Welcome back students, the school year starts Aug. 18

Howard Drive elementary school

Howard Drive assistant principal Christina Diaz holds an iPad that will be available to students.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we all rejoiced that school was out for the summer? Well, public schools ring in a new year on Aug. 18 and Pinecrest and Howard Drive Elementary Schools are excited to see you. As part of a Miami-Dade County School Board initiative, both schools have beefed up their technology significantly this summer.

Upgrades to their wireless equipment now allow all students Wi-Fi access throughout the campus.

To go along with that Internet access, Howard Drive has over 40 Apple iPads and more than 40 laptops available for sign-out by students.

“My one-year-old knows what to do with an iPad,” said Howard Drive assistant principal Christina Diaz. “Can you imagine what our students will do?”

“Our school already has four existing computer labs and a sizeable amount of computers in classrooms, so our approach to tablets is different [than other schools,” said Marisol Diaz, principal at Pinecrest Elementary School. “Our plan is to start introducing HP tablets soon so that students can further interact and immerse themselves with the material.”

The other major technology change is watching blackboards give way to interactive multimedia smartboards.

Welcome back students, the school year starts Aug. 18

Deanna Dalby, principal at Howard Drive Elementary, shows off a smartboard that will replace blackboards in classrooms.

“With the addition of 25 smartboards, every classroom will now have one,” said Deanna Dalby, principal at Howard Drive Elementary. “This allows our already techy teachers to present interactive material and video vignettes to further engage the students. We’re very excited to take these next steps to enhancing education.”

“We’ve had smartboards in our first through fifth grade classrooms for years,” said Diaz explains. “The District allowed us to complete our school with pre-K and kindergarten this summer. The trick is to mature the teachers’ use of the technology. They tend to start by using it only to project materials. We are moving forward with an interactive initiative. The tablets will be a part of that.

“Kids today are digital natives. They are completely comfortable with sliding and touching screens for content. So, with the addition of tablets, our goal is to have small groups of teachers and students interacting with each other and content. Technology is always evolving and our school system is definitely catching up and being very forward- thinking.”

Principal Dalby believes the biggest change this year may turn out to be a custom written smartphone app for the school.

“Our PTA, parents and stakeholders all funded and asked for it,” she said. “Now we’re delivering.”

Besides allowing both parent and teacher access to various websites and portals, the app will allow the school to send push alerts and reminders to where people are more likely to see and act on them.

“We need to communicate in all forms, so our calendar, website and robo-calls will continue, but eventually we envision the mobile app will be our primary means of communication,” said Dalby. “The app should be available by the time of open house.”

If you’re still not convinced about how tech-forward our schools, are these days, consider that Howard Drive’s official teeshirt now contains a QR code on it driving traffic to its website. Maybe not that practical, but it certainly symbolizes that tech is now pervasive.

To prepare for the first day, Pinecrest Elementary parents can visit http://pinecrest.dadeschools.net and Howard Drive parents can visit http://howarddrive.dadeschools.net to see the dress code, school supply list and other timely pieces of information.

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