Madeline Wilhelm: West Rowan High embraces technology

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015

By Madeline Wilhelm

Special to the Salisbury Post

Sometimes, things change. Change can be extremely good. Change can be extremely bad. There will be changes that happen subtly, over time. Other changes will seem to have happened overnight. No change will ever be completely reversible, because even though all evidence can be erased, the fact that it happened cannot. Amongst the recent multitude of major and minor changes in the Rowan-Salisbury School System, one stands out above the rest. The deployment of laptops to all high school students has spawned an avalanche of smaller changes.

These days, if one were to walk through the halls of West Rowan High School as a former student having graduated between the years of 1960 and 2014, the school would serve as a shining showcase of change. There would be students lounging in collaborative areas, discussing group projects while listening to music. The media center would appear to be more of a contemporary cafe than an actual library. Classrooms filled with rows of desks in single file would have been long replaced by group tables that encourage collaboration and companionable peer support. If the visit happened to be between the times of 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., the entire institution would more closely resemble a college campus than a rural public high school.

For one hour, students enjoy a free period of sorts, known as PowerU. During that time they eat their lunch, check in with teachers for tutoring, meet with clubs and collaborate with classmates on group projects. The entire hour is scheduled personally by each student using an online program which displays available events and tutoring sessions.

Times have changed at West Rowan High School, and with those changes came the call for adaptation and innovation. Today each student and teacher has a personal laptop to use for classwork, homework and research. The rising junior class, the class of 2017, will be the last class to have ever attended the school before the laptop initiative.

With added technology, the typical classroom environment has changed dramatically. Almost all information on the world wide web is available to the students. When a question arises in class that not even teachers can answer, the students simply research the question then collectively share and discuss their findings with the class.

Besides the typical handwritten essay and classic worksheet assignments, students are also assigned to create short movies and online info graphics. Reviews consist of classroom trivia contests displayed on smart boards, rather than summarized lectures and practice tests. Studying is still done by way of flashcards; however, the new flashcard is online, and shareable to an entire class by a single click. The paperless initiative has become a reality as students are submitting their work to their teachers online. School news is shared on Twitter, and clubs connect with members by way of social media platforms.

As with every change, there are some who object. However, the dissenters are rarely students. For the students of West Rowan High, this modern way of learning has become the new normal. Having more freedom in school has also left the students with a sense of self- responsibility. Because of the abundant resources made available by the laptops, assignments are expected to be executed to a higher standard, and the old excuses are often unacceptable. Horizons have been broadened, minds have been opened, and knowledge has been gained.

The students of West Rowan High are being prepared for the modern world. They are taking responsibility for their own minds, and they are becoming more deeply invested in their own educations. Creativity is prized and innovation is praised. Individuality is celebrated and originality is encouraged. At West Rowan High School, modernization has changed the school for the better, and the Falcons are flying higher than ever.

Madeline Wilhelm is a junior at West Rowan High School.