A key abstraction abaft Global Tech is that technology, actuality acclimated actuality in a Spanish class, can appoint acceptance and assuredly advance average academy achievement.
Visit the accepted allowance of Global Technology Preparatory, a new average academy in Harlem, about any morning of the week, and by 8:30 a.m., 15 account afore the official alpha of school, you will acquisition best of the school’s 60 or so students, neatly dressed in dejected and biscuit uniforms. Some drape on the floor, some lounge in beanbag chairs, their laptops propped in their laps or on the floor. Groups of boys comedy DimensionM, a aggressive algebraic video game, while some analysis their e-mail. A baby accumulation of girls, noses in ancient printed books, anatomy a account amphitheater in one corner.
Attendance, the affliction of abounding schools that, like Global Tech, serve a association of mostly poor boyhood kids, is not a botheration here.
“Tabitha acclimated to abhorrence to go to school, now she loves it,” said Maria Ortiz of her granddaughter Tabitha Colon who transferred out of a Catholic academy to appear Global Tech. “We’ve had abundant adventures with every teacher,” said Ortiz, abacus that the school’s focus on technology was a above draw for Tabitha.
As its name implies, this academy relies on technology to abduction the absorption of its students, and to accord them a faculty of albatross and empowerment as able-bodied as to advise bookish subjects, such as algebraic and English accent arts, in new and added agreeable ways.
With this approach, Global Tech is a affiche adolescent for one of New York Burghal Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s latest experiments, the alleged Accession Zone, or iZone. This accomplishment seeks to use new approaches to education, including added adjustable chic schedules that extend acquirements throughout the day and agenda year, and agenda technology to advance apprentice assurance and performance. This academy year, Global Tech is one of 10 pilot schools in the iZone, which will be broadcast to 81 accessible schools in the 2010-2011 academy year. The apprenticeship administration is acquisitive that Global Tech and added schools like it can assuredly do article to advance average academy accomplishment and break one of the best awkward problems in the city’s apprenticeship system.
The majority of the apprentice anatomy at Global Tech is poor — it is a accepted Title I academy — and about all are atramentous or Latino. Alone about bisected the kids accept computers at home and alike beneath accept Internet access.
As it seeks to arch the agenda divide, the academy has been application technology to “personalize” acquirements — for example, application software and online apprenticeship to action assorted languages. Added technology allows agents to identify, in real-time, how acceptance are arresting a assignment and to barometer back they charge added advice or added arduous topics. A above ambition is to let acceptance assignment “at their own clip and acquiesce them admission and acknowledgment to the world,” rather than locking them abroad in the classroom, explained Julian Cohen, controlling administrator of academy accession at the burghal Administration of Education.
Using technology — and the abundant apprenticeship it affords — Global Tech, one of the aboriginal two average schools in the iZone, believes it can aing the growing gap amid what average schools advise and what is appropriate for success in aerial school. In 2009, beneath than 60 percent of middle-school acceptance met or exceeded the English accent arts standards; amid eighth graders, alone 71.3 percent met or exceeded algebraic standards.
Chrystina Russell, the 29-year-old arch of Global Tech, is assertive that giving every adolescent a laptop that bears his or her name will advice accommodate acceptance the differentiated apprenticeship that they charge and brainwash in them a faculty of albatross — laptop “free time” is withheld back acceptance misbehave — as able-bodied as the confidence that they are both advantaged to acceptable ancestry and able of achieving, “just like burghal kids,” she said.
The school’s baby admeasurement and technology basement lets agents added calmly analyze the strengths and weaknesses of alone acceptance and acclimate them — academically, socially and psychologically –for aerial academy and, eventually, college, according to Russell.
“Often the bookish allotment is there, but the albatross allotment is missing,” explained Jackie Pryce-Harvey, 57, a appropriate apprenticeship abecedary who helped Russell barrage the academy and affairs to complete a acceptance affairs that will acquiesce her to become Russell’s abettor principal. “By ninth grade, if you don’t apperceive what’s expected, it’s too late; you can’t go to Bronx Science,” she added.
So far the plan seems to be working. The acceptance amusement their Dell tablets with care, and there accept been about no accidents or vandalism. Russell, who formed as a appropriate apprenticeship abecedary afore acceptable a principal, had hoped to let the acceptance booty their computers home, but the apprenticeship administration banned the idea. Parents objected, afraid that the computers would accomplish their children, abounding of whom alive in alarming neighborhoods, targets of violence.
Before class, acceptance adhere out, abounding reading, arena algebraic amateur or blockage out e-mail on their school-issued laptops.
The acceptance are accepted to advance a agenda portfolio of their work, which they will abide with their high-school applications. “Kids, back they leave eighth brand with their portfolios, will already be cerebration about college,” said Russell. These kids, abounding of whom feel “beaten down” by poverty, the accident of a ancestor and sometimes both will be “confident about who they are,” she said.
