I hope all parents are able to log in to Powerschool and review with their sons/daughters the progress they are making. On Friday 23 September, progress reports were written for any student in High School who was receiving a C- or below in that class. These narratives can be found on Powerschool. After the long summer recess it is quite common for students to make a slow start to the academics of the new school year. Historically, the number of students receiving progress reports is at its greatest in the first part of the school year. Whether your son or daughter has received a progress report or not, please remember to first seek their input regarding explanations or comments as to why they are achieving this grade. If you continue to have concerns please email the teacher of the class and if necessary, make an appointment to see them, ideally with your son or daughter. Communication is one of our core values at ASH and timely communication between school and home is encouraged to best serve our students learning needs. I would like to finish by reminding you to place Thursday 10 November (evening) and Friday 11 November (morning) on your calendars, as these are the High School Parent Teacher Conference days. Although not mandatory, we encourage students to attend to be part of the discussion of their learning.
It is always helpful to receive parental feedback about our High School program. I receive feedback on an informal basis throughout the year in conversations with parents, at meetings and at PAGs, but it is also most helpful to review the annual parent survey to find areas where parents say that we are doing a good job and areas for us to review. For several years, parents have been asking for additional staffing in High School Guidance and Counseling. Happily, I can report that this year we have added Ms. Sara McMickle to our Counseling Staff. 40% of Ms. McMickle’s schedule will be devoted to academic, personal and college counseling. Two years ago we added a Counseling Assistant to the office to support the large amount of administration that needs to be conducted; Ms. France Nguyen is serving in her second year in this role. A second concern was the apparent time lag in teachers posting grades. Teachers post grades just as soon as they are available. Some subjects and assignments lend themselves to faster turnarounds than others. For instance, grading two classes of IB essays takes many hours to read, offer useful feedback and cannot be posted the day after the test has been taken. Parents have asked us to continue working on providing a parity of experience for all students taking the same course, albeit with different teachers. Collaboration in planning is our goal, and much more of this is taking place now. It was pleasing to read the number of parents recognizing the variety of courses we can offer given our size of High School. For this I have to offer public thanks to our High School teachers who are prepared to carry out a multitude of different preparations in order to provide such student choice. Our IB program continues to win parental plaudits and the international nature and diversity of the High School experience continues to be highly regarded by parents. Finally, and very importantly for us, the climate and care of students in the High School is greatly appreciated by our parent body. Thanks to all those who completed the Parent Survey and the feedback offered.
In last month’s PTO bulletin I announced that in addition to our 9th and 10th graders having received their school issued laptop computers our 11th and 12th graders would join the laptop program before the end of the first semester. Details of the roll out of the laptops for the junior and senior class will be shared closer to the time. 1:1 programs are an element in an international move towards individualizing learning, which fosters self-initiated learning and independence in learners and critically extends learning beyond the walls of the classroom. ASH is strongly committed to supporting our students’ education with state of the art technology. With such technology as smart boards in classrooms, two computer labs, our laptop program, hi-tech digital video equipment, photographic and music technology labs, our students can learn effectively and become prepared for an increasingly technical global world. Our 1:1 laptop program focuses on using technology to improve teaching and learning. We began the program in 2008 in the Middle School and as those students have moved up the grades, it has been extended into High School. This year all students in grades 6-10 are part of the 1:1 laptop program. This month I would like to share with you some research that supports laptops enhancing student learning as well as the value of each student having daily access to their own laptop computer. Additionally, we gathered data on the efficacy of the 1:1 laptops last spring when our teachers and 9th grade students completed an online survey. Both surveys were strongly supportive of the 1:1 laptop program and the value of its extension. We believe that putting a laptop in the hands of each student allows them to develop the skills necessary to better succeed in today’s world.
