Stories From Main Street: Montvale School Ditches Books, Chalkboards For Laptops
MONTVALE, NJ (WCBS 880) – Times are changing. Technology is everywhere at the Pascack Valley Regional High School District in northern New Jersey. Forget about the chalk and blackboard.
WCBS 880’s Sean Adams in North Jersey
In this district, teachers don’t say “Open your textbook.” They say, “Open your laptop.”
“Basically, in every class, we’re using laptops to take notes on Microsoft Word. It’s more organized,” says Andrea, a sophomore.
Seven years ago, while Andrea was still in elementary school, Pascack Valley became the first high school district in New Jersey to give every student a laptop.
“Before, without the computers, I’d have to carry around a lot more textbooks and stuff. My backpack weighed 50 pounds. Now, it’s like five pounds of notebooks and stuff,” says Andrea.
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“I’d say the vast majority of our subject areas have broken away from textbooks,” says Erik Gunderson, director of curriculum. “We have our teachers collaborating with one another in the various school buildings that we have. And so they’ll either Skype or video conference.”
The students, too, are making internet connections with their laptops.
“Students in a molecular genetics course, they’re conducting authentic research in the classroom and they’re communicating their findings with graduate assistants and professors at the Rutgers Waksman Institute [of Microbiology],” says Gunderson.
Another sophomore, Annie, says, “In math, currently, we’re working on sketch pad, which is … a program where you can design different shapes and things like that and learn about medians and centroids.”
“If you were to walk around our classes, you’d see students using Google Docs to share documents, to peer edit their papers. You’d walk into a science classroom and they may be using a Wiki space so that they can their data that they’re getting from an experiment,” says Gunderson.
Laptops link to sensors and collect data in science experiments.
He adds that students also videoconference with others around the world.
“Now we’ve had students that have been collaborating on projects with students in Taiwan, China, and we have an Italian class that holds class very early in the morning every Friday morning with a school in Italy,” says Gunderson
Matthew Kutolowski teaches Chinese. In his class, the flash cards are digital.
“They never lose the cards. They never get beat up. The dog never chews them. They don’t forget to brind them to class. They always have them,” says Kutolowski. “And these are talking flash cards.”
Students also learn digital photography, video editing, and web design.
“We’re using our laptops to film workout videos of us using the machines and we’re importing them into iMovie and editing them to show our class,” says Andrea.
Recently, the National School Boards Association even visited for a tech tutorial.
The Pascack Valley Regional High School District operates both Pascack Hills High School in Montvale and Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale.