The rate at which technology has blended into every facet of our lives has increased exponentially over the past decade. Our professional and personal lives are increasingly dependent on our understanding of how to use our digital devices effectively and responsibly. This is a transition that is especially important to understand as it impacts our children, and it is the reason behind every decision that is made at Ellis School when it comes to the implementation of technology into the classroom. Eric Panosian, principal at Ellis, and his staff believe strongly that the first experiences Ellis students have with technology should be coordinated, monitored, and guided by their classroom teacher, and should at all times be focused directly on making a very clear distinction between technology as a tool for learning, as opposed to a device for passive consumption of content.
With the help of district technology funds, State funding and discretionary funds for Ellis carried over from last year, Ellis has implemented a 1:4 iPad ratio in Kindergarten through 2nd grade classrooms, and a 1:1 iPad ratio at all classrooms in grades 3-5 this year. The focus of technology in the primary grades is a guided introduction to the devices with minimal and focused use in the areas of Language Arts and Math. In grades 3-5, Ellis has implemented a more ambitious 1:1 iPad ratio. Every student in these grade levels has their own individual iPad with a student email account, as well as cloud based document storage which students may access from any computer at school or at home. In an effort to make certain that students clearly see these devices as learning tools, Ellis staff has elected to minimize their choice of application on the devices and have focused exclusively on Apps that students can use to create, rather than just simply consume content. Students use the devices for word processing, creating multimedia presentations, as well as for recording and sharing their understanding of the lessons taught, and ultimately for sharing their produced content with the teacher as well as other students. By having an individual device assigned to them, students have the opportunity to maintain a digital portfolio of their academic work over the years, and maintain these files in an account that may easily be monitored by parents and teachers. The entire portfolio may then be transferred to students after they leave Ellis School.
This year, all Ellis students also participated in the nationwide Hour of Code program. Every student at the school had an opportunity to participate in an hour of guided instruction on the concept of computer coding. Ellis administration expanded on this opportunity by inviting software engineers from Twitter to speak to the 4th and 5th grade students about how they use coding in their daily jobs.
Ellis’ after school STEM program (Science Technology Engineering and Math), guided by Ms. Olaciregui and Mr. Watts, further built on these opportunities by offering unique experiences for a select group of students. In addition to the engineering and science projects explored in this program, students were also trained as technology leaders at Ellis, and actually taught the Hour of Code lessons in most Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. They have also been trained to introduce Ellis’ primary grade students to the list of productivity apps that they will be using more frequently in upper grades. Student tech leaders are deployed throughout the year to lead these small group lessons in primary classrooms.
Ellis School principal and teachers are anxious to build on all these programs in the coming years, while continuing to keep a simple focused approach that avoids distractions and brings in only the most relevant uses of these incredible tools for all our students.
Contributor: Eric Panosian, Principal of Ellis Elementary School