Thornton Academy Postscripts Alumni Magazine Winter 2007 - Page 4

www.thorntonacademy.org 21st Century Science Initiative When Technology Meets Textbooks W ith the 2006-07 Thornton Fund nearly 70 percent toward goal as the first semester ended in late January, it seems a sure bet that its successful conclusion will coincide with a successful start to the 21st Century Science Initiative, which the Fund is supporting. “Teachers are doing an amazing job,” says Science Department Chair Christy Lajoie of the huge undertaking she and her colleagues started in tandem with the fundraising. “There is so much positive energy.” When word came in May 2006 of the $80,000 in challenge grants Thornton received to help fund the initiative if the Thornton Fund increased its goal by a like amount, the Science Department suddenly was faced with taking a program that existed on paper and turning it into reality. They never looked back. First, they came to school during the summer to refine goals. Once school started, they met with Associate Head Mary Nasse, Director of Instruction Lloyd Hunt, and the Technology Department staff to set up protocols for the technology, choose some needed tools and decide on the methodology to evaluate the program. Then the laptops themselves arrived. Suddenly, everyone in school was learning about what it meant to have 270 laptops operating simultaneously by science students along with the existing 400 laptops in various other  ine the classroom without them departments’ and teachers’ hands, think at first everyone was trying after, really, just a couple months 125 desktop computers in comto use them more often, because of sustained operation. puter labs, and all those used by they were new. Now it is settling Both he and beginning scioffice staff. So much enthusiasm down as we better understand ence teacher Matt Amoroso cite a quickly resulted in unforeseen where they are most effective and similar example of something they volume. where traditional methods still never expected—the better man“We expected a spike in the work best.” network traffic,” says interim Agreeing that the 21st Century agement of class time. “I can have a whole array of Technology Director Ben Nasse ‘93, Initiative is really a giant, threethings to do ready on the course “but this spike was incredible. The year lab experiment (the implemanagement system and transigood news was that our teachers mentation time frame laid out in tion the students smoothly,” says and students were really embracthe grant), Lajoie said “it is still ing this technology, but the bad way too early” to start saying what Hall, explaining that when he directs students to try something on news was at a usage rate far higher the best and highest uses of the the laptop he has prepared, he can than we anticipated.” laptops will be. actually spend more time one-onNasse says the level of Inter“But at the end of three years one with individual students. net usage, including access of hits I think you will see some reAmoroso cites something he Thornton’s online management ally great things happening,” she calls “bell work,” noting that a system, video streaming, and Web adds. “We are just so grateful that long-standing hole in efsite access, jumped nearly “If I can make it [learning] enjoy- fective class time is at the four-fold—from 14 gigabytes worth of traffic last May to able and they can understand how beginning of the class when the teacher is taking at52.2 gigabytes of traffic last science concepts explain everyday tendance, accepting sick or month. Needless to say, the preplanning quickly became stuff, then maybe they will engage tardy excuses, and so forth. Now his students are trained obsolete and everyone on more [with science].” to get out their laptops the campus began experiencing minute they arrive in class, delays and crashes. In quick —Matt Amoroso, and while he fulfills his order, however, a new server science teacher administrative requirements, was acquired and brought they might watch a video on online, but still it was a the safe use of a Bunsen burner, rough first month for frustration alumni and parents are willing for example. levels. to support this marvelous underHall, Amoroso, Lajoie and “The logistics took a while,” taking. I think ultimately we will other science teachers note many Lajoie notes now with an ironic learn some very important things different ways they are experilaugh at her understatement. But to share with other schools that menting with the laptops—from the traffic volume was just one of will make them use laptops more simulations to graphing, Webcasts, the logistics where the plans on effectively—and make Thornton science games related to such pape