Students will experience the excitement of technology

Welcome back. We are excited to have our friends back. Although some may think, “Oh rats, summer is over,” as school district employees, we are more inclined to exclaim, “We are excited to have school start!” The 2012-13 school year promises to be innovative and cutting-edge.

Here is an example: One classroom of second-grade students is about to experience the excitement of a technology deployment pilot. They will be sharing five iPads to help them interface with our curriculum and become even more in-tune with anytime-anywhere learning.

At an elementary open house, I witnessed some fourth-grade students involved in an assignment as a welcome-back activity. They used quick-response codes, provided by their instructor, to help them with the back-to-school tasks.

What is a quick response code? Great question. Here is an example of one: If you have a laser reader on your digital device, click on this code and it will take you to the district website. The QRCs are being used in the business world and soon will be a great tool for our students, parents and staff. More on that as the year progresses.

Back to the example from the fourth-grade setting: Our instructor had designed a check list on her website. Students used a mobile device to read the QRC, which led them to her website with directions and an assignment. In addition, she had placed four or five codes around the room for students to explore. Her students were engaged and excited. The positive byproduct is that each of those kids has a tale to tell: very exciting.

I heard from a sixth-grade student about the middle school open house she attended and she was looking forward to a positive transition. A parent at the elementary open house wanted to share with me that her ninth-grade daughter had missed the open house at the high school. She went on to explain how impressed she was with the high school administrator who took some time two days later to walk her daughter through the back-to-school items.

We have two exciting initiatives this year that will impact entire grade levels. One is the STEM program being used at the fourth grade and the other is all-day, every-day kindergarten.

Let’s talk about STEM. What is it? The letters stand for science, technology, engineering, mathematics. This summer, approximately 30 teachers and principals were trained and are now ready to start this exciting new program. In the years to come, the plan is to continue to integrate STEM programming in grades four through 12. Students will experience enhanced opportunities because of the work our educators have begun and will continue to pursue in the months ahead. STEM is an adventure about to be launched.

Our kindergarten programming has changed several times in the past few years: well, I think we have made the best change of all this year. Our kindergarten friends will be here all day, every day. Our teachers will be able to cover more at a more relaxed pace. This will be an extremely positive addition to our programming. I can assure you, these early learners are going to experience the excitement and they will be very willing to tell the tale. Welcome, class of 2025.

When my mom was alive, she would call me the week before school started and ask, “Are you ready for your friends?” (Meaning the students, of course!) “Be sure they have fun and learn.” I don’t get the call anymore, but I still remember with great clarity her encouragement and expectations for school children.

Our district continues to move forward by blending solid teaching methods, innovation and cutting-edge technology. We have Smart Boards in over 150 classrooms. We have deployed more than 900 iPads around the district. We continue to encourage teachers to integrate technology tools that will enhance learning and move our learners to the world of anytime-anywhere learning.

We are excited our students are back and as school district employees, we will collectively strive to make this a year filled with positive experiences. Please stay tuned as our students experience the excitement and listen carefully as they tell the tale. Let’s have a great year.

Ed Saxton is the superintendent for the St. Francis School District.

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