Wasn’t it just yesterday that we all rejoiced that school was out for summer? Well, public schools ring in a new year on August 18 and Pinecrest and Howard Drive Elementary Schools are more than excited to see you.
As part of a Miami-Dade County School Board initiative, both schools have beefed up their technology significantly over summer break. Upgrades to their wireless equipment now allow all students strong Wi-Fi access throughout the campus.
To go along with that wireless Internet access, Howard Drive now has over 40 Apple iPads and more than 40 laptops available for sign-out by students. Howard Drive Assistant Principal Christina V. Diaz notes, “My one-year old knows what to do with an iPad. Can you imagine what our students will do?”
Pinecrest Elementary Principal Marisol Diaz explained, “Our school already has four existing computer labs and a sizable amount of computers in the regular classrooms, so our approach to tablets is a bit different [than other schools]. Our plan is to begin introducing HP tablets soon, so that students can further interact and immerse themselves with the material. We’ll start with 30 units and grow from there.”
The other major technology change in school is watching blackboards give way to interactive multimedia smartboards. Howard Drive Principal Deanna Dalby remarked, “With the addition of 25 smartboards this summer, every classroom now has one. This allows our already techy teachers to present interactive material and video vignettes to further engage the students. We’re very excited to take these next steps to enhancing education.”
Pinecrest’s Principal Diaz explains, “We’ve had smartboards in our 1st through 5th grade classrooms for years. The District initiative allowed us to complete our school with pre-K and kindergarten this summer. The trick is to hone mature the teachers’ use of the technology. They tend to start by only using it only to project materials. We are moving forward with an interactive initiative. There is so much more we can do and the tablets will be a part of that new interactivity.”
“Kids today are digital natives who are completely comfortable with sliding and touching screens for content. So, with the addition of tablets, our goal is to have small groups of teachers and students interacting with each other and the content.” Principal Diaz continued, “Technology is always evolving and our school system is definitely catching up and being very forward-thinking.”
Principal Dalby believes the biggest impact change this year may turn out to be a custom written smartphone app for the school. “Our PTA, parents and Howard Drive stakeholders all funded and asked for it. Now we’re delivering.” Besides allowing both parent and teacher access to various websites and portals, the app will allow the school to send push alerts and notifications to where people are more likely to see and act on them. “We need to communicate in all forms. Our calendar, website and robo-calls will continue, but eventually we envision the mobile app will be our primary means of communication. The app should be available by the time of open house.
At present, Pinecrest Elementary and their PTA do not have an app in the works, but there is an exploratory committee and they are looking at what course of action to take.
There’s no doubt, this is not the elementary school we all graduated. These kids are light-years ahead.
If you’re still not convinced about how tech-forward our schools are these days, consider that Howard Drive’s official tee-shirt now contains a QR code on the back driving traffic to its website. Maybe not that practical, but it certainly symbolizes that tech is now pervasive and here to stay.
To prepare for the first day, parents from Pinecrest Elementary parents can visit http://pinecrest.dadeschools.net and Howard Drive parents can visit http://howarddrive.dadeschools.net to see the dress code, school supply list and other timely pieces of information.
I reached out to School Board Commissioner Dr. Larry Feldman about this topic and didn't get his reply until after the print deadline; thankfully, I can include it here: