A King County school has become a showcase for integrating technology into the classroom.
St. Thomas School’s use of technology captured the attention of educational leaders overseas who have been traveling to the campus to see how it’s working for students. This week, delegates from Japan and Germany visited to see what ideas they can take back to their schools.
“We look at technology as a way for the students to create,” explained Kimberly Mecham.
Mecham is the director of the center for leadership and innovation at St. Thomas School. She said technology is not at the heart of the lessons, but it’s how they get to the point.
“Every student in our school, from kindergarten through eighth grade, has a dedicated device tablet,” said Mecham. “They're used in all kinds of ways.”
Teaching methods include things like using Minecraft to teach the Russian revolution in history class.
“They took on characters and the teacher said, ‘you have to act like that persona in Minecraft.’ When they were done, they were Czar Nicholas and Karl Marx,” Educational Technology Coordinator Tracy Asplen explained to German delegates during a tour.
Today, children often start using mobile devices and computers before they can even read. Kindergarten teacher Jane Fellows admits she wasn't sure of using technology in the classroom at first.
“I was always anti-computers,” Fellows said. “It's got to be social-emotional development and all of that, but I had to get with the times. I'm finding there's a lot of collaboration and things you can enhance and support the learning that makes it even better."
School leaders said it wasn't just one thing making a difference. It involves a blend of hardware, unique software programs, and training for teachers.
“The research shows that when teachers are feeling empowered and successful and have the knowledge to do their jobs, then your students are doing better,” Mecham said.
The school is monitoring its success by looking at the students.
“You can see it in their work and that the quality of work, the in-depth knowledge they have on subjects,” Mecham explained. “The investment that they feel in their work has really changed.”
The school said it was important to keep a balance and make sure students are engaging with each other and their teachers while utilizing the technology.
St. Thomas School gets some help from Microsoft with hardware and software.