New academies open 

State-of-the-art technology academies expose
elementary students to cutting-edge technology.

September 12, 2008

Chicago Public Schools students will have the opportunity this fall to take advantage of the district's first elementary Technology Academies. The five schools—Dumas, Dunne, Dvorak, Nicholson, and Spencer—will utilize the technology program to engage students' strengths, interests and learning styles, and to develop their advanced technology skills.


"Participation in this program will allow us to transform traditional methods of teaching and learning, and integrate student interest and knowledge into our educational process," said Chandra Byrd-Wright, principal of Dunne Technology Academy. "Realizing that the 'internet generation' sits before us propels us to create a learning environment for students in which they learn to read, write and think multimodally in every subject area. Our ultimate goal in this endeavor is to facilitate learning experiences that will motivate our students to learn, raise student achievement, generate interest in school, build confidence and shape career choices."


Each Technology Academy will join with nearby elementary and high schools to form a Neighborhood Technology Learning Cluster—a group of schools within the same or adjacent communities with diverse academic offerings that collaborate to advance student learning. This partnership will build school and community capacity to expand student opportunities to learn through cutting-edge technology.


The Academies will have state-of-the art computer resources for 20 classrooms, additional school hardware and software, new technology-focused staff positions, and support for professional development and collaboration. A variety of innovative teaching techniques will be used as part of the program, including virtual environments, video production, peer-to-peer tutoring, and 8th grade algebra. Within the next four years, extended and summer learning opportunities will be implemented at each school that involve students working with technology and digital media. Examples include programs in which students work collaboratively with other students, both within and outside of their school, on video game design, website design, programming, videography, and digital animation.


According to Shawn Jackson, principal of Spencer Technology Academy, exposing students to these novel elements is a key to the success of the program.


"Technological advancements such as video games and MP3 players compete with our teachers daily for the attention of our youth. Incorporating technology into the curriculum gives teachers the tools needed to effectively tap into our students' interests," Jackson said.  "As a result, students will be more engaged in their own learning and expand their own expectations in regard to what they can achieve academically. Technology will also allow students to gain valuable experiences that reach far beyond the four walls of the traditional classroom. Students who normally may never see outside of their own neighborhood will have the chance to virtually explore places all over the world."


The five Technology Academies will also house Parent Resource Centers that will host educational programs for parents and other residents in the cluster's neighborhood, and disseminate information on community resources and services.  The Academies will partner with local non-profit organizations to provide out-of-school programming for students and programming for parents focused on technology and digital media. 


As a result, Jackson states, the program will not only have a positive effect on his school's students, but the surrounding community as well.


Byrd-Wright agreed, stating that her school will use the new Parent Resource Center to generate energy and interest in learning for all stakeholders. Workshops offered at Dunne will include a broad range of topics addressing some of the basic needs within the Roseland community, including public health education related to AIDS/HIV awareness, health and nutrition programs, GED programs, job skills readiness, computer training, and various workshops to support student achievement and enhance learning at home.


The five new Technology Academies were selected following an extensive application process, site visits by the Office of Academic Enhancement staff, approval by the respective Area Instructional Officers, and final approval from the Board of Education in April 2008. The schools are open to students who reside in their neighborhood attendance boundaries, and students citywide were given the opportunity to apply for available spaces through a special application process offered by the Office of Academic Enhancement last May.


Parents and students interested in the Technology Academies or technology partner schools for the 2009-2010 school year may submit Options for Knowledge applications this fall, between October 1 and December 19. Students are randomly selected for available spaces through a computerized lottery.


For more information, contact the Office of Academic Enhancement at (773) 553-2060.