Can you imagine studying without a laptop, writing every essay on paper, and scanning through hundreds of pages to find a source? This was the life in Belmont Hill before the implementation of technology by the school. Currently, our school has gone a step further with a number of technological tools to help us study more efficiently. In order to give readers a general image of the future uses of technology, The Panel interviewed Mr. Butler, Director of Information Technology and Mr. Curran, Director of Academic Technology.
As most students have noticed, the use of Zoom’s Room technology around the school has allowed students to remotely log in to class and participate as if they were there in person. When asked about the future of this technology, Mr. Butler was not certain, but he said it will depend on the feedback of students and teachers and ultimately will be up to the administration. While Zoom is helping us thrive during the pandemic, there are also long term technological advancements on the campus like the Promethean board and the use of Canvas and Veracross to replace Google Classroom and File maker direct.
Belmont Hill has sped up its investment in promethean boards for all classrooms to replace the older, less reliable Smart Board. So far, the promethean board has generally received positive feedback from teachers and students for bringing energetic engagements into the classroom and its effectiveness. However, some students raised concerns about the untidiness with the wires on the floor along with the Zoom room setups. To address this concern, Mr. Butler said: “Over the March break, I will be installing new cables for the Promethean boards using new hardware to send and receive the information to and from the faculty laptop. No more plugging into the front with cables on the floor.”
As for Instructure’s Canvas, the new academic system the school implemented is to replace the previous use of Google Classroom and Google Sites. Mr. Curran noted that, “From where I am, I believe Canvas has been perceived as a success by both students and faculty.” Some praised the platform for its ease of access to class materials while others complained about the website for being somewhat inconvenient. Mr. Curran also noted that “As with all technology shifts, change can be hard: learning a new system and fitting it to your individual approaches and needs is not easy. Yet, I believe Canvas, in particular, solves the Google Classroom and Google Sites issues we had the past two years.” When also asked about the longevity of Canvas, Mr. Curran noted that “Canvas is a long-term solution to our Learning Management needs. In our opinion, Canvas offers the best learning management product on the market. It’s ease of use, malleability, and quality of service make it a good fit for our school. As teachers and students grow more comfortable and knowledgeable about its features, Canvas will even better serve our school’s approach to teaching and learning.” With benefits for teachers who will be able to transfer classroom materials over by just using the Canvas platform, Canvas has a direct benefit for the long run. Also, students can now be sure that access to assignments and files will be available all on the same site ensuring clear communication of work.
Along with these changes in technology, we wondered if the school had any future ideas for technology implementation. Mr. Butler revealed a plan to install a new wireless network in the school with modern equipment and more bandwidth to satisfy the future and current needs of the school. He stated that the larger academic buildings would be the first to receive this new installation. The school currently uses Comcast Business (Otherwise known as Xfinity for residential customers) for its broadband services.
As our society gradually becomes more reliant on the use of technology, our campus has evolved with this social trend. Just twenty years ago, every student had to use physical notebooks to write down daily homework and use the library and physical books to research. While having those technologies around us is a privilege for our generation, it’s also our responsibility to use those technologies in a beneficial way to aid our study. The school has made a deep investment in giving students the resources they need for effective use of technology for learning. The benefits from these solutions will surely be multiple. The Panel thanks the IT department for its incredible work in ensuring the smooth rollout of these new technologies.