St. Paul Academy and Summit School (SPA), an independent co-educational school located in the Twin Cities, enjoys a stellar academic reputation and is one of Minnesota’s oldest independent K-12 institutions. The 855-student school is committed to the role technology can play in improving and enhancing the learning experience.
Under SPA’s approach, technology skills are developed in the context of the classroom and subject matter. SPA has embedded these skills into the academic curriculum so that separate technology instruction is not necessary; instead, students master technology while they learn skills such as audio recording, word processing, spreadsheet manipulation and electronic presentations.
To further its technology and education goals, SPA began using the Nobi Convertible PC from Equus Computer Systems in April 2009. Based on the Intel-powered convertible classmate PCs, the Nobi Convertible offers teachers the flexibility to adapt their curricula to each student’s learning styles, while students are able to master content in multiple ways.
Students in 6th and 7th grades are assigned a school-owned Nobi Convertible PC as part of SPA’s 1:1 laptop program. As 6th graders are introduced to the program, their access to school laptops is phased in. Early in the year, students are assigned individual laptops. When the 6th grade teaching team feels students are sufficiently prepared for 1:1 use beyond the school day, students begin using the computers at home.
In 7th grade, students continue the 1:1 computing experience. In both grades 6 and 7, students participate in technology skill training and "wellnology" discussions, both in the context of technology classes and advisory settings. Students use the PCs and a combination of the SPA school network, collaborative software and online tools to share information and collaborate with each other.
They also have access to supplemental digital still and video cameras, as well as probes, document cameras, digital audio recording, and online tools to be used, along with student computers, to enhance learning. Each classroom has an LCD projector for sharing student and teacher content.
The devices quickly earned acceptance at SPA. Students liked their size, weight and durability, and thought the modest-size tablets were “cute,” while adults noted that students would be less likely to install games and use them recreationally. Because the PC is built to enhance learning, it intentionally lacks the distracting bells and whistles of general-purpose notebooks.
Teachers are using the technology to supplement their lesson plans in multiple ways, from language and math to science and social studies.
Using the tablet PCs with headphones and the software program Audacity, foreign language students record their speaking practice and deliver MP3s to the teacher.
In math classes, teachers and students use OneNote to create electronic notebooks for the unit on the server. Students then have their class warm-ups, notes and practice on the PC and complete them with the stylus on the screen rather than with pencil and paper. The teacher is able to provide immediate feedback and bring up notebooks on the projected screen to discuss with the class.
For labs requiring drawing and note taking, the teacher can use OneNote to have students do online labs using the Cells Alive online simulation. Students can use the touchscreen/stylus method of inking for drawing images of cells and the keyboard for typed note taking.
In language arts/social studies classes, students compose essays and other writing in class and save them to complete at home. They also do extensive peer review as part of the revision process.
SPA’s Nobi Convertibles PCs include Microsoft Tablet XP (and corresponding tablet applications), Microsoft Office w/OneNote, Picasa, Google Earth, Sketchup, Comic Life, Paint.net, Inspiration, iTunes, Panda Antivirus, Windows MovieMaker, Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers.