Category Archives: Technology

Exploring Computer Science, Design & Engineering in Middle School

This school year, Morgan Park Academy students enrolled in our Middle School technology course explored computer science through the Python programming language.

We also completed a unit on design and engineering. In this unit, students worked collaboratively through the procedural design process to build a functional pinball machine (pictured below) or contraption. At the start of this project, students researched various resources to use as a reference throughout their design phase. Supplies for this project included recyclables, 3D-printed objects, and LED lights.

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Next school year, Middle School technology classes will be able to delve deeper into the design and engineering process with the construction of our new maker space, from robotics to 3D printing, laser cutting, woodworking, and more. Students will continue to explore computer science through game and app design.

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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.

Q&A

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.