Student Computing Initiative
At McLean, we know that technology is not an end in itself, but rather an important tool to expand upon the distinctive teaching approach that has always been McLean’s greatest strength. To help achieve that objective, McLean School puts an individual, mobile computing device into the hands of every student across the K-12 continuum. This “1:1” computing program, as it is commonly called, not only provides personalized, cutting-edge learning opportunities, but also helps students develop the skills and habits of mind needed for college and careers in a fast-evolving and media-rich 21st century.
One of the hallmarks of McLean School—and one of the things that makes our school so effective in serving our students—is the way in which we integrate differentiated learning approaches into the fabric of the classroom—allowing students to excel in areas of strength while providing support where needed. Consistent with this practice, McLean weaves educational technology into the curriculum to strengthen and enhance those elements which make the school so special: small classes, individualized strategies, collaborative study and an atmosphere where students feel good about themselves and become confident, independent learners.
At McLean, we ensure that the most cutting-edge, research-based technology is integrated across the curriculum, in order to extend the historical McLean mission in ways that were previously unimaginable. For example, assistive technology such as dyslexia fonts, video games that build number sense, speech-to-text software, visual organizers and digital executive functioning aids can all play an important role in differentiating instruction and personalizing the learning experience. At the same time, these Universal Design for Learning (UDL) tools can also improve classroom instruction for all students.
The Future of Learning
McLean also recognizes that the digital revolution has altered the traditional boundaries between teacher and student, and the sources of “knowledge” in a classroom. In an age when anyone can “Google” a fact, McLean students increasingly learn, as they progress through the K-12 continuum, how to curate the seemingly limitless sea of digital information around them, and develop the thinking skills they need to assess and navigate it. The Academic Program Department integrates educational technology across the curriculum to provide increased opportunities for McLean students to synthesize, apply, and create with the information available to them through their digital devices. At McLean, educational technology enhances opportunities for 21st century collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creative production and project-based learning, in ways that go far beyond the possibilities afforded by a traditional brick and mortar classroom alone. (To learn more about the guiding frameworks for McLean’s technology integration, see these short introductions to the SAMR and TPACK models).
At McLean, we understand that the most important questions cannot be Googled - and that technology should be used as a tool to serve students’ curiosity, wonder, and creativity, rather than as an end in itself. To borrow a phrase from Howard Gardner’s recent book The App Generation – McLean students learn how to become “app enabled” rather than “app dependent.” McLean students learn how to use technology responsibly, so that they can become active, participatory citizens in the globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically evolving world they will inherit as adults.
Parent and Teacher Benefits
At McLean, the educational connections between the school, student, and parent are also strengthened due to increased accessibility to technological resources. Parents and students connect easily and engage with assignments, activities, email correspondence, and other digital tools that better foster online connections.
Teacher manipulation and distribution of digital learning materials also increases efficiency, and more easily allows for the submission and archiving of materials. Digital textbooks offer more affordable options, and make the learning process more transparent.
Lower and Middle School Computing Platform
In kindergarten through grade 8, technology is integrated into the classroom experience with iPad4s. Lower School 1:1 iPads remain in the classroom. However, Middle School students may take home their iPads after earning their digital driver’s license. (Students earn their digital driver’s license after completing a curriculum on iPad care, cyber-safety and digital citizenship). McLean also provides every Lower and Middle School educator with a MacBook laptop and iPad4 to maintain a consistent Apple platform. The Lower School “Idea Lab” and Middle School Computer Labs provide exciting spaces to brainstorm and create special projects with technology.
Upper School Computing Platform
Many Upper School students currently participate in an optional “Bring Your Own Device” Program, otherwise known as a “BYOD.” This program allows Upper School students to use their own mobile computing devices at school in a platform-neutral environment. This BYOD approach is typical of many upper schools, as it is understood to be developmentally appropriate for college preparation. The Upper School is currently reviewing its optional BYOD Program to consider whether to make it required in 2015-2016, and the guidelines for device selection. (In the event that the Upper School adopts a required BYOD program in 2015-2016, financial assistance will be made available to those for whom this would pose a financial burden).
We understand that the partnership between parents, students and the school is central to each student’s learning process and well-being. This is equally true—perhaps even more so—in the area of digital literacy.