SACO – A little more than three years ago, Thornton Academy and many other schools throughout the state tried to find the best way to integrate technology into the classroom and into their curriculum. The school decided to launch a one-to-one iPad initiative and in fall 2014, each student in grades eight through 12 was issued an Apple iPad Mini.
“We hoped they could be used for research, classroom activities and completing homework assignments,” said Amanda Doyle, a technology integration specialist at the school. “But to be honest, we weren’t sure how they would be used in all the classrooms.”
That planning, work, and integration paid off when on Nov. 29, Thornton Academy announced it had been named as an Apple Distinguished School, 2016-2018, for the innovative way it uses technology and integrates it into the classroom.
“We knew that the teachers would need a lot of support up front,” said Marsha Snyder, director of academics. “We also knew that we had to tailor it to what their individual needs were.”
Doyle, who came to the school after working as an English teacher and technology integrator in Sanford recognized almost immediately that “the school’s faculty is an interesting and diverse group of teaching professionals who take their job seriously.”
She and Ben Nasse, the school’s director of technology, worked to establish a group of teachers who would be technology leaders for the school. This group was affectionately named “The Nerd Herd” and together with Doyle and Nasse they met regularly to discuss the new technology initiative.
“I was really excited to see this leadership and enthusiasm amongst our staff – to see those teachers take a risk for their students and are committed to their own professional growth,” said Headmaster Rene Menard.
The group of teachers included faculty members from all content areas and all were charged to find the right tool, the right application to use in their classrooms.
“We are often driven in our professional development by our departmental interests and Nerd Herd is one of the few times we have something else in mind,” said Ben Grasso, a history and English teacher. “Somehow we are trying to maximize student learning and it doesn’t matter what subject you are teaching.”
This idea of collaboration and commitment to the integration of technology was what Sen. Angus King Jr. hoped for when he first proposed the idea of a one-to-one technology program through The Maine Learning Technology Initiative in 2000 as governor of Maine.
“It’s really fantastic the way you’ve realized the vision of a one-to-one program and taken it beyond hardware by integrating it into the classroom,” King said in taped remarks to the school. “That was the dream. That was the vision.”
After the presentation, and most of the dignitaries, students, and faculty had left the library, Doyle and Nasse had a chance to think about the future and what this will mean to the school in coming two years.
“We followed an aggressive schedule during the application process and on the very last day of school, last year, at about 5 p.m. we were notified that we’d been selected,” Doyle said.
Then with a pause, she smiled and added, “if you think about it, we’re about six months into our current designation. It won’t be long before we start thinking of ways to improve our application and try to continue as an Apple Distinguished School.”