Philadelphia elementary integrates mutiple digital tools

When doors open at Stephen Decatur Elementary in the fall of 2011, students and parents will find the front-running school has added a new, even higher-tech dimension to its already innovative instructional process. Included as part of the curriculum will be an iPad lab, video-based digital portfolios, a student-run Virtual Help Desk, “real world” QR barcode technology, interactive eBooks and student-produced video content to articulate the school’s offerings online and information about high school choices.

“I wanted to provide students with a cutting-edge technology bundle to build 21st century skills,” says principal Charles Connor, who is funding the initiative with a $10,000 Lindback Foundation Award he received in recognition of his outstanding leadership in the School District of Philadelphia. “The new program will also give Decatur kids an edge over their peers when it comes to applying to special high schools and also to college.”

The Academic Tech Pack company, part of Apple’s Consultants Network, is providing and supporting the iPads and surrounding learning systems, professional development and curricula aligned to state standards.


All K-8 students at Decatur will have access to the iPad lab, including the ability to check out the devices to help catch up from absences, or to complete extension activities outside the classroom.

Digital Portfolios

Seventh graders will craft video and text-based evidence of achievement, including projects, presentations, interviews and more, to add an element of authentic assessment to more traditional evaluations, such as high stakes tests.Parents will now have a secure window into their student’s progress and activities in Decatur’s 21st century classrooms. Ultimately, the accumulation of longitudinal data in multimedia format can enhance high school, college and job applications by offering a “real time” perspective on student progress and aspirations.


Grade four- through- eight students will create interactive eBooks as part of their technology curriculum, using the digital books to publish text- and multimedia-based research reports, book reviews, exploratory projects and other assignments. Completed eBooks will be available to other students and accessible by parents for download.

Virtual Help Desk

Serving both student career-preparedness and school IT needs is the eighth-grade Virtual Help Desk program, which will train students to become “techxperts,” mentoring each other on an ongoing basis and offering video chat-based technical assistance to teachers and peers in rooms across several school buildings.

QR Code Technology

The same state of the art technology that allows users to point a smart phone at a barcode and go directly to an online advertisement will be integrated into lessons in grades four through eight. Students will gain the “real world” technical skills central to this cutting-edge model, crafting sample advertisements and correlated web pages.

Digital Pathways

The Academic Tech Pack’s proprietary video delivery platform will enable Decatur students to create and publish a professional video series featuring first-person student and teacher clips describing Decatur’s various programs and learning opportunities to inform prospective students and parents.

Understanding High School Choices

The high school selection process and available options will be completely demystified through iPad video content explaining procedures, and timelines and offering a sampling of Philadelphia high school staff and students.

Meet Your Teacher

Students will film and create Meet Your Teacher personal video introductions, scripted by staff and available online, to help K-8 students and parents get to know their teachers before the start of the school year.

Full Teacher Support

Academic Tech Pack’s scaffolded curricula guides teachers and students step-by-step through each separate program area. For instance, the Crafting Student Portfolios section includesa 15-lesson guide for defining personal attributes and accomplishments, storyboarding, scriptwriting, editing, offering feedback, sharing portfolios, and more. Additional professional development and support is delivered both on-site and remotely by the Academic Tech Pack team.

“Our entire staff is excited about transforming facets of the students' learning through these engaging technologies,” says Lisa Slipp, Decatur’s Technology Teacher Leader.

A Legacy of Innovation

Principal Connor, who is retiring this spring after 41 years of service in Philadelphia schools, says that with the iPad and Academic Tech Pack bundle, he’s setting the wheels in motion to carry technology to a higher level at Decatur by equipping younger- age kids with skills for the digital world. “Becoming 21st century learners is important and gaining access to opportunities is increasingly competitive for students these days,” he says. “I want to be sure Decatur students are very well prepared and, whenever possible, have a leg up on the competition.”