Much has been written about the quick adoption of new technologies in the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schools throughout the city — both public and private — utilized a number of tools to make virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning more accessible. Within the past 18 months, Zoom became a household name, touchless thermometers became a standard part of entering any school building, and conference room equipment was essential in the classroom.
However, the increased implementation of technology in the high-school learning experience is by no means a new trend. For over a decade, a number of schools throughout Brooklyn and Queens have been at the forefront of technological innovation in the classroom, well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
In many institutions, students were well versed in Google Drive and other online platforms years before they transitioned to virtual learning. Similarly, many teachers and administrators were already comfortable with online assignments and grading.
Schools that adopted new technologies sooner were able to more effectively transition into virtual learning environments last year. Now as many of those schools return to fully in-person classrooms, the lessons they learned during the pandemic continue to inform their use of new tools going forward.
“Being a Google school has helped tremendously during this challenging time,” explained Edward Burns, principal of Holy Cross High School in Flushing. “It has allowed us to keep the students actively engaged in the learning process, and the technology allowed our faculty to reinvigorate the curriculum with new instructional strategies and activities. It bridged the gap when students have had to quarantine.”
The school plans on continuing to make technology a major part of the learning experience even as students return to the classroom. Principal Burns specifically mentioned the Google G-Suite of apps, Screencastify, EdPuzzle, TedEd, and Everfi as tools that Holy Cross faculty are actively using this year.
“The technological skills that our students have developed over the last two years will not only help them as they return to the classroom, but will benefit them in college, their careers, and beyond,” Burns added. “We are developing 21st century learners.”
In certain cases, the pandemic posed an opportunity for schools to increase their technological capabilities. For example, Msgr. McClancy High School in East Elmhurst used the summers of 2020 and 2021 to upgrade their internet network and install new tools in classrooms.
These investments not only helped facilitate virtual learning, but also built upon the STEM curriculum the school has been developing over the past few years.
“As education has continued to evolve, technology has assisted in pushing those limits,” said Anthony Olszewski, director of Admissions at Msgr. McClancy. “We have introduced our students to our new STEM Lab that utilizes a full interactive, digital dissection table known as an Anatomage Table.
“With that being said, our students have been on screens for the last 18-plus months,” he added. “We are focused on maintaining a balance of traditional methods with the evolving technology to continue to develop well-rounded students.”
Portable devices have also played a role in the gradual introduction of technology into school curriculums. Even before the pandemic, Martin Luther School in Maspeth and The Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills introduced bring your own device programs that allowed students to use internet-connected devices as an everyday part of their education.
“The Kew-Forest School has always had age-appropriate technology at the forefront of our classroom model in our school divisions,” explained Jade Wiederholt, director of Marketing and Communications. “All of our classrooms have been equipped with projectors and internet-enabled computers for some time.
“We have added conference room speakers and cameras to be used in each space to display shared materials and unite remote learners and teachers with on-site students and teachers,” Wiederholt added.
As was the case before the pandemic, the school plans on gradually integrating new technologies and tools into the curriculum they become available.
“Though challenging in many ways, the pandemic highlighted how flexible, adaptive, and useful a range of digital resources can be,” Wiederholt said. “So this year we continue using several digital and physical materials and resources to provide meaningful learning experiences for our students.”