The recent increased discussion of technology is well-timed, as even more changes are being made to the way technology plays a role in the lives of Hawken students. After many classes have begun switching over to Canvas to submit and grade assignments, the technology staff at Hawken have found this program to fit well with the needs of the Hawken curriculum. If you prefer Canvas to the older system of the Hawknet assignment page, you will be in luck, as according to Mr. Wooley, Hawken administration is now “moving toward a consensus that Canvas is going to be the primary learning management system.” This is exciting news, and will mean a big change in the way assignments are shared to students- Hawknet will be phased out as a unified shift is made to Canvas. Students will soon need only to check one website to find and submit assignments, as well as view grades. This is guaranteed to create an integrated program that will coordinate schoolwork in a more effective and up-to-date manner.
When Hawken began its One-to-One tablet program five years ago, it was the first independent school in the area to pioneer such a program. The program ensured that each student would have a tablet upon which they could access classwork while making the school more forward-focused. According to Chief Technology Officer Mr. Wooley, “our mission is to provide all of the tools that teachers need to be the best teachers they can be.” Without a doubt, computers have become the central method of doing both classwork and homework, and in almost all departments as well. While math classes use computers almost exclusively, many students report frequent use in Humanities, Math, Science, and some foreign language classes as well.
Although most students believe that both they and their teachers use technology to the benefit of education, the fact remains that distraction from computers is a major issue. In an anonymous online survey regarding Hawken and technology, one student explains, “I think that it can be useful sometimes, like using a calculator or an interesting website, and even taking notes in a fast paced class, but it is so distracting. There are too many possible distractions.” This opinion is echoed by many other students, who feel that distraction is widespread. While there is always the possibility of an increased technology policy, the problem often comes down to self control. As Hawken has decided to take this risk of allowing (often unmonitored) computer usage in class, the role of the students is expected to be to pay attention. One student writes, “If students goof off with technology they are only hurting themselves. Removing or decreasing technology use hurts a lot more students than letting the few that decide to not pay attention continue to do so.” Teachers are currently given the responsibility to create their own computer-related rules in class, and their opinions of this issue primarily share the opinion that distractions are common. One teacher writes, “When work needs to be done the students know how to use the technology well; however many times we see students watching TV, movies, playing games, etc during their free time instead of doing work or socializing with peers.” Nearly all teachers notice a clear presence of distractions in the classroom, and some take further steps against it, whether by calling for stricter rules or banning it entirely from the classroom.
Despite any distractions, responses to technology-oriented classrooms are overwhelmingly positive. One satisfied teacher reports, “It saves paper and makes collaboration easier since students now reflexively create shared Google products when working in groups.” Mr. Wooley furthers the potential benefits of technology, saying “blended learning, or a mixture of online and face to face, can help us be more targeted to individual student needs.” The fact remains that working on a paper or solving complex equations is far easier if one has the access to a computer, and active integration of technology expands on these benefits. Hawken administration has decided that the ease and benefits of processing information has outweighed any potential problems that may arise.
Looking to the newly implemented uses of technology in Canvas and other online programs, accessing class information is more linked to the computer than ever before. Many teachers applaud the ease and organizational ability of using these programs when distributing and collecting classwork. “I find the tool a smooth and trouble-free way for me to manage the course, disseminate and collect assignments, share grades, and simplify and make transparent much of the tedium of course management,” writes a teacher proponent of Canvas. Students, however, have more mixed opinions on this topic. More students advocate for decreasing technology use than increasing it, and find the multiple online platforms difficult to organize. One discontented student finds, “I think that having to check Canvas, Hawknet and Haiku for different classes is overwhelming. Teachers should have to standardize what platform they use. It is inconvenient for the student[s].” While enjoyment of the easy access to grades and handouts is widespread, it is clear that the lack of standardization of websites is a major issue. Once again, though, any drawbacks to the system are met with satisfaction at what the sites are capable of. One student explains, “I think it is incredibly beneficial to learning to have resources like Canvas and Haiku where students can receive updates [about classwork and grades] in real time.”
And these aspects of technology usage will only serve to benefit students more in later years. A majority of students strongly feel that the benefits of integrating technology into the classroom will help them in later years. Indeed, these are the hopes of Hawken staff, who feel that integration of technology will lead to positive outcomes in the real world, outside of the classroom. Mr. Wooley elaborates, “There are very few fields that are not supported by technology in some important way. We rely on it in big, important ways.” In today’s world, we will never be able to completely distance ourselves from technology, and the way that we learn how to use it in the classroom today will most definitely lead to an impact in our lives once we move on from Hawken.