Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SMART Boards, Bandwidth, and Megabytes: The Technology Initiative at Gaston Day

When Parents Association leaders, Heidi Tringali and Jennifer Kacmar, came to me last year with the idea of putting a SMART Board in every classroom at Gaston Day, it was a totally unexpected gift! Without their hardwork and the money the PA raised to buy the SMART Boards, Gaston Day teachers would not have this fantastic teaching tools at their disposal. As with most new technology, the SMART Boards have also presented us with unexpected challenges. In some cases, we have found that the computers supporting the SMART Boards are not powerful enough and fast enough.
So we are also playing catch up to make sure that we have the everything necessary to fully utilize such a great teaching tool.

Getting the SMART Boards is part of a broader strategic initiative to improve technology and technology education at Gaston Day. The School's Strategic Plan identified these as areas needing more attention and improvement. The School is responding on several fronts. First, Bob Larkin, Director of Technology, has upgraded our infrastructure in important ways. Gaston Day has increased its Internet bandwidth from 1.5 to 13.06, more than 800%. We have rewired our campus to create more reliable service. And we are using a technology company to house our servers off campus and thus eliminate maintenance.

Gaston Day has joined the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS) Virtual Education Consortium, which provides member schools with an array of on-line services, including classes and tutorials. Our Lower School students are already pioneers in on-line education through the Rosetta Stone Program in Spanish. Upper School students now have the opportunity to take an on-line elective course with the approval of the Head of Upper and Middle Schools. In the future, all students will take our mandatory Health Class in an on-line format. Why? So that our students will be ready for college. Increasingly, colleges and graduate schools require classes that are only offered on-line. We want our Gaston Day School students to experience on-line education here so they will be well prepared when they have to take them in later educational settings.

Finally, the Books, Brains, and Beyond Program is teaching basic computer skills to our kindergarteners through fourth graders. Fourth graders also take a separte typing class to make sure they are able to use a key board. When a Gaston Day student advances into Middle School, they possess these basic skills.

In all these ways, Gaston Day School is ensuring that our teachers and students have the proper, up-to-date tools of technology, and that they know how to use them. Simply put, technology education has become integral to a complete college-prepatory education. Gaston Day recognizes this and intends to be a leader in this facet of education.