Traditional classroom staples like textbooks, chalkboards, and even teachers themselves still exist, of course. They are slowly being augmented or replaced, however, with technological advances that are changing the classroom feel, and could transform it entirely in decades to come.
Walk into a New York City high school now, or follow a student’s homework routine, and what you’ll find might be surprising: SMART Boards; tech labs equipped for serious computer building; online databases that allow parents to track their children’s every homework move.
Administrators and tech teachers around the city say these and other tools are essential for schools interested in keeping up with the times, and relating to student bodies increasingly connected to a larger world.
Thinking of them simply as fancy, expensive gadgets could be wrong.
Besides representing significant advances, high-tech classrooms appeal to students who are used to having the Internet, instant communication, and more at their fingertips, make them feel at home and even increase their interest in school work.
At St. Saviour High School in Park Slope, students now begin learning how to use computers in their freshman year.
By the time they graduate, said Andrew Tricario, the school’s director of technology and a computer teacher, students will have built a functioning computer from scratch.
Five classrooms at the school are fitted with SMART Boards - the new, interactive digital white boards gaining popularity in classrooms across the country. The school is purchasing about ten more this year, said Tricario.
Students are responding, he said.
“We’re talking to the kids in a language they understand a little bit better,” Tricario said. “Kids are getting more and more into school as more technology is integrated” into the classroom.
Parents seem interested in these changes, too, said Nick Melito, director of admissions and assistant to the principal at Monsignor McClancy High School in East Elmhurst.
A new web program there allows them to track their children’s school work online, where homework assignments and grades are posted.
“A lot of parents take advantage of it,” said Melito. “They like the idea that they can track their kids.”
He said the program increases parent involvement, fostering a stronger relationship between them and the school at a time when many parents feel left out of the education process under the mayoral control system.
McClancy also uses SMART Boards in its classrooms, a tool Melito said has changed the classroom dynamic for good. Melito and others interviewed said they envisioned a time not too far distant (some said as soon as ten years) when classes are taught entirely without teachers.
“It’s not going to be sitting in the old desk and listening to a lecture anymore,” Melito said.
Accreditation associations are also beginning to take notice, said Penny Grote, an assistant to the principal at Notre Dame School in Manhattan.
The school, which has several state-of-the-art tech features, successfully completed a reaccreditation process last year.
“I’m sure technology was part of the evaluation,” Grote said. “I think we did pretty well.”