When the school year starts at Tucson Hebrew Academy on Aug. 16, every middle school student will have a laptop computer that they can take with them from class to class — and home with them at night. Lesson plans will be designed around this technology, which will be phased in gradually.
“Almost every speaker I heard at a workshop this winter talked about the importance of technology in the classroom,” says Arthur Yavelberg, THA head of school. “It seems clear that this is the direction all schools will eventually be heading and we want our students to be on the cutting edge.”
In the past, a few students had brought their own laptops to school to take notes. “Most THA middle school teachers already have a high level of comfort with technology, especially since every classroom is equipped with a Smart Board,” says Julee Dawson, THA development director. THA teachers began training this spring with a new software program, Office 365 for education from Microsoft. Training will continue throughout the year.
“I’m particularly excited about how students will be able to work on group projects,” says Jordan Hill, middle school literature teacher. “Students can store and share documents on the ‘Cloud,’ and I’ll be able to access their work, make comments, edits and see their progress.”
Students will still be able to use their own laptops, or they can purchase or rent one from THA. Financial aid for rental will be available. “Our students are very excited about this new program,” says Dawson. Computer usage rules at school and the THA filtering system will restrict students from accessing certain websites, including social networking sites.