2016-2017 School Year

April 2017

The month of April brought warmer weather and excitement by many students and staff that the spring season has arrived! On some of the warmer school days, groups of teachers at various grade levels took advantage of the warm weather and facilitated their planned lessons outside with the students. Some classes took iPads outside and used the technology tool as part of the lesson. The size and functionality of the iPads allow for this to occur with ease.

In dialogue with a teacher during one my school visits, she offered the personal belief that “technology in education is the great equalizer.” Horace Mann, pioneering American educator, offered the belief in 1848 that “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” Americans believed that education was the key factor to ensure all children had the opportunity to learn and experience success. This belief holds true in today’s society.

Technology is the great equalizer of people, allowing equal opportunities for communication, research, and advanced learning opportunities. It is constantly evolving to remove barriers that emerge due to a person’s social characteristics, geographic location, physical or sensory abilities. Technology is an important tool for personalized instruction for students with learning and physical disabilities, providing them with the resources to succeed at their instructional level similar to general education peers.

I asked the teacher to explain why she felt that technology in education was the great equalizer, specific to her classroom. She explained how all students in her class have access to the same instructional resources when provided with technology. They have equal opportunity to collaborate and communicate with other students when researching a given topic, to think critically when given the same scenario-based problems to solve, and to access and read the same information online using resources that address personal learning/physical needs (ex. enlarged text for visual impairment, highlighted/bold vocabulary terms for recognizing key words, speech to text options, etc.). She has students with reading disabilities who have highlighted text read aloud to them through an iPad app. Some students use the iPad voice dictation to help with written assignments. Such technological resources allow for all students to experience success in the learning process, thereby, leveling the playing field for all students. I loved this comment since one of my goals, as a Superintendent, is to help ensure that we have leveled the educational playing fields for all students regardless of their ability level, educational background, etc.

Another way in which we have addressed equalizing the learning experiences is our continued development of STEM/STEAM curriculum opportunities. On April 19, two teachers, a school administrator, and two students spent the evening at Lancaster Lebanon Intermediate Unit (IU13) showcasing various components of our innovative elementary STEAM curriculum at Neff Elementary School. The “Reinventing Learning” event brought many school district central office administrators and School Board members to IU13 to see the table displays and mini-presentations conducted by Lancaster and Lebanon County school districts. Our teachers (Mrs. Bridget Kaufhold and Mr. Taylor Good) and two elementary students offered demonstrations and presentations throughout the evening. Our students caught the eye of many individuals who stopped by the Manheim Township table display to hear our STEAM presentations. We received much positive feedback about the elementary STEAM initiative, including our plans to establish a STEAM lab in every elementary school (with the support of our MT Educational Foundation)!

Given the increased number of competitive jobs within the STEM/STEAM and technology-related fields, it is essential that we continue to build curricular opportunities for our students K-12 that prepare them for post-secondary success – within higher education and the workplace. This is another example of how we are making technology be the great equalizer in our district.

Our STEAM tabletop display at the IU13 Reinventing Learning event