Ancillae-Assumpta Academy, a co-educational, Catholic elementary school, has been named an Apple Distinguished School for 2018-2021 for its integration of technology across the curriculum and for its broad application in daily school life. Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence that use technology to inspire creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. They showcase innovative uses of technology in learning, teaching, and the school environment and have documented results of academic accomplishment. The Academy previously received the Apple Distinguished School recognition for the 2016-2018 term. The selection of Ancillae-Assumpta Academy as an Apple Distinguished School highlights the Academy’s success at creating an innovative and compelling learning environment that engages students and provides tangible evidence of academic accomplishment. The Academy demonstrated that success in five best practices: Vision, Learning, Teaching, Environment and Results.
Ancillae-Assumpta Academy utilizes a strategic planning tool, the R.I.C.E. Process (Shared Responsibility, Human Interdependence, Dynamic Creativity and People Empowerment), to articulate its shared vision for the advancement of the school. Through this shared leadership model, the administrative team at the Academy ensures that its students develop the skills of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking and are actively engaged in the learning process. The team developed several multi-year plans for technology integration, specifically.
Technology has not only ignited a desire to improve student learning, but it has also enabled students to be more actively involved in the learning process. Given a choice, many students choose to work with a group that will utilize technology to demonstrate the mastery of their learning. The use of MacBook Air and iPad promotes access, engagement, individualization, and authenticity in the learning process. Students use these devices to create, publish, connect, communicate, collaborate, research, and problem solve. The ability to choose from a variety of apps including Keynote, iMovie, the Photos app, and GarageBand engages students in personalized, student-centered learning. While much of this learning is incorporated in the classroom setting, Ancillae- Assumpta Academy students have the added benefit of working in the school’s STEM Laboratory. “Our STEM program, with Macs and iPads as its backbone, is one of the driving forces for innovative learning at our school,” said Greg Maragos, Director of Technology. “Ancillae has maintained an active STEM lab for nearly ten years. That is truly unique, especially at the elementary-school level.” For example, as an integral part of the curriculum, students in grades one to four work with both off-line and on-line coding, using the Blockley or Drag-n-Drop technology, BeeBot, Minecraft, and Sphero. Much of their work is shared through SeeSaw, a digital portfolio, providing a window into student learning. Students in the upper grades delve even deeper into coding through various projects and programs that have been integrated into the curriculum.
To increase student engagement, discovery, and depth of learning, augmented and virtual realities (AR and VR) have been integrated throughout the curriculum. Nearpod VR and Google VR are two platforms that allow students to take virtual field trips to explore the world. The Academy participated in the Google Expeditions AR Pioneer Program. This program provided teacher training and facilitated classroom implementation of immersive experiences. Other AR apps and devices, such as the Merge Cube, bring 3D objects to life, allowing our students to explore the planets or see inside the human heart.
Teaching (Professional learning)
Each year, the faculty and staff create professional goals based upon the R.I.C.E. philosophy. The teachers are excited by new technology and many also use additional Apple products and software, such as the new Apple Classroom App. Professional development at Ancillae is delivered in a multitude of ways on campus and off campus through a variety of delivery platforms and means. Since 2012, the faculty at Ancillae have taken part in professional learning groups that take on a yearly theme. This past year, topics included: AR/VR; Digital Storytelling; Gamification; Global Collaboration, and Project Based Learning/Design Thinking. In 2017, all teachers in grades one to eight became certified Apple Teachers. That same year, a cohort of teachers participated in Verizon Mobile Learning Academy, which prepares educators to supercharge mobile initiatives by discovering how to design creative learning experiences, identify effective management strategies, gauge student readiness, and teach safe online practices. In 2018, teachers were trained in integrating design thinking into the curriculum via project based learning. Members of our faculty have honed their expertise to become SeeSaw Ambassadors, Nearpod Certified Educators, Common Sense Media Educators, as well as Microsoft Innovative Educators.
Ancillae-Assumpta Academy has reimagined learning spaces to increase student engagement and success. The campus currently has more than 900 iOS and macOS devices. These Apple devices are utilized in a variety of ways that include the 1:1 program, specialized labs, and area-specific carts that offer flexibility for non-traditional classroom environments. All of the faculty are equipped with iPads and MacBook Airs. Students in grades one to eight are all equipped with iPads. One area highlighting Ancillae’s unique design is the Music department, which uses both static and non-static environments. Ancillae has a MIDI Lab that is used for self-paced and personalized music instruction. The MIDI lab consists of 16 student iMac workstations that enable students to receive instruction on piano and guitar.
The Academy’s state-of-the-art library features two iMac research areas, a seated research area with six iMac computers and a standing research area with four iMac computers. Students access research materials and databases on their iPad or the iMacs through the use of a LibGuides page and an on campus Destiny server. Students have access to the library resources both on and off campus. The Science Room for grades one to four is equipped with 14 designated iPads for 14 Osmo stations and 20 Spheros. The room is also equipped with an HDTV and an Apple TV. This classroom was created to be flexible so that students can use tables for coding and then push aside the tables to the perimeter of the room to see their code in action. In 2017, a new outdoor classroom was created on campus. Through the use of iPad, students are able to have instruction in an outdoor classroom to utilize apps such as Leafsnap to identify tree species. First-graders use their iPad to identify cloud formations in an outdoor classroom environment.
The R.I.C.E. Process encourages Ancillae to look at the future needs of students facing a global, interdependent reality with significant human and technological advancements. The Process includes a research component, which allows the Academy to articulate a clear vision, document strategies, involve the community more critically through evaluation opportunities, and focus on the future more intentionally through short- and long-range planning.
“We are so pleased to be recognized as an Apple Distinguished School,” said Amy Lintner, the Academy’s Director. “It is a testament to our IT and Administrative leadership, and our faculty and staff, who not only saw the importance of a long-range technology plan, but took the time to fully integrate into our curriculum all that the technology offers. From the preschoolers to the students in our junior high, Ancillae-Assumpta Academy has a commitment to break down the walls of the classroom and link learning to the outdoors, to the community, and to the world.”