Many families are getting their kids back to school this morning. Students at Buffalo Public Schools will take on the 2017 school year Tuesday and they'll notice some new additions to their classrooms.
For Buffalo Public Schools, it is all about technology. Thanks to the "Smart Schools Bond Act" passed back in 2014, Buffalo Public Schools was granted about $56 million to improve technology in the schools. $21 million of that is already allocated and approved to be used.
iPads, 3D printers and virtual reality computers are just a few examples of how the district said they plan to use the money.
"We have a lot of technology for them," Sarah Edwards, the Supervisor of Instructional Technology for Buffalo Public Schools, said. "But it's technology that the teachers use in the classroom. The difference now is that it's more technology going into the students' hands so that they can own their learning."
Edwards said this school year, they are focused on improving student technology through three phases.
First, are the tools. They're rolling out iPads for every student, grades three through twelve, iPads to share for pre-k through second grade and each school will also have a 3D computer lab that takes learning into a virtual reality.
"The introduction of 3D computer labs has given students access to virtually interact with scientific material that they would normally see in 2D in a text book," Edwards said. "They can dissect, they can take a part a human heart, they can feel the heart beat through the stylus that they're using."
They will be able to do all of this through part two of the three phases which is programming. Software like "zSpace", for virtual reality, "myON", for digital e-books and "Next Lesson" for teachers to do cross-curricular projects.
These programs will allow students to not only interact with peers in their class, it allows them to experience and communicate with the world.
"See the possibilities outside of the lives here in Buffalo," Edwards explained. "See what they can grow to do."
The third area of focus is to make learning a student-centered experience, handing students the reigns, fostering independence and innovation and growing a group of technology leaders for the future.
"Curricular materials that will help them not only learn how to trouble shoot and help fix things, help their teachers fix things, but also learn those soft skills like how to deal with customer service, how to work with adults, how to collaborate together," Edwards said.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of components to these tech advancements in the classroom.
Buffalo Public Schools said it will take at least this school year to get all of the new elements rolled out.
So, don't expect your child to walk into a classroom on the first day of class and see all of these updates, but do know they are coming!
Here is an in-depth look, from Buffalo Public Schools, on their technology initiatives.