Altoona Area teachers are dipping their toes into new technology this summer that will set the district on a course for a long-term transformation.
Fifteen Altoona Area teachers are being trained this summer on project-based instruction using iPads and for planing new technology and instructional strategies. Come fall, 200 high school students will be using iPads for collaborative teamwork projects in core subjects.
"It will be the first major rollout of iPads we've done," district Director of Technology Bryce Cossitor said.
Students will be divided into teams with a teacher leading group projects in core subjects.
"The same group of students work with the same teacher, so the groups can do work as a team. Those teachers can then do project-based learning activities," Cossitor said.
The district has committed to spend $800,000 over the next two years on infrastructure of the high school so that 2,000 people can use the internet simultaneously.
"We will get a lot of research out of this next year (2014-15): What apps are available and what other pieces we need to look at; do kids care if they have a keyboard with their iPad, those kinds of things," Cossitor said.
Superintendent Thomas Otto said the investment in technology is "going to have a big impact on instruction delivery at our high school."
More is to follow in addition to the district's commitment to increasing technology at the secondary level.
The district is also partnering with ASSET Inc., a national science, technology, engineering and math education improvement nonprofit, for training in August that will jump start the district's move toward implementing a holistic approach to science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education.
In the 2015-16 school year, the district plans to possibly have the former Wright Elementary School Building repurposed as a magnet school where iPads would a major part of how students engage in a curriculum built around science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
"We are starting small with a pilot STEAM program at Baker and Irving (McAuliffe Heights) elementary schools (in 2014-15)," Director of Curriculum and Assessment Luke Lansberry said.
The district's teachers have also created a freshmen STEAM academy for the junior high school. It's being created internally by teachers. Students in the freshmen academy will have the option to bring their own tablets, laptops and smartphones.
"That is the neat thing that is occurring, the creativity of our teachers is starting to be unleashed," Otto said.
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.