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Chappaqua Schools Assess 21st Century Technology

The Chappaqua Board of Education welcomed Harvard professor Dr. Chris Dede to Tuesday night’s public session to discuss the progress he has made with the district in integrating 21st technology into the schools’ lesson plans.

His EcoMUVE technology was brought to seventh and eighth grade science classes at Robert E. Bell and Seven Bridges middle schools last year.

“Kids like figuring things out with their friends. And they don’t care whether they’re figuring out math or they’re figuring out monsters,” said Dede, Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “Things like ecosystems can be endlessly fascinating… if you just let them be authentic activities when you’re figuring things out with your friends.”

One of his programs in EcoMUVE is the “virtual pond study,” which is part of what Dede calls the “Alice in Wonderland interface.”

“You go through the monitor window and you become a virtual person inside a digital world,” said Dede. “This is, of course, familiar with people involved with Internet gaming. Certainly a lot of kids are involved with different virtual environments on the Internet. We study what those can do with academics.”

Dede said he sympathizes with the difficulties teachers face in teaching with a blackboard in a classroom, when students are used to being in front of computers all day. At the meeting he revealed he polled three random teachers within the schools and has received mostly positive feedback.

He also said that since the program is only being used with teachers who volunteered, they are more pre-disposed to give it a better review, and that a more definitive assessment of the program is still difficult until it is used on a mandatory basis.

“What I do think we have been able to establish is that when a school invests in a technology infrastructure, this is no more expensive than a classroom approach… and the results are much higher,” said Dede.

The program was brought to the district by Darleen Nicolosi, the district’s Director of Technology.

“The emerging technologies of the 21st century have changed the way we live and work,” said Nicolosi. “Students today are immersed in a digital lifestyle that really allows for collaboration, creativity and really sharing information between users.”

Dede said he was impressed with Chappaqua, as the district was unlike others that approach him and simply want to raise test scores and are not concerned about the long term.

“I was really happy to be involved with a district that was thinking so progressively,” said Dede.

The technology will continue to be used in the schools throughout the 2011-12 school year and further assessments will be done.

The presentation can be viewed in its entirety on the district’s website.

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