McAuliffe Heights Program @ Irving School

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VISIONARY LEADERSHIP
Founded in 1997, the McAuliffe Heights Program at Irving Elementary School established a tradition for providing students from throughout the Altoona district with a quality education.  In 2002, a new vision enabled the distribution of an iBook computer to every K-6 student and teacher at McAuliffe Heights.  With technology being a key component of the McAuliffe Heights Program, 275 wireless iBooks were purchased.  The McAuliffe Heights Program would now become the research and development school of the district.  The initial leadership of the program not only involved the staff but also included the parents of the school.  With a one to one initiative in an elementary school, parent involvement would be a critical component.  Parents, staff and administrators conducted meetings  to develop a parent handbook, digital initiative agreement, and a take-home policy for students in grades 4-6.  Parent iBook training was mandatory and was provided in evening sessions (Mac Skills) taught by teachers and staff.  

Today with the purchase of new Net Books the program has 350 wireless laptops and the one to one teaching and learning environment continues to grow.  Our staff and students easily accept new technologies as their own, preparing our staff and students for the technology driven 21st Century.  The vision, leadership and determination of the staff, parents and administration have placed us as one of the leading schools utilizing one to one technology.  

MAKING THE CONNECTION (Infrastructure)
Irving Elementary always had computer labs, but the students could use them for only 30 minutes a day.  The one to one laptop initiative was viewed as the next, logical step in technology integration.  The mobility aspect of the initiative became the major component.  The students at the McAuliffe Heights Program are now free to take their wireless laptops in and out of the classrooms.

Each classroom is equipped with a Cisco access point, allowing the students to move freely throughout the school including the playground for outdoor projects.  Early on, "Computer Buddies" were set up by the teachers allowing the intermediate students to instruct the primary students on the basic operation and care of the iBooks.  Today, "Computer Buddies" has grown to where students are collaborating on projects throughout the school.

An important component of the district's curriculum is the web-based program Compass.  This program allows teachers to evaluate student progress and understand the material they are teaching.  The ability of entire classes to access the Compass program allows the daily support of the district's curriculum and affords teachers the ability to identify areas that need improvement.

With the help of the wireless infrastructure, teachers collaborate as well.  Teachers use shared folders to exchange information and ideas efficiently.  Students are allowed to access the shared folders to return assignments to their teacher or access websites for research.

ENGAGING TEACHING AND LEARNING
With students using laptops from K-6, McAuliffe Heights students have become mobile, collaborative and creative.  When it comes to technology, our students have "no fear."  The teachers have capitalized on the students' willingness to jump in and try technologies, from students creating iMovie commercials for local businesses to testing the ph level in swamp water.  Students as young as kindergarten are now exploring technology independently and with confidence on a daily basis.  

Teachers and students have redefined their roles in the classroom.  We have seen a renewed interest in cooperative learning strategies and higher levels of student engagement across the curriculum.  Not only have students found success with the laptops, but they have also incorporated peripherals such as: Smart Boards, scanners, digital video cameras, microscopes, weather stations, and probeware into a seamless integration of the Altoona Area School District curriculum.  Students do not hesitate when asked to present slide shows in front of the entire school population.  The technology has placed all students on a level playing field of education.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
From the beginning, our district's goal was to ensure an ongoing, standards-based, high quality, professional development atmosphere.  The digital initiative incorporated professional development for teachers from both outside sources and within the school.  Teachers began with summer sessions which consisted of learning to integrate and implement the new-found technology into the curriculum.  As a result of the professional development, teachers began to expand upon new ways to integrate technology into the curriculum; which then quickly spread throughout the district during teacher to teacher workshops and in-service days.