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Arbutus Lansdowne

Catonsville and Arbutus area schools share 'Lighthouse' designation

Edmondson Heights Elementary School and Lansdowne Elementary School may be 10 miles apart, but the two share a unique distinction.

The two schools in the southwest area are among 10 county elementary schools selected to pilot an upcoming integration of technology into the Baltimore County Public School system.

They are part of the school system's "lighthouse" program, which involves curriculum development, technology upgrades, professional development and ongoing changes to policies and procedures to prepare students and educators for a technology-driven environment.

Students and teachers will be assigned an HP Elitebook Revolve 810 G2 tablet computer, which was selected because it is scratch and spill resistant, the BCPS website says.

The "lighthouse" schools will lead the way for the S.T.A.T (Students & Teachers Assessing Tomorrow) initiative, according to BCPS information.

The schools were selected through a process that began when county principals were asked whether they'd like to be involved in the pilot, according to a Baltimore County Public Schools press release.

After principals expressed interest, school staff members were surveyed about their level of commitment, and schools that were most committed to the program were chosen through an application process, the release said.

"Times have changed and learners have changed," said David Proudfoot, principal of Edmondson Heights Elementary. "The learners that our parents are, are not the same learners that our students are now...We have to adapt to our students' needs."

Educators at the school are already getting ready for the changes.They have explained "why" they're going to be using technology to teach the students, and the next step is "how" the new curriculum will be implemented, Proudfoot said.

Proudfoot, in his first year as principal of the school on Langford Road, said a group of teacher leaders have been trained and will provide demonstration lessons for the other teachers.

"We really want the teacher leaders to give the presentations," Proudfoot said, explaining that those presentations will be hands-on demonstrations.

Rachel Kovel, 23, a second grade English teacher at the school, is one of those leaders., called a S.T.A.T development teacher.

Kovel said that during the "lighthouse" meeting April 29, plans for the new initiative were discussed and now teachers are learning about a new grade book system and online resources.

"It's all about getting excited for the new things we're going to be able to do," Kovel said. "I think that's part of where we are now — getting everyone on board. The next step is getting it implemented and getting it to work for us."

Kovel, a Glen Burnie resident, said it's her first year teaching, which makes it easier to learn new teaching methods.

"When I come into this, I'm willing to learn new strategies," Kovel said. "What do I have to lose? I'm new to this."

Kovel said the change will come with its "obstacles and challenges" and she expects some teachers to be hesitant to embrace the change.

Proudfoot said the initiative offers all students in the county the opportunity for equal access to technology in their learning environment.

"It really does provide a level of equitable access to all students," Proudfoot said.

Educators at Lansdowne Elementary are preparing for similar changes.

"I think this is where we need to be, growing up in a digital age," said Stephen Price, principal of Lansdowne Elementary. "I think the students are going to latch on quickly."

Amy Cirjak, a special education teacher at the school who lives in Baltimore City, will be a professional development teacher next year. She's been attending professional development meetings and communicating the information to other teachers at the school, she said.

"It'd definitely going to be a transition and there will be a learning curve. But I think we're going to find some simpler ways to get things done and make our instruction more organized," Cirjak said.

Cirjak, who has taught at the school for five years, said having lesson plans accessible on one network, for example, will make teaching more streamlined.

"There is anxiety because it is a shift. But they're excited to work together to provide this technology integration and enhancing the instruction for our students," Cirjak said.

"Our kids are excited. They've seen some of the devices in the building and they're very excited to see them and use them next year, " Cirjak said.

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