Innovative thinking from the school’s Information Technology (IT) staff, along with a recent push from a philanthropic parent, continue to move BFS forward in bold, new directions.
Over the past several years, technological experimentation and innovation have become the norm in many schools across the country. The changes are evident at BFS, too, where tech continues to be a daily part of school life for students, faculty, staff, and families. Most notably, Brooklyn Friends has a 1:1 computing program in which all middle and upper school students receive a school-issued Chromebook. Lower school students are part of the tech revolution too, with more than 160 iPads on six carts making their way around every kindergarten through 4th grade class.
The iPads and Chromebooks are only one piece of the ubiquitous technology throughout the school. “Our biggest initiative was getting everything cloud-based,” said BFS’ Director of Technology Greg George, a faculty member since 1989. “We’ve achieved it. This means students and faculty can access their work anywhere, anytime, including offsite.” Under Greg’s direction the school also has in place a disaster recovery plan for minimizing disruptions to the networks, quickly restoring the normalcy of operations, and ensuring continuity in learning and all-school operations.
With a cloud-based system and Google unlimited storage capacity, BFS has become paperless – a happy circumstance for our green initiatives that has also resulted in substantial savings in postage costs. “Every academic program and every department in the school is cloud-based,” said Greg, “starting with enrollment and ending with graduation.” The application process, enrollment contracts, report cards, transcripts, afterschool/summer program registration, and other IT functions are administered through the Senior Systems/My BackPack system. Another cloud-based product, Magnus Health, contains all students’ medical data so that teachers can retrieve data easily from anywhere at school and offsite, such as athletic events and field trips. Tuition and homework assignments are managed through the cloud-based TADS and Haiku systems, respectively.
As though hearing the school’s technological call to action, Lower School parent Nichol Alexander made a generous $25,000 gift to BFS through his family foundation this academic year to support curricular innovation through technology. With the iPad roll-out in the lower school and the middle and upper school students’ fierce attachments to their Chromebooks, it couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time.
With input from Greg and his staff, which includes Academic Technology Chair Liz Harnage and the technology Integrators, one of the first things the school did was to purchase two cutting edge MakerBot 3-D printers. Liz was a key decision maker in the discussions on how best to use Nichol’s gift to the school. “Nichol expressed a keen interest in developing the exposure our students get to innovative, hands-on technologies and the programming that governs them,” she said. “We decided to focus on various STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) pursuits.”
Liz stressed that aside from the two 3-D printers and related hardware accessories and design software, the funds were used to purchase LEGO Education WeDo software, as well as robotics kits, circuit kits and electronics kits. “Nichol’s gift helped expedite our students’ access to some of these advanced technologies for which we are truly grateful,” she said. “The future of technology at BFS is very bright.”