what accouchement do back they’re not accomplishing schoolwork. Danielle Herro, an accessory assistant of agenda media and acquirements at Clemson University, agrees. “Most kids acquaintance far added awning time at home than they anytime do at school,” she said.
With schools bankrupt because of coronavirus, though, technology acutely has appear to dominate. Accouchement at Jackson Avenue School, which serves grades three and four, get assignments at the alpha of the anniversary and again collaborate with their agents accidentally throughout the week, sometimes as a accomplished chic and sometimes in baby groups, appliance the WebEx platform. “Kids abide to work, to set their own goals. There’s no backup for academy but we’re aggravating to accumulate them engaged,” said Jackson Avenue arch Janet Gonzalez.
The badges accept additionally become a key allotment of Mineola’s ambit learning, with acceptance from preschool to brand 12 demography assorted challenges and earning badges back they accommodated one. One such claiming asked elementary academy kids to architecture an exercise for their concrete apprenticeship abecedary to accomplish on video.
But clashing abounding districts affective to alien acquirements afterwards the coronavirus affected closures, Nagler said the district’s capital focus has been on students’ amusing and affecting state, not ramping up academics. Agents accept been instructed to watch accouchement as they collaborate via a software belvedere to accomplish abiding they assume OK. The aerial academy has been extensive out to acceptance authoritative abiding they can abide appointment and are engaged. “We don’t appetite to lose anybody,” arch Smith said.
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Every apprentice has opportunities to collaborate with agents in absolute time. But although the alien belvedere acclimated for these encounters has been abundantly acknowledged – alike pre-K acceptance can see and allocution with their agents on FaceTime – the time with teachers, let abandoned classmates, is limited, with every abecedary accomplishing about two hours of online time a day.
Staff and acceptance accept acquaint asinine videos and the commune captivated a basic spirit anniversary to advice acceptance feel a faculty of community. “It’s important to try to accompany some course into a lot of kids’ lives back annihilation is normal,” Nagler said.
Perhaps ironically for a commune so invested in technology, bringing course has meant a big advance to get kids off their screens. Acceptance accept been apprenticed to draw. For basic spirit week, acceptance were told to absorb two hours offline. Elementary schools encouraged acceptance to put bottomward their accessories with a bingo agenda of activities that didn’t absorb technology at all, like tidying their rooms, activity outside, or accomplishing a cartwheel.
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