Project-Based Learning, Digital Curriculum Underway in Albemarle Co. Schools

Aug. 8, 2014

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va.- Albemarle County heads back to school in a couple of weeks, but this week was all about the district's 'New Teacher Academy.'

One hundred new hires spent four days learning the culture of the school system and it didn't take long for the educators to pick up on what is important to the district.

Teamwork, being able to communicate and build relationships are all qualities that Albemarle Co. Public School (ACPS) recruiters look for in a new hire, but that's just the beginning, especially in today's tech-filled world.

"Our goal is to prepare every child to be able to do that kind of work,” said ACPS Assistant Billy Haun. “So we've been doing project-based learning. That has been a huge emphasis for us over the last couple of years. We are moving more into digital integration with our curriculum. We want students to be able to use technology as a tool to help learn. That's a real world skill everywhere you go.”

So, how does that type of learning work for a subject like U.S. History?

Henley Middle School teacher Monique Faruque explained, "I love my students acting out certain battles and certain events that took place. And so now with more project-based learning, you can make a mini project out of it. Have the students do a quick iMovie using their device."

Faruque taught in Fairfax County for five years before coming to ACPS this year.

"I was so impressed by the creativity, the technology that the school system was pushing forth and supporting their teachers with," said Faruque.

Her experience is right in line with what ACPS is about, from making sure students are able to "show" what they know instead of just "tell", which is that project-based learning philosophy, to understanding the importance of technology in the classroom.

"If you go to the cafe, if you go to the grocery store, you're gonna see grandma, the niece, the grand-baby; everyone's got a mobile device. It only makes sense that we have those in our classrooms also. We can't shy away from it. It's important that we support it and implement it as learning tools," Faruque said.

ACPS will phase in 3,800 laptops to various schools in the district this year with the goal of eventually issuing a computer to all students in grades 6 through 12.

The One-to-One Laptop Program, making the laptops possible, is being funded in part by a state technology grant and a $150,000 savings from having student interns program the computers versus an outside professional team.

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