Is there any evidence that laptop learning is better than traditional teaching methods? There are two sides to every story. Research shows different results depending on a range of contributing factors. There is, however, both qualitative and quantitative evidence that supports considerable improvement in classroom practice for students using laptop computers and there is plenty of evidence that computer-mediated and media rich learning environments enhances the learning experience and deepen understanding. Bebell and Kay’s research found that student engagement, achievement, and research skills all improved with laptop use. Also, there is evidence supporting positive results when a laptop program is introduced to an inquiry-based learning environment, which is the foundation of the IB Diploma Program. As an educational tool, laptops provide flexibilities for teachers, instance access to information, and support for various learning styles. Integrating technology improves student enthusiasm towards learning, implementing new teaching practices improves student achievement. Laptops can help those that have trouble with handwriting and make it easier for teachers to read writing. Those concerned about students facing external examinations where handwriting is still required should know that most tests at ASH are still conducted with the benefit of a pen. The truth is that blend of traditional and digital learning is key to a quality education in today’s world. The laptops are used as a tool.
We reviewed the idea of each High School student having a laptop issued by the school for the year. In reviewing the research we were impressed by its findings: students took greater pride and ownership of the knowledge they created; students develop responsibility and life-long computing skills in caring for a laptop. Communication and opportunities for “just in time” learning are improved with a laptop always available. Such programs frequently lead to student initiation of global communication and collaboration; students report a strong sense of equity providing each student an opportunity to participate on a level playing field; individual laptops have students more excited and engaged about the learning opportunity; it provides a 24-7 learning environment; opportunities exist to work at home and school, and it is self-paced. Making laptops available for every student in every class provides a more natural integration of technology into our school curriculum, as technology use doesn’t have to be planned weeks in advance. In this way the use of technology is more authentic and closely mimics the use of technology in the work place. Less time is wasted due to laptop cart syncing. We envisage less wear and tear on the machines when a student is responsible for their own laptop. Student organizational skills can benefit from a laptop of their own, file storage and saving. Research from a study of laptop initiatives reveal a number of results including: increased independent inquiry based learning; higher level instructional feedback; greater integration of subject areas; writing quality improves; more student discussion; increased hands on learning; motivation and commitment to work improves as does collaborative expertise.
A 1:1 laptop program presents unique management challenges to the teacher. They can be a distraction in the classroom so it is vital that teachers adapt their methodology and management to the technological challenges of the twenty-first century. Might teachers over rely on technology rather than lesson planning has been voiced as a concern. Currently our 11th and 12th graders have to rely on teachers booking the laptop carts in advance. This not only denies the spontaneity of laptop use but wastes vital instructional time waiting for the laptop to sync. As a student moves from class to class they are faced with the challenge of using a different laptop, each with subtle differences in each of their classes. When the student goes home, they use yet another computer and are faced with the change of completing their course work without the specialized software that the school owns. Providing individual laptops to students will make the educational program more seamless and efficient. It is because we have seen the positive impact of laptops on the educational program that we have decided to take this next important step. The 1:1 classroom provides potentially transformative added value to the learners. But as with any tool its management is all-important. In order to create effective learning environments teachers need opportunities to learn instruction and assessment practices, curricular resources and classroom management skills work best in a 1: 1 student classroom setting. I am pleased with the amount of professional development opportunities ASH has been able to provide over the last few years in the areas of computer integration and laptop use for its HS teachers. Last year ASH hosted the Laptop Institute where ASH teachers and administrators shared knowledge and resources from all over the world. Ms. Ruth Behrsing our High School computer integration teacher has provided countless workshop opportunities for High School teachers and always gives a short presentation at each faculty meeting on laptop use. We have frequently devoted time during the half-day professional development days to training our teachers in both the teaching and management of laptops. So, we have recognized the importance of providing plenty of valued and relevant professional development for our teachers. But a successful 1:1 program requires more than just financing and teacher professional development; it requires clear consistent communication with stakeholder inputs and agreements (students, parents, teachers) technical support, and a long-term commitment to tech upgrades (hardware and software). We are ready to make this commitment with the introduction of the 1:1 program in the same way we have for the 9th and 10th graders. It is because we have seen the positive impact of laptops on the educational program that we have decided to take this next important step.
In the coming weeks parents of grade 11 and 12 students will receive information from Mr. Lal Abraham, ASH’s Director of Technology and Ms. Ruth Behrsing, our High School computer integration specialist, containing details of the grade 11 and 12 laptop program. They shall attempt to preempt any questions you may have. Additionally, we will have a couple of parent meetings ahead of their distribution to further outline the program and to answer questions or hear concerns that parents may have. More details will be forthcoming.
1:1 Laptop references
Best wishes for a colorful fall season and the upcoming Fall Break.