Within Coppell ISD, Richard J. Lee Elementary and New Tech High @ Coppell have been recognized as Apple Distinguished Schools.
“Apple recognized the selected schools for the way they implement technology, the way they support training with their staff and lead change in their school,” Lee Elementary Principal Chantel Kastrounis said.
Worldwide, there are 470 schools in 34 countries that are awarded.
There is a pattern in how CISD enforces the use of technology starting in elementary all the way into high school.
“Through this award, I am able to connect with schools and leaders who challenge what [Lee Elementary] does with technology,” Kastrounis said.
Technology can bring people together in a multitude of ways. It breaks the physical aspect of geography as well as forms bonds between people over commonality.
The selected schools have the opportunity to reach out to other schools worldwide to bounce ideas off of each other and make the education system better.
“We have the opportunity to connect with likeminded people from other schools, states and countries that we otherwise wouldn’t have. It aids in facilitators and learners seeing a world that’s bigger than yourself,” New Tech Principal Steffany Batik said.
CISD is a technology-oriented school district. Each campus provides individual technology for every student, whether that be iPads or MacBooks. Besides personalized devices, there is also a range of technology available.
“We appreciate being able to have access to that kind of technology. I’m on my laptop almost all day and it allows me to keep all my work organized,” New Tech senior Marlee Moe said.
Providing this kind of technology for every learner and giving them their own personal device helps them to be more efficient with class time, according to Moe. They also have instant access to the internet and are able to get information quickly.
“We feel passionate about students being in charge and owning their learning,” Kastronouis said. “We are able to customize and personalize the students’ learning to meet their needs so they are able to go at their own pace.”
Learners are becoming more independent and starting to take learning into their own hands. If they are curious about something, in particular, they have access to copious amounts of information.
“We want to teach them skills like project management, time management, communication and being able to give feedback which will help them in the real world,” Kastrounis said. “Everything revolves around technology so teaching them at a young age these types of skills will allow them to carry them into their future.”
A big part of the development is selecting and taking note of what other schools are doing and incorporating those ideas.
“Technology is everywhere and you won’t be able to get away with not knowing how to use it, so the more we incorporate it and more we learn about its changes, the more we will be suited for our professional lives in the future,” Moe said.
Technology is moving at an extremely fast pace, which means schools must progress quickly to keep up.
As a school, learning to be more flexible and embrace change instead of holding onto the past is often regarded as important.
“Throughout our journey, we have shifted our focus to students and teachers,” Kastrounis said.
The schools work with Apple to host tours for visitors to see how they are implementing technology. Tours help the schools learn through inquiry. They showcase and highlight their learning environment.
“We practice having an open door and sharing our school with others when people come to tours,” Batik said. “At that moment when you are discussing how much you rely on technology you realize how privileged you are to work with technology that children in other places don’t get to.”
Apple continues to be involved after giving the award by sending information, giving them opportunities to have discussions on conference calls and providing training to keep the momentum going.
“We got the opportunity to highlight the efforts of our staff,” Batik said. “It’s gratifying to know we are doing great things and we are able to represent that to the world.”
Though the schools are honored with the award, they are continuing to improve their learning environments.
“The award shows other schools that what we are doing makes a difference and they might want to implement it into what they do,” Moe said. “New Tech sets an example because other schools take note of what they could learn from.”
According to Kastrounis, a huge part of having technology is acknowledging that it is a privilege and it is the school’s responsibility to instill values like gratitude into their learners.
“We monitor our students to ensure they are being good digital citizens and leave a positive impact online,” Kastrounis said. “When a student misuses technology we are consistent about having those corrective conversations and there are logical consequences that match their actions.”
Schools comply with government mandates to block sites that do not follow educational guidelines.
“We talk about the privilege of technology constantly,” Moe said. “From day one at New Tech they have been showing us how to correctly use technology and be appropriate on it.”
According to Kastrounis, the society and world we live in is driven by technology so by exposing children to it early sets them up for success. They will go into the real world with confidence and an understanding of technology skills.
“Technology is important because it fosters all of the different ways we need to communicate with each other in a global society,” Batik said.
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