Technology OverviewWestmark School incorporates the use of technology to enhance student learning and to enable students to access curriculum and produce academic work at a level that reflects their strengths and potential.
Every student is equipped with a personal iPad for producing assignments and projects, accessing information beyond the physical walls of school, keeping track of homework and calendars, organizing notes and presentations, studying for tests, and collaborating with classmates. Students use a variety of accessibility features and software to bypass areas of language and attention challenges.
Classroom teachers at every grade level are trained and equipped with smartboards, iPads and apps, macbooks, and software to design 21st Century lessons and learning experiences. For example, a 4th grader might use an iPad app to manipulate place value blocks in math and go on a virtual field trip in social studies. A typical high school student uses the Haiku Learning Management System to turn in assignments and to participate in an online class discussion.
The technology skills taught and required at Westmark at the high school level are equivalent to what the students will encounter at the college level, from registering to classes to accessing curriculum and assessments. At all grade levels, technology offers creative and innovative options for taking learning beyond the walls of the classroom and for enabling each learner to have options for processing and showing what he or she is learning.
An integral component of Westmark School's multisensory, research-based pedagogy and whole-child approach to education for LD students is the use of technology throughout our curriculum. Across all divisions, Westmark School integrates educational and assistive technologies as additional tools for students with emerging language, executive-functioning deficits and attention challenges to leverage their strengths. Using educational technology, the school trains students to be proficient in software programs and applications that enable them to acquire information, process and synthesize concepts and demonstrate their understanding of what they have learned, ultimately enabling students to reach their maximum potential in and out of the classroom. Westmark's curriculum differentiates instruction based on student need and allows children to discover not only their personal academic style, but their strengths and areas of need as well. Students are encouraged and trained early to identify their own Assistive Technology Profile. We do this by providing individualized instruction incorporating multiple tiers of technology--the internet, iPads, assistive technology, and interactive white boards--to deliver course content in a multi-modal fashion. This approach provides a classroom atmosphere that encourages students to assess their own needs and determine which technologies best meet those needs, allowing the learning environment to evolve. Students who struggle with language-based learning differences often have a compromised sense of self and lack confidence due to prolonged experience with school failure. By providing the technological tools, we help our students achieve success. Nurturing inherent abilities helps students develop confidence to work successfully and independently. A number of Westmark faculty use the "flipped classroom" model. Teachers provide students with pre-recorded videos or interactive classroom lessons to process and learn at home using an iPad or computer. Classroom time is then dedicated to interactive review and discussion. This model is particularly well-suited for learners at Westmark because it allows for more active, hands-on content engagement in the classroom, makes homework more meaningful and fosters independent learning. As students increasingly utilize apps, access their textbooks online, and learn via "flipped classes," it is clear that mastery is reinforced and enhanced through the use of educational technology.
Westmark is a leader in its implementation of a one-to-one iPad program for students and faculty. The iPad is an extremely powerful tool that enables students to take control of their learning by practicing skills through various apps, on their own time, and allows students to develop autonomy. However, the use of the iPad in the classroom varies greatly from elementary school to secondary education. In our Lower School classrooms, many forms of computer technology are used to introduce content, reinforce concepts and supplement curriculum. In the Upper School, iPads facilitate more subjective learning, as students discover answers to their questions by using these devices to further the learning process. Nearly every classroom is equipped with a SMART Board. With frequent exposure to Microsoft Office software and various applications such as Keynote, iMovie, iBooks, and Google Sketch Up, as well as laptop computers and interactive white boards, students become proficient in creating and manipulating interactive presentations. Faculty also encourage use of Learning Ally, Dragon Dictate and other speech-to-text or text-to-speech applications, as well as fluency software such as Read Naturally, and e Library, a software that groups reading materials by reading level. Using these basic applications, students are able to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to projects that showcase their skills. Such assignments lead students to discover through collaboration and interaction with classmates, which in turn helps to build their digital literacy and social skills. Google technologies like Google Calendar, Tasks and Google Documents are used extensively to facilitate and manage communications between teacher/student, teacher/parent and teacher/teacher. These tools are particularly useful to LD students as they assist in organization, planning and communication, providing simple ways to manage short-term daily schedules, as well as plan for long-term assignments. The goal is to expose Westmark students to a variety of technology--both educational and assistive--so they discover what works for them. With a personal technology strategy in place, Westmark graduates are better prepared to transition into college and poised for success in life.