Category Archives: Technology

Does Your Child Really Need a Smartphone?

Added to the age-old conundrum of when to give your child the car keys for the first time, is a 21st-century parenting question: At what age should a child have his or her own smartphone?

This is a tricky situation. You might be a parent who simply got tired of your child asking to use your phone. Or maybe you caved to pleas of “But all the other kids in my class have one!”

But does your child really need a smartphone? It could do more harm than good.

A student with a smartphone has instant access to other students, 24/7. Those students, in turn, have access to your child. They might all be wonderful, sweet kids, with little negative intent. However, mix undeveloped brains still learning how to appropriately communicate with other human beings, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

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Exploring Computer Science in Lower School

Morgan Park Academy’s Computer Science curriculum begins in Lower School, with classes that introduce the fundamental concepts of CS to all students, beginning even before children learn to read.

During tech classes, MPA students are introduced to CS principles through algorithmic thinking. A typical lesson for kindergarten would include a brief discussion of the concept, followed by a series of computer activities on pattern recognition in computing.

Students in grades 1-5 streamline their focus on algorithmic thinking through loops and conditionals. Each class has a different goal; thus, student expectations are clearly defined. We accomplish these goals through various teacher-led, independent, and collaborative learning activities.

I try to make these activities fun for young learners; it is vital that students enjoy their newfound experience of programming. I’m also hands-on with the students, which means logging onto my device and working together to problem-solve these activities. It’s important for students to see me participate and to know that we’re a team!

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Incorporating Technology in the Elementary Classroom

Morgan Park Academy students often cheer at the opportunity to use iPads or Chromebooks during class, although the assignment involves much more than simply play time. But don’t tell them that!

Technology is an alternative learning avenue for students. Educational apps and programs reinforce and enhance the curriculum. The students are so engaged in the activity — whether self-selecting their next book or solving 10 more math problems to reach a higher level — that they do not view their time on the device as working, but rather play. In addition to increased productivity, there are several other hidden benefits.

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Boosting Our Math Curriculum With New Resources

One of the challenging but rewarding aspects of my role as Director of Curriculum and Instruction is making sure that Morgan Park Academy students and teachers have the educational tools and resources they need for 21st-century teaching and learning.

This fall, we have been excited to debut two major improvements that have boosted our math curriculum for grades 3-12. The numbers at the core of mathematics haven’t changed, but the tools and approaches our teachers employ to convey this often-vexing subject are ever evolving.

The principals, teachers, curriculum leaders, and I dedicated a lengthy review last year to our textbook needs for math in grades 3-8. In analyzing several options, we found an amazing package from educational industry leader McGraw-Hill that aligned well with MPA’s approach to teaching and learning. It offers digital accessibility to the textbook and materials, allows teachers to customize content, and provides supplemental tutorials and resources online.

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Meet Our Teachers: Shavonne Terry

Shavonne Terry is Morgan Park Academy’s educational technology coordinator, a role that encompasses classroom instruction across all school divisions as well as supporting the school’s information technology needs.

Ms.​ ​Terry holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Illinois Institute of Art, where she focused on media arts and animation, and a Master of Education degree from DePaul University.


What​ ​does​ ​the​ educational​ technology​ coordinator​ ​do​ ​at​ ​MPA?

​I​ ​work​ ​closely​ ​with​ ​leadership​ ​and​ ​teachers​ ​in​ ​developing​ ​an​ ​innovative program​ ​of​ ​instructional​ ​technology​ ​that​ ​enriches​ ​and​ ​supports​ ​MPA’s​ curriculum.​ ​I​ ​also​ ​provide​ ​instructional​ ​design​ ​support​ ​and​ ​training​ ​for​ ​the​ ​integration​ ​of technology​ ​into​ ​the​ ​classroom,​ ​1:1​ ​device​ ​implementation,​ ​learning​ ​management support​, ​and​ ​daily​ ​tech​ ​assistance​ ​for​ ​students​ ​and​ ​teachers. ​Also,​ ​I​ ​teach​ ​technology and​ ​computer​ ​science​ ​classes​ ​throughout​ all divisions ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​working​ ​with​ ​the summer​ ​enrichment​ ​programs.


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Technology Integration Defined

Technology Integration is a vital component of 21st century learning. In order to successfully integrate technology into the classroom, we must have an understanding of computer literacy. Computer literacy provides students with a background knowledge of basic hardware, software applications, internet, and problem solving skills. Students are learning key components of technology that will develop a skill set to promote lifelong learning. This skill set supports critical thinking, self-management, and social interaction, enabling the pursuit of further education and career goals. These skills are applied in the classrooms through effective communication, working collaboratively with peers, and through lessons that enable critical thinking.

