High Tech School Of Future

Friday, September 29, 2006

Philadelphia has opened a public high school where students work on wireless laptops, teachers eschew traditional subjects for real-world topics and parents can track their child's work on the Internet. Called "The School of the Future" and created with help from software giant Microsoft, it is believed to be the first in the world to combine innovative teaching methods with the latest technology, all housed in an environmentally friendly building. The school, which cost the school district $63 million to build, is free and has no entrance exams. The idea for the school was born in September 2003, when Philadelphia public school district CEO Paul Valis met with Microsoft executives. The two parties discussed working together on formulating the high-tech school of the future so that it could be a template for other areas around the country. The school came to fruition this year.

Student still sit in classrooms, but lessons rely heavily on information found on the Internet and on interactive software. Students will be allowed to learn at their own pace. Homework is done on computer and sent to the teacher for grading and parents can access the school's network to read teacher feedback on their child's progress. Students -- who are called "learners" -- use smart cards to register attendance. classroom furniture is on wheels to allow for group work in varying configurations.

Each student has been provided a Gateway laptop computer with wireless Internet access. And every classroom has interactive Whiteboards - large, electronic writing surfaces that communicate with computers and take the place of old-fashioned blackboards. The students command their own wireless laptops for school and home use and are connected to the school's centralized high-tech network for learning and administration. Teachers, or "educators," rather than using blackboards, have interactive "smart boards" that allow teachers to zoom in and out, write or draw, and even link to the Internet.