Global innovations in the classroom

14 Sep 2010

Pushing the classroom into the digital age has truly been a global effort.

All around the world, teachers, companies and organisations have been striving to find new means of educating. Many schools have integrated exciting schemes that make technology a huge part of the education process.

High Technology High School is one such example. It is located in Lincroft, New Jersey and is a specialised school that focuses on science, maths and technology.

It offers students subjects such as software applications, engineering, computer programming and digital electronics.

However, the school is also focused on integrating this with humanities, providing subjects like history, world languages, English and effective speech classes.

The school has five stationary computer labs, equipped with at least 20 Windows or Macintosh based workstations, a printer and a projection system.

It also has two roaming computer labs, which include laptops, floppy drives, zip drives and a wireless base station. Each computer is connected to the school network.

Students have access to email and the school provides a Bulletin Board System (BBS) so students can voice their opinions and ideas to the staff and administration.

High Technology High School is equipped with a variety of laboratories, with the technology lab being particularly notable. The school describes it as “a cross between a high school wood shop, metal shop, plastics shop and networking lab.” Here, students can produce a mini bio-system for their freshman year BEC course.

High Technology High School has won numerous awards such as the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon and the Best Practice Award. It’s a highly competitive institute, which selects 75 students each year from 300 applicants to join it.

However, technological advancement is not restricted to richer countries. Many of the most disadvantaged areas of the globe have been focused on educating through technology, bringing new possibilities to young minds.

Digital literacy

The Government High School in Uttarahalli in Bangalore, India has experienced its own technological advancement with the help of the Learning Links Foundation, an India-based NGO, and Dell YouthConnect, an initiative to support education and digital inclusion.

The collaborative programme was launched in November 2009, with the aim of developing students’ digital literacy skills, as well as improving the maths and science curriculum.

Learning centres were created for educational purposes, providing equipment, connectivity and educational resources to help encourage disadvantaged students from the region to create research projects.

However, equipping the school was only half the battle. Support systems were implemented to train the teachers in developing their own digital literacy, improving methods of teaching maths and science and identifying learning gaps within the classroom.

The project was a great success, reaching out to 15 schools and 800 students. This success was made possible not only by the initiative, but also by the students and teachers. Even before this, the school had been making a conscious effort to provide a high-quality learning environment to train children for the real world.

Dermot O’Connell, general manager, Dell Ireland, points out the challenges of setting up relatively new means of educating people and acknowledges teachers’ efforts.

“There hasn’t really been a comprehensive solution for schools to use up to this point in time,” he says.

“(International school standards were) really very similar to what we saw in Ireland, with particularly enterprising teachers who are IT savvy buying equipment, working with the principals or raising money through various funding days the schools have.

“But there was no real framework for them to work to what exactly was the right set up for a school that was efficient, was fast, could be used and really didn’t waste time in the classroom,” says O’Connell.

Empowering education in Africa

Africa has also had technology integrated into education. Irish-based charity, Camara focuses on delivering education more effectively to both Africa and Ireland using technology.

Camara takes in donated computers from Irish individuals and companies, clears their hard drives of all data and loads them with educational software in order to set them up as learning centres for schools.

“The main issue in Africa, as you can imagine, is that people don’t have that much money and technology can be quite expensive,” explains Cormac Lynch, CEO of Camara.

The computers they send over cost €50 each, a huge discount on what schools would normally have to spend.

“For the cost of one new computer, we can put in an entire computer lab,” he says.

Part of the process of integrating the computers into schools is training the staff.

Camara teaches basic typing and computer skills in order for teachers to pass the knowledge on to their students. The computers also have information resources installed, particularly designed for schools without libraries.

This technology opens up a whole new world to poverty-stricken students. With more work being put into developing digital education worldwide, the limits are endless, extending the creativity a teacher can have in educating students.