_dsc4272Technology integration can take place in various forms, such as: 1:1 implementation (iPad or Chromebook), project-based learning (PBL) activities, flipped classrooms, game-based learning and assessment, interactive whiteboards, web-based research, along with creative projects that utilize the technology that we have available at MPA. As an educator, it is beyond exciting to see the evolvement of students while learning new forms of technology. Many struggle at the beginning and even have the desire to quit, but this is when words of encouragement are needed most, and most effective.  

Let’s take a closer look at “flipped learning.” Flipped Learning is a “pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter” (Flipped Learning Network). Basically every class at MPA exhibits this instructional method! This approach allows students to learn to work both as a group, but to become independent learners as well, all while engaging the students. One of the ways in which to successfully create this type of learning environment is to use technology.

Schools effectively integrate technology when students are able to choose technology tools that help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. Thus, making technology an integral part of how the classroom functions is necessary — technology should be as accessible as all other classroom tools. Because technology provides us with a universal learning platform for students, successful integration equates to successful learning. MPA exemplifies this theory through a rich curriculum of technology-integrated courses, which include Physics, Programming, and our Robotics Co-Curricular. Students will become lifelong learners through technology use, making choices based on talent and drive, rather than necessity.

By Shavonne Terry

Ms. Terry is the Educational Technology Coordinator at Morgan Park Academy.

Why are 21st Century Skills Important?

21st century learning shifts the focus of learning from memorization to application. Often students think that 21st century learning means using smartphones and tablets daily in a classroom, that all projects and learning activities will be completed on a computer, and that all research will be done on the internet. Now, those are not completely incorrect assumptions, but 21st century learning is more than just using technology to learn content in the classroom; it is also about skill-building and collaborating with students that may not be in your immediate social circle.

dan21st century learning is about problem solving, not rote memorization of facts. It is thinking critically, not expecting all thinking to be done by the teacher or a fellow student. Students must be self-motivated and driven to think and solve today’s complex problems. 21st century learning is learning by doing, which, at times, means learning by failure, a sentiment aptly captured by Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” In the 21st century, we need to realize that real learning comes from doing, failing, learning, doing again, and then succeeding. We want students to be adaptable to the future so when life gives them lemons, they make lemonade. The four major components of 21st century learning are:

  1. Skill building: Skills are essential when preparing students for Upper School, college, and the real world. Teaching skills allow students to be adaptable. Teaching research methods, using debate and discussion in class, and emphasizing problem solving are the types of skills that allow students to engage with content. At Morgan Park Academy, teachers teach skills as a way to engage with the content; they do not just lecture. As a history teacher, I love the content that I teach. History is my passion and I want to share that passion with my students and help them to become better writers, researchers, debaters, creators, and students than when they entered my classroom.
  2. Collaboration: This 21st century skill is one of the most necessary in education and society today. As the world continues to become smaller because of new technology changing the world daily, students need to learn to be able to work with those that have differing viewpoints and different abilities as them. It is not always easy to work with someone that you may or may not be friends with, but those opportunities can bring about the most real learning. Being challenged by a different viewpoint or a way of completing assignments can bring out true collaboration. Steven Spielberg stated, when I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.” What Mr. Spielberg describes is what 21st century learning is all about. Appreciate the different talents around you and realize that there is not always one way to get to the answer.
  3. Problem solving and critical thinking vs. rote memorization: This 21st century skill is the most important in my opinion. Today, we have iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones, iPads, and Macbooks that are all connected to the internet. The internet gives students access to knowledge from the beginning of recorded history and predicts what will happen in the future. So why teach students to memorize facts, figures, and functions? Instead of focusing on memorizing content, 21st century learning challenges students to see a problem, then solve it. Collectively as an educational community, students, parents, and teachers need to realize that knowing lots of factual information is not preparing students to think on their feet.
  4. Learning by doing: This 21st century skill manifests in Lower School and classes like art and music. Of course we “do” in those classes. Called Project Based Learning (PBL), PBL has become an important change in the way students approach learning. PBL takes all of the 21st century learning skills and puts them together to complete the ultimate task. Learning in a way that will not only challenge students, but challenge the world they are going to inherit from us.

21st century skills may be the new buzzwords in education, but they are so much more than that. These skills represent good teaching. Students need to be able to explore,fail, and pick themselves back up once and awhile. Students need to work within a group and realize they might not be the leader every time, but that they are still an important part of the group. Students need to use technology in an appropriate way to make learning more accessible to them so they may solve the problems posed to them during class. Parents need to support these 21st century learning skills and cultivate an environment where exploration and curiosity drive learning,not grades. Teachers need to adapt to the student of today and meet them in their world, instead of the other way around. In closing, education is a place of wonder and exploration and every day I learn something new because of the talent, drive, and care that students at Morgan Park Academy put into their education.

By Daniel Peters

Mr. Peters teaches Middle School social studies and coaches basketball and golf. He also is our Middle School Assistant Principal.