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STEAM Academy Goes Digital

Smiles shined bright as ninth and 10th grade students in the new Mount Vernon STEAM Academy received new Dell laptops this week – on Jan. 3 and 4.

Principal Sharon M. Bradley and Joseph McGrath, Director of Technology for the Mount Vernon City School District, and their staff handed them out to the students – making sure everyone was able to log on and get up to speed. When done, every student in ninth and 10th grades – 266 in all – will have a new 2-in-1 Dell laptop/tablet, complete with charger, MV STEAM Academy logo embossed on the front and a STEAM Academy soft-sided computer case.

“I can’t tell you how exciting it is,” Bradley said. “One student told me this morning, ‘Now I don’t have to worry about doing my homework at night.’ Another student who has siblings at home said, ‘I don’t have to share a computer to get my work done.’”

Following Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton’s 20/20 Vision, AB Davis Middle School was converted into the Mount Vernon STEAM Academy, one of the District’s high schools of choice, this year. The Academy’s curriculum is infused with principles related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – specifically Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. Elements of this goal are woven throughout the lessons STEAM Academy students are taught in the classroom, and are a driving force behind the school’s project-based learning.

“We are very thankful for the support from everyone in the City of Mount Vernon to help our administrators and teachers continue to execute the 20/20 Vision in the Mount Vernon City School District,” Dr. Hamilton said. “It was a result of the passing of the bond that we were able to create the Mount Vernon STEAM Academy and today we were able to provide students with laptops that will help them meet the challenges of this outstanding STEAM curriculum and prepare this for a rapidly changing world.”

The hands-on elements of the curriculum are complemented by content consumed and created in a digital environment. Students, now equipped with their own dedicated electronic learning devices in school are provided access to digital curriculum resources outside of the school day. Students in eighth grade will continue to have access to laptop carts in each of their classrooms. The STEAM Academy held a meeting for parents to show how these devices can be used as tools to monitor and support their child’s academic success.

“Providing laptops to every student in the ninth and 10th grade is about creating ubiquitous access to digital tools,” McGrath said. “This is not about giving students technology. This is about empowering students to access learning in new ways.”

One student, Arlenis Marmolejos, was challenged to have computer access at home. “Unfortunately, I have to share a laptop with my brother,” said the 10th-grader. “So, when I need to type an essay I usually type it on my phone. I think this is now a much more efficient way…. We are fortunate to receive these, especially since we will use them every day.”

D’Vante Morris, a ninth-grade student at the school, sees many opportunities to use it for school. “These will improve our grades and help get our tasks done,” he said. For example, he would use it for looking up experiments in earth science, doing research across the Internet in English, and accessing the Schoology platform and Mount Vernon Portal both at school and at home. “It will be a big help so we don’t have an excuse that we’re not doing our homework.”