Amphi Foundation Spearheads 21st Century Classroom Technology Initiative
It all started with SMARTBoards…
In January 2007, the Amphi Foundation, through a generous grant from BHP Copper Inc., launched the 21st Century Classroom Technology Initiative to provide Amphi students and teachers with durable classroom technologies, beginning with SMART Boards.
We’ve fully funded SMART Boards in each of Amphi’s 21 schools and matched donations from individuals and PTO’s. However, much work remains to be done to ensure that Amphitheater schools are equipped with the technologies our teachers and students need.
The SMART Board is an electronic white board that significantly improves learning by linking computers and the Internet with interactive, touch-screen technology.
The teacher prepares a lesson on his/her computer, projects it onto the board, and guides students through the material by touching on the images and the toolbars. Teachers and students can also access the Internet to incorporate additional information into the lesson.
Students, in turn, utilize the SMART Board to demonstrate their grasp of subject material, ask and answer questions, and enhance their classroom presentations.
Our own experience supports the research we based this smart decision on; students who are more engaged with both the teacher and the material are more interested in the subject and motivated to learn, and retain more of what they learn.
All of Amphitheater’s schools are qualified to receive funding under the 21st C. Classroom Technology Initiative. There is no needs-based formula. As the “knowledge gap” widens, technological know-how is as important in determining a high school graduate’s potential as his or her socioeconomic background. So, the most logical course is to first identify a needed technology and then ensure that every student has access to it.
We leave the decision of which classrooms to equip to school principals, in consultation with their staffs and teachers, who know best which grades or subjects will benefit most, and which teachers are the most ready and willing to learn the technology and incorporate it into their classrooms.
What’s the next new classroom technology?
We’ve already seen where personal computing is headed in the SMART Board’s touch-screen technology and integration of Internet access. In classrooms with only one or two computers, this interactivity extends personal computing to every student.
Whatever comes next, it should meet the following criteria:
• Durability. Will it stand a reasonable test of time? Every type of organization, but especially a tax-supported school district, needs to be mindful of a technology’s potentially short lifespan. We’ve sought, and will continue to seek advice and opinions of people who are engaged in technical fields to find out which technologies, in their view, will most likely deliver “the biggest bang for the buck” over a longer haul than next year. It’s an imperfect choice but does weed out ‘solutions’ we should not invest in.
• Usability. Is it user-friendly? A technology may be terrific in one setting but inappropriate in the classroom if even the most tech-savvy teacher would find it especially difficult to learn or to use as an effective, everyday teaching tool.
• Adoptability. Will students and/or teachers actually use it? Once the early-adopters have embraced a new technology and word spreads, will their positive experience inspire other teachers to want it in their classrooms?
• Equitability. Our goal is to put worthwhile technologies within reach of every Amphi student as their skills and needs progress, grade to grade, and as their subjects require, regardless of a school’s apparent socio-economic status.
Find out what you can do to equip Amphitheater Public Schools with useful, durable classroom technologies. Contact the Amphi Foundation, or our partner, the Oro Valley Community Foundation.