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The Pipeline

Transforming into a Lighthouse School

Guiliana Datnoff, Editor-in-Chief

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Days before this school year began, the computer labs in the library were shut down in anticipation of $1,366 laptops to be received by each student. The cause, as we all know, is Pikesville High School’s exciting transition to a lighthouse school, one of only three high schools chosen in the county. Bound to bring hundreds of visitors, new learning strategies, and differing opinions to our grateful school, there is more to the transition than the obviously valuable technology.

“We are pioneers. We are the ones who will figure out what this 21st century learning looks like for the rest of the county and will lead the way,” says Mrs. LaBricciosa.

Aiming to close achievement gaps, lighthouse schools are an application of STAT, Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow. The new system emphasizes differentiation and individualization through customized and interactive learning, highlighting small group work that allows students to work at the pace they are comfortable with. Students who are more accelerated can work individually, while students who need additional help can work one-on-one. At the same time, it prepares students for the real world, giving them exposure to tools used in college and the workplace.

“It allows the teacher to have a student-centered classroom where the innovation is in the hands of the students,” adds Mrs. LaBricciosa.

Over the summer, teachers attended several weeks of training to learn about the different tools and how to infuse them into their teaching. Mrs. Corasaniti plans to use VoiceThread, a program for recording, and shared online notebooks for collaboration in her world languages classes. For the visual arts, the devices can be used to document artwork and create a digital portfolio.

lighthouseschool

photo courtesy of Jamela Vidal

“Computers can never replace a brush or marker or any of the materials that we use. However, having access to the Internet is a huge part of research and brings the outside world into the classroom conveniently,” shares Mrs. Hall.

Nevertheless, there are some justifiable concerns. It is questionable to prepare students to take AP exams that are strictly pencil and paper by allowing them to use laptops in class.

“I want to teach the students according to the confines and mandates of the AP Exam,” reasons Ms. Bress, unsure of how to incorporate the new technology into her AP English 11 class.

Other teachers have worries as well. What if students’ devices run out of battery by fourth period even if they come to school fully charged? What resources are students missing out on when they use their BCPS devices versus their own computers? Students and teachers are quickly learning that Google and other important websites, such as that of this school newspaper, are blocked.

“There is a lot of information out there that students will not be able to access because of t

the filters, such as YouTube,” says Mrs. Corasaniti.

As with every change the school implements, students themselves have their share of complaints. Many students hate the restrictions on the customization of the start screen, dislike the weight of the devices they must carry, find the devices unnecessary, worry about the effects the constant use of the devices have on their eyes, and just prefer the old learning system. Simply put, students want a choice of whether or not they use their devices and work in small groups. This year will be about striking that balance.

As Mrs. LaBricciosa says, “The devices are one more tool that we have, not the only one. We still have pen and paper and that is still valuable. Choose what is best for you.”

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Transforming into a Lighthouse School