“We see a lot of schools that suffer from what I call ‘shiny object syndrome,’ where they get excited about a tool, and many times, they haven’t really thought through what the curricular impact is of those devices on the school.” – Andrew Shelffo, USA

Technology has long played a critical role at the Williston Northampton School, even dating back to its founding in 1841. It was because of founder Samuel Williston’s innovation – a new way to put cloth onto buttons — that he had the means to establish the school. Today, Williston Northampton is a Microsoft Innovative School, one of the elite 100 or so represented at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum taking place this week in Barcelona.

The school recently adopted Surface Pro as its device of choice for a new 1:1 program, the Curricular Technology Initiative, but only after careful planning and consideration. According to school CIO Andrew Shelffo, “We see a lot of schools that suffer from what I call ‘shiny object syndrome,’ where they get excited about a tool, and many times, they haven’t really thought through what the curricular impact is of those devices on the school.”

Shelffo and his colleagues had plenty of experience using Microsoft tools, including OneDrive and Office 365 for education. But it took them a while to find the right device. Says Shelffo, “We knew that the form factor had to be a tablet. We knew it had to have multiple inputs that included a keyboard, touchscreen and stylus, which is important for math and scientific notation. But it wasn’t until the Surface Pro came out that we all looked at each other and said, ‘The device we’ve been waiting for is finally here.’”

The decision is already paying off. For example, when their language department embraced OneNote for oral exercises, it quickly translated to improvements in oral skills. Not just because of what happened in the classroom, but because the tool allowed each lesson to continue after school hours. And lunchtime conversations among teachers have become much more animated, according to Shelffo, with faculty pointing out new discoveries about what the Surface Pro can do as they continue to explore its capabilities.

Getting faculty on-board with the change was of paramount importance to Shelffo, because they bear the burden of new technology adoption. (And as an English teacher himself, he understood exactly what that meant.) Faculty not only participated in the initial decision, but they receive ongoing professional development through the Partners in Learning network and Microsoft training programs. “We want to be very deliberate about linking that professional development to the strategic goals of the school,” Shelffo says, “because this is not just a curricular initiative, it’s also a strategic initiative.”

Ultimately, though, it’s the students who benefit. Says Shelffo, “Students need skills to create content. We want to turn our students into productive digital citizens.”

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Innovative School leader Andrew Shelffo.

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-Anthony

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