by Sloane Burns

All the new goings on at St. Gregory for the 2010-2011 School Year

Mr. Martin, headmaster at St. Gregory has decided to institute a couple changes for the upcoming school year. He has decided to put in, a 1:1 Laptop program, an advisory program and new late start days.

The new laptop program that is being incorporated is entitled W.IN.G.S which is short for (Wired for Innovation and Global Success).   Mr. Martin is really enthusiastic about this integration; it is something he has wanted to do for a long time. This enthusiasm transferred into his letter to become headmaster, he also mentioned in his interviews that he did this integration in his previous schools, so he was able to see it in action and he has some experience with it.

In the fall, Martin started talking to the technology people at St. Gregory about this plan of his.

In March, three events happened to start up this plan more immediately.  First, he received an email from a teacher in the middle school who was complaining about how slow the computers were.  Then, Mrs. Watters, the technology committee Chairperson from the Family Association brought the proposal for the 1:1 laptop integration to the February meeting stating that they wanted to institute the 1 on 1 right away.  Finally, Mr. Martin was able to find the money for this integration in a restricted fund that is only available for the Board of Trustees to use and only for significant projects that would help the school.  The administration ended up putting the money towards improving the wifi, getting the actual netbooks and for professional development.  The school has never invested that much money into a project.

For teachers, there are four different types of training that they are going participate in.  The first is to visit schools around the United States. The second is the teachers will attend conferences to get trained on how to use laptops in the classroom, one of these trainings is referred to as the “Laptop Institute”.  The third is to bring in speakers.  Finally the fourth type of training is taking advantage of late starts for teachers to talk to each other on how to incorporate laptops into their classroom.

Lucky for the students, the more training time teachers get, the more late starts the students get. Next year, late starts will be every Monday and Friday.  But sadly, that means on those days, there will be no tutorial and class will go right up to 3:30 with the idea that no class time gets taken away.

To aid in an easier transition next year with the laptops, Mr. Martin decided to start testing out this method at the very end of the school year and decided to choose the 7th and 10th graders to test it out.  That integration started up at the beginning of May.   From that feedback, Mr. Martin and the technology department will know what they will have to revise for next year.

For these laptops, the administration is “committed, ready, and willing to help the students get laptops.” They will be giving out the laptops but are also asking families to buy them, or encouraging the families to keep using the laptops they already have. These laptops “are not just for note-taking but also for research, looking at websites, foreign language immersion.  Anything that people would do in computer labs, they can now do in the classroom.”  As Martin says “students are still encouraged to use notebooks but they can use their laptops for organizing themselves so they don’t need an organizer anymore. The laptops are not supposed to be in place of anything, they are supposed to add to learning.”  A good example of using the laptops in class is Dr. Berry’s class that is writing a textbook using wiki.  They are able to collaborate and edit each other’s work all online.

The advisory program is something else Mr. Martin wants to try at our school. The idea is to eliminate homerooms entirely, and instead have advisory twice a week for twenty minutes and that would replace meeting time.  Because of this attendance will be taken in one’s first period class which means the class will be elongated a little bit from 75 to 80 minutes.  The advisories will be single sex, multigrade, and the administration will try to have the advisor be the same sex as the group. There will be about 10 to 12 kids per advisory, and like it is done in the middle school, they will try to match it by house in the upper school.  A couple different things could go on at these sessions.  For one of the sessions per week, the advisor would decide how to use the time.  There are going to be 30 to 36 different groups across campus so there could technically be 30 to 36 different things going at that time.  The teacher could decide to make it a study hall, a check-in on the students, there are numerous things that could go on. This is open to the advisor to decide what they want to do and the administration will give them a manual that is full of ideas for this time.  In the other session, there are going to be things that the teacher has to cover.   The administration is going to hand out an agenda to the teachers covering the subjects that the teachers have to cover.

The groups are going to be randomly assigned based on gender and house.  At the end of the school year, if a student really wants to switch, the administration is going to allow the students to petition into a new homeroom for the next year.

The reason for the single-sex advisories is that after there was a lot of research done by Mr. Martin, he found that this idea turned out to be quite successful.  The boys were less haughty and the girls tended to be more talkative without guys in the room. Mr. Roberts has found that single sex groups have worked quite well on the ropes course.

To incorporate the other sex, each girl group will have a corresponding brother group and each guy group will have a corresponding sister group and also each group in the high school will have a corresponding little brother or little sister group in the middle school.  Girls with girls, guys with guys.  These meetings will probably take place about once a month and some time there will be all school meetings as well.

The advisors are also meant to be the main communication between teachers and parents. If parents are having a problem, they can just go to their child’s advisor and the advisor will hook the parents up with any resources they may need.