by: Rachel Jones

Preparing students for a world centered around technology is one of the many important roles of the FCPS system. This preparation requires integrating modern technology into everyday use to create a 21st century environment. Classroom computers, instructional apps and online classes are just a few of the many ways that students are allowed to use technology during the school day. Students are even allowed to bring their Personally Owned Devices (POD’s) to school with teachers’ permission. According to the Fiscal Year 2014 FCPS Educational Technology Plan, “it is [Fairfax County’s] obligation to teach students how to appropriately manage the wealth of information that is readily available.”

New at Stuart in the 2014-15 school year is the eLearning Program, available for all freshmen. As part of this initiative at Stuart, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has given Stuart a grant to provide all freshmen with iPad minis during the 2014-2015 school year. Providing each freshman with their own iPad gives each student an opportunity to connect, communicate, and think critically.

Programs that are necessary for students to be successful in their classes such as Google Apps, Blackboad and online databases are all easily accessed on the new iPads. Each iPad gives the student access to online textbooks, eCART and access to contemporary digital tools on the iPad that allow students to use video and audio to explore ideas and share them. “It will be so nice to be able to access Blackboard or Google Docs or whatever we need right then and there,” said freshman Dylan Nadler.

According to the VDOE, the goals of the 21st Century school supply are to improve student achievement through ensuring virtual learning opportunities for all students. By equipping every student with the tools they need to be successful, student achievement will improve, as well as an increase in the graduation rate and students’ readiness for college and their future career. “I think that [the iPads] will benefit students since they would be able to record, remind themselves when they need to study, important dates they have to remember, as well as having just one device that stores all of their notes and ideas.” said freshman Ella Moon-Brown. The eLearning coordinator, Rose Krauss, is also ecstatic about the upcoming program. “25 percent of freshmen at Stuart don’t have wifi at home. This is all about giving the students access to Blackboard, online textbooks and the other materials they need to be successful. It’s not about the apps, its about the connection that they need to have with their classmates and teachers to be successful.”

Technology has become an essential component of the school system over the past decade. From iPads to iPhones, FCPS has relied on the use to enhance learning experiences, and to prepare the students for a world where technology is used in everything we do. Technology is no longer just nice to have around, it is a critical part to the success of both the students and the school system as a whole. There’s a learning gap we have in this country.” said Assistant Principal Shawn DeRose. “Some studens have access to the technoogy that they need and some of them don’t. I think the idea of giving them iPads will provide better opportunities for students to have access to improving their grades and closing that critical gap.”