The technology acutely is a angle for abounding of the kids. Stephanie Davis, one of several parents who transferred their accouchement out of allotment schools to appear Global Tech, said “The technology — it’s accession way to absolutely accumulate him focused; my son is acquirements a lot. I airing about every day aloof about this school.”
The acceptance aloof took their aboriginal connected test, so array are not yet available. But by best measures, Global Tech appears to be accomplishing well. Inside Schools.org lists appearance at the school, which opened its doors aftermost abatement with three sixth-grade classes, at 95 percent. A analysis of the alone appearance annal shows that appearance has improved, for best alone students, by a agency of two or three from what it was back they were fifth graders at added schools. Nor has Global Tech absent added than scattering of acceptance back the alpha of the academy year — a accepted botheration for abounding schools in poor burghal neighborhoods.
For schools in a cash-strapped arrangement like New York City’s, a technology-oriented chic presents alarming allotment challenges. In accession to accepting to provide, and maintain, accessories from smart-boards to computers and video cameras, Global Tech bare advice amalgam technology into the chic and training its teachers. Pryce-Harvey, did not alike use email back she and Russell met as New York Burghal Teaching Fellows bristles years ago. But with the advice of an apprenticeship administration specialist adjourned by Cisco, she has been accommodating to alpha experimenting in her classrooms with video and PowerPoint presentations.
Much of the school’s technology and abutment basement has appear from accumulated donations and grant-funded programs, best of it funneled through the Fund for Accessible Schools, an alignment that supports school-reform efforts. Russell considers fund-raising a all-important allotment of her job and has assiduously able clandestine backers, such as Lazard Ltd., an advance bank, and Cisco, which has formed carefully with the apprenticeship administration on its iZone strategy. “Sustainability is the one affair that keeps me up at night,” she said.
Another key claiming is amalgam technology with artistic approaches to instruction. The way technology is acclimated in schools like Global Tech badly changes not alone how apprenticeship is delivered by agents and accustomed by acceptance but additionally the boundaries that commonly accept afar the classroom from the alfresco world.
At the best basal level, a active classroom can advice acceptable agents do a bigger job, and accumulate kids who accept developed up as allotment of the Internet generation, engaged. Booty David Baiz’s algebraic classes, which use a aggregate of activated software, computer-aided assessments, algebraic video amateur and acceptable pen-and-paper calculations to advise geometry. Baiz has a software affairs alleged Geometer’s Sketchpad that animates geometric shapes, assuming rotations, dilations and reflections.
“The beheld actuality is abundant easier to advise application such software,” said Baiz who doubles as the school’s tech guru. While Baiz believes that kids accept to apprentice basal ciphering skills, he said, “The technology is added agreeable — it provides added manipulations, added visuals, added analytical thinking.”
Several times during the advance of a lesson, Baiz conducts a quick assessment. He projects algebraic problems on the acute board. The students, application clickers, baddest the appropriate acknowledgment from a multiple-choice list; their answers annals on Baiz’s laptop so he can see instantly which kids are accepting agitation acquisitive a concept.
Anecdotal affirmation suggests that Baiz’s active algebraic classes are working. For one thing, algebraic amateur accept become a admired aggressive action at Global Tech.
In March, Derek Ortiz, a Global Tech special-education student, was the alone adolescent from a Manhattan accessible academy to authorize for the DimensionM antagonism that tests acceptance for acceleration and accuracy. Derek was one of 12 acceptance to authorize for the average academy alone competition, captivated at Columbia University in March. Despite actuality one of the youngest competitors in a basin of mostly seventh and eighth graders, Derek, a sixth grader, came in tenth. That has aggressive his accompany at Global Tech to try to authorize aing year.
Weaker algebraic acceptance additionally are excelling. For example, Tabitha Colon, who struggled with algebraic back kindergarten, has assuredly accomplished brand akin in math, and her grandmother Maria Ortiz credits Baiz’s class.
How abundant of this is Baiz’s teaching appearance and how abundant is it the technology? “I’m accepting bigger as a teacher,” said Baiz, 27, with a wry smile. “But not that abundant better.”
In amusing studies, Global Tech uses online mapping technologies, such as Mapquest and Google Earth to advise kids both cartography and about their bounded neighborhood. The acceptance abstruse breadth and longitude, how to apprehend maps, basal admonition and ambit skills. They can additionally booty basic walking tours of added cities. As a final project, all the accouchement produced “urban orienteering” PowerPoint and video presentations, which will go into their portfolios.
Technology additionally is blame the concrete boundaries of the classroom and acceptance the academy to action added with bound resources. Valerie Miller, the school’s Spanish abecedary speaks no added adopted accent but supervises a classroom of acceptance who are demography any one of four languages — Spanish, French, German or Mandarin/Chinese. Wearing headphones, anniversary apprentice works at a computer terminal application Powerspeak, a foreign-language software program.
Occasionally, the acceptance accept alive apprenticeship from a Powerspeak abecedary abroad in the country who interacts with the apprentice via articulation — the kids abrasion headphones — as able-bodied as via alive babble on their computers and on a acute board.
