As an institution that aims to prepare students for their future educational needs, St. Nicholas regards technology as an important tool for the development of strong habits of mind. Students are modeled the effective use of resources, both on- and offline, and are encouraged to apply skills gained in the digital learning environment to other aspects of their academic and personal growth. Special emphasis is given to using technology as a creative outlet, rather than merely a repository of data or a computational tool.
Teachers begin with a vision of how to use their classroom tech space to engage individual students in their own areas of expertise and interests. The school provides the network and the devices necessary to realize this vision, with the expectation that faculty will manage them as they update and develop their plans, tailoring their software and app toolboxes to the changing needs of the students they see daily. Tech support is administered by the members of a faculty Technology Committee, as well as by contracted professionals.
In each classroom, teachers use combinations of computers and iPads in technological centers, or stations, for rotating activities and assignments that enhance both the class and individualized curricula. All teachers have convenient access to large display screens, with wireless access for both displaying and streaming content. Shared spaces such as the library and computer lab, as well as digital accessories (document camera, laptop/tablet carts, streaming devices, etc.) give teachers many options for affecting group interaction within and beyond their classrooms through technology.
Exposure to tech resources increases as students move through successive levels and cottages. Early Learning Center students make occasional trips to the computer lab for full class activities, but generally encounter digital devices as classroom centers. Lower primary has a weekly computer skills class, as well as periodic core class testing in the technology lab. Dedicated keyboarding classes begin in Middle Primary. Upper Primary has technology application class (“TechApp”) twice a week. This includes a weekly homework assignment to encourage the adaptation of the skills developed at school to the idiosyncrasies of their home devices. Each UP student is given a Google Drive account to manage and use as a common, free platform for exchanging documents with peers and teachers. Technology projects and activities often tie in to both core curricular units and the annual school-wide theme. After school enrichment classes introduce basic coding and maker activities to build upon the literacy developed during the school day.
So what does technology look like at SNS? Screensavers displaying a rotating slideshows of student work. Students requesting to take an online literacy test in their eagerness to tackle the next reading level. A concert program accompanied by students playing virtual iPad instruments. Students photographing and manipulating artistic images of themselves and their campus for collaborative art projects. Students turning the pages of an ebook connected to a large display so classmates can follow along and enjoy details of illustrations as the teacher reads the story. Multimedia chapel presentations illustrating the glory of the natural world through high definition images. All around campus it is clear that technology is integrated into the process of learning in myriad ways at St. Nicholas.
What do students learn from the school’s approach to technology? Students gain insight into their world and their ability to connect with it on numerous levels. They learn responsibility through the management of their own digital footprint, and they come to understand that they are held to the same behavioral standards online and off. Students learn that some very basic digital tools – not necessarily the newest or state-of-the-art – can enhance both their creativity and productivity. In addition to organizational skills (folders, files, formatting, etc.), students develop control over their impulsivity by thinking through the steps required to be effective and efficient technology users, acquiring numerous problem solving skills along the way. Increased confidence in navigating the representational (digital) world and greater attention to detail are among the many benefits gained through technology instruction at St. Nicholas.