Technology at Marin Academy

Working hard in the Marin Academy library

I’ve written about technology before in this blog (especially in context to introverts and extraverts) and wanted to give an update about where Marin Academy is headed in the 2012-2013 school year.

Over the last few years we’ve watched as our peers have implemented one-to-one laptop programs for students. The idea was to have everyone have the same equipment in the classroom so that lessons could harness this technology. The program enabled some fantastic opportunities, but there was one important side effect: the screens blocked students’ faces. In addition, it was difficult to determine if a student was participating in the lesson or distracted by a host of other laptop options—Facebook, email, instant messaging, etc.

Discussion in Trixie’s English class

The iPad seemed to address this problem very well—the screens were on the table, so faces weren’t obscured and it was easier to monitor the lesson. Some schools moved to one-to-one iPad programs. But this wouldn’t be a panacea for us, either.

Any technology is only as good as the people who use it, especially teachers. With these programs, training teachers became a necessary expenditure—both of time and money. (And this is in addition to the large cost of equipping, maintaining, and servicing machines for hundreds of users of varying abilities). Some teachers didn’t have a use for the laptop or the iPad. Others preferred one device over another.

At MA, we’ve had the benefit of watching and learning from the technology plans of other schools. We learned a lot about our own needs from a technology self-study conducted over the course of the last academic year. Now, we are ready for our own plans.

Group work in the hallway

In order to make technology more available to our students and teachers and to begin the process of making technology a more ubiquitous component of our educational program, we are enacting three components:

  1. Updating and replacing student and faculty laptops that have reached the end of their four-year life.
  2. Moving computing into the classroom by providing laptop carts on each of the academic hallways in order to allow technology to be a part of teaching and learning in the classroom verses a separate and isolated tool located in a distant computer lab.
  3. Dedicating resources to innovation and exploration of best practice with teaching technology through the MA Early Adopter pilot program.

Working in a computer lab

Our Early Adopters program was created in order to explore and to develop the opportunities posed by technology in education. MA’s Academic Dean, Scott Young, has played a major role in our growth of the meaningful and intentional use of educational technology and will lead the group of adopters. Five faculty members (Jon Bretan in Advanced Physics, Mary Collie in English I and Journalism, Pam Maffei in Modern World History I, Dave Marshall in US History, and Evelyn Tseng in Chinese I) have the following charge:

  • To look at best teaching practices at MA and how we can use technology to enhance and to accentuate what we value;
  • To explore how technology can shape our pedagogy and curriculum, creating new ways for teachers to teach and students to learn;
  • To imagine how an outsider could come into MA and see easily how technology is used effectively and meaningfully across disciplines;
  • To take risks in reimagining teaching and learning and even to fail fabulously in the way that an artist does in a studio, a scientist in a lab, or a writer in her study.

Laptops in the library

These teachers will have iPad tablets, MacBook Air laptops, and wireless projection via Apple TV at their disposal. Over the course of the year, working as a team, the Early Adopters will envision, design, and practice new ways of teaching and learning with technology. The goal of the Early Adopters program will be to define a flexible and sustainable technology based teaching platform that can be applied and utilized across disciplines as a ubiquitous teaching and learning tool.

Rather than saying “MA is ready for technology,” we have started staying “Technology is ready for MA.” What we mean is that the options available now—tablets, open source software programs, mobile access, Google Apps for Education, etc.—are more accessible, affordable, nuanced, and dynamic. Our teachers have the space to innovate and experiment, and are far less frustrated because devices are stronger and work better than they did ten, five, even two years ago. We are taking a pedagogical approach to teaching that will allow us to adapt and change as technology adapts and changes. We are mindful of screen time and committed to teaching responsibility and etiquette alongside of technical skills.

A mock-up of our new front page

This change will be in conjunction with our new website ecosystem that will launch in early August. In addition to a revived public website, our students, faculty, parents, alumni, and trustees will use “MyMA,” our password-protected portal, on a regular basis. MyMA will have everything from teacher course pages to MAPA volunteer groups. Parents and students will be able to do everything from updating their contact information to reviewing grades and comments. It’s a complete overhaul of our system, and we’re very excited about it. Stay tuned for more information in August!


About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
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One Response to Technology at Marin Academy

  1. Kathleen Dell says:

    Good luck to the Eary Adopters! Can’t wait to hear about their pilot programs as the year progresses.

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