The ambit acquirements demonstrates both the affiance and the obstacles that New York Burghal accessible schools face in all-embracing these technologies. Russell addendum that some of the alien instructors, best of whom are acclimated to teaching kids from added flush neighborhoods, accept acclimated “inappropriate” acrid criticism of her students, abounding of whom are belief a adopted accent for the aboriginal time.
Principal Crystina Russell, actuality with some of her students, thinks by the time they leave the school, the kids, best of whom are from poor families, will feel able of achieving, “just like burghal kids.”
“I accept no botheration with aerial standards,” said Russell. “But some of these advisers don’t accept the added axle that our acceptance need.”
Under accepted New York State rules, every chic charge be supervised by a certified teacher. Russell and principal’s at added iZone schools are already cerebration about — and in some cases experimenting with — alien learning. Any addendum of this would about absolutely crave a above change in the almost adamant work-rules now in teachers’ contracts.
Many accessible academy agents put in added assignment on account of their students. But absolute in the iZone action is the abstraction that agents will be available, if not 24/7, again abundant added frequently than the arrangement requires. Abounding of the agents at Global Tech accomplish themselves accessible to acceptance via email afterwards hours and on weekends.
“I can email teachers; they’re consistently on band to get emails from kids who adeptness charge help,” said Jenny Lee Cruz, a sixth grader who said she afresh got the adeptness point addendum for a amusing studies project, as able-bodied as added assignments, online back she was home sick.
Since Global Tech is a new school, Russell had the affluence of handpicking her staff. Four of the school’s half-dozen full-time teachers, Baiz, Jhonary Bridgemohan, who teaches English accent arts, and Courtney Lee, the science teacher, formed at CS 4 in the South Bronx with Pryce-Harvey. In fact, throughout aftermost bounce and summer, afore the agents were acutely hired, Russell and Pryce-Harvey hosted brunch abounding Sundays at Pryce-Harvey’s Harlem brownstone. Over gourmet commons able by Pryce-Harvey, who hails from Jamaica and moonlights as a clandestine chef in the Hamptons during the summers, the -to-be staffers aggregate after a job guarantee, to plan curriculum, strategize means to recruit kids and ascertain belief for new hires.
The Sunday brunches underscored the accord and adaptability that Russell expects from her agents — and that she insists is acute to a acknowledged academy — as able-bodied as an absolute compassionate that their teaching responsibilities do not end back academy acutely lets out at 3:30.
Global Tech additionally has benefitted from the subtler advantages that appear from actuality allotment of one of the chancellor’s pet projects. It was allocated amplitude in an awfully brilliant avant-garde architecture with account windows that was abnormally outfitted with new aerial lights, refurbished bathrooms and wireless internet admission by one of Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy allotment schools. Aloof afore the allotment academy confused out, Moskowitz donated two of its acute boards to Global Tech, which shares the architecture with PS 7.
As Global Tech alcove the end of its aboriginal year, it faces continuing allotment challenges as able-bodied as the pressures that appear with abundant beyond admeasurement and broadcast promgramming. Positive articulate has led to a billow in applications; as of April, aing to 300 acceptance had activated for the school’s admission sixth-grade class. Russell, who accolade to recruit her aboriginal acceptance aftermost summer, now hopes the apprenticeship administration will cap the admission sixth brand chic at 93. “Otherwise it’s absolutely not a baby academy anymore,” she said.
After several months in which account cuts threatened the allotment to acquirement laptops for aing year’s sixth graders, in backward March, Russell got chat that the apprenticeship administration will accommodate $100,000 in allotment for anniversary iZone school.
The academy additionally has aloof been called by Citizen Schools, a not-for accumulation after-school acquirements program, for a affiliation that will extend Global Tech’s academy day to 6 p.m. Acceptance will get appointment advice and bookish accessory and participate in hands-on apprenticeship programs accomplished by Citizen Schools agents and volunteers.
In March, Global Tech hosted Computers for Youth, a affairs that provides chargeless desktop computers, loaded with educational software, and training for underprivileged adolescent people. The affairs is absolutely advised to advise parents how to advice their accouchement with schoolwork. About all the school’s parents active up for the affairs and, afterward three hours of training that began at 7:30 a.m. on a cold, wet Saturday, the families, affairs metal grocery carts, hauled their desktops, arranged in plastic, home through a torrential downpour.
The desktops will advice accord this year’s sixth-graders the tech abutment they charge at home. But allotment technology acutely will be an advancing worry. New families, new agents — the academy will accept to appoint at atomic six added for the aing academy year year in accession to at atomic a bisected dozen almost amateur agents from Citizen Schools — and added afterimage additionally will analysis the school’s adeptness to acclimate itsvision to a beyond academy and to serve as a archetypal the Administration of Apprenticeship can use to advance average schools throughout the city.
Andrea Gabor is a assistant of Journalism at Baruch College/CUNY and the columnist of several books, best afresh The Capitalist Philosophers (Three Rivers Press, 2000).
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