Picture a classroom where every student is using a personal device to collaborate on the Google Apps Suite. Students pull up their science lab, English essay or history project and then co-create a project, review a document as a class, or peer edit work—all while learning how to best improve their own work. The whole time, the teacher is guiding the lesson and reviewing students’ progress.

This is the plan for Academy freshman and sophomore classes in the fall.

This summer, ICJA administration and department chairs are preparing for our transition to a 1:1 School, thanks to a grant from the George Shay z”l Endowment for Excellence in Academic Arts and Sciences. Starting in the fall, all freshmen and sophomores will receive a school-issued iPad loaded with apps, digital textbooks and software to enhance learning opportunities and collaboration. Department heads and administrators met this week with Dr. Jonathan Margolin from AIR on lessons learned from evaluating school systems using tablets in the classroom.

The move comes in coordination with our transition to a new, state-of-the-art building in January 2016. Our building will be equipped with fast wireless technology, charging stations and collaborative student and staff work spaces. All students have access to our school’s Google Apps for Education now, but because every student does not have a personal device, we are not able to fully employ the program. Plus, the technology in our new building gives us opportunities to implement 21st Century learning and skills in ways we are not able to do now.

The devices will have an impact on the classroom experience in many ways, big and small. Textbooks will stay up-to-date with online updates, instead of purchasing new ones every few years. Students can work at their own pace, with teachers monitoring their work and mastery of the material. Group projects take on whole new meaning, using apps to coordinate. Every discipline could be enhanced by the use of these tools as teachers utilize them to compliment every level of learning starting with student access to information, moving more deeply to describing their learning, to comparing and contrasting information, all the way to creating and presenting what they have learned.

Excellent and comprehensive curriculum already exists that can be best delivered utilizing digital devices.  Our Social Studies and Science teachers are currently reviewing new and exciting online curriculum as they consider shifting to the cost-effective digitized textbooks. All disciplines could be enhanced by this shift.  NETA, for example, an individualized conversational Hebrew language curriculum is completely digitized with lessons and videos to enable teachers to offer a broad range of skills and opportunities for students to learn, practice and synthesize their language development.

Our decision to become a 1:1 School is in line with educational research and trends that show that students today learn better using the same technology in the classroom that they are using in their daily lives.

More than any other generation, high school students today think holistically. With infinite knowledge at their fingertips, they glean the knowledge they seek from a constant barrage of information encountered on multiple devices at once.

Asking these students to then enter the classroom, put away all their devices and compartmentalize information into eight separate subjects creates a disconnect between school and students’ everyday lives. To continue teaching today’s students for tomorrow requires new ideas and new tools.

Project goals for our 1:1 School plan include the following:

1.     To enhance the educational learning experiences for our students as they utilize their individual devices to extend their knowledge beyond the classroom to relevant and critical issues, both locally and globally.

2.     To increase and enhance our students’ capacity for learning as they engage in the four documented 21st century skills: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication.

3.     To enhance our teachers’ opportunities to differentiate instruction to reach the broadest range of learners.

4.     To provide teachers easier access to tools so they can promote critical thinking skills including synthesis, analysis, creativity and self-evaluation.