Briarcliff Manor School District Superintendent Dr. James Kaishian is known for his famous mantra to the District teachers: “Play! You have permission to fail. Learn by doing,” and has thus set the tone throughout the three schools. This mantra has opened up both teaching and learning opportunities, and this growth mindset has culminated in Briarcliff Middle School recently earning the coveted Apple Distinguished School Designation for 2021.
“We are being recognized for our continuous innovation in learning and teaching,” said Briarcliff Middle School Assistant Principal Amy Gladstone. “We use Apple applications and programs to help apply our lessons and deepen the experience for students.”
According to Briarcliff’s Instruction Technology Mentor Dr. Tracy Campanile, using these programs enables students to be more in charge of their learning.
“Students can make decisions about how they learn. One student might want to draw, another may create a video and a third might want to create a song,” she said.
The designation, which has been awarded to only 546 schools worldwide, has a duration of three years and can only be achieved after an invitation from Apple and a lengthy application process.
“In addition to having a 1:1 program using Apple devices, 75% of our teachers and leadership have to be Apple teachers, which is a certification you can get by learning about iPad or MacBook and different applications, and completing quizzes to earn six different badges,” explained Dr. Campanile.
“Teaches can become Apple Teachers on their own, but we do also offer courses to work on the certification in school,” Dr. Campanile said. “The benefit of doing the certification as a group is that teachers can get inspired by one another.”
According to Ms. Gladstone, the Apple programs and applications that teachers use are practical and useful on a daily basis.
“Students are able to personalize their devices to best support their unique learning styles – they’re able to split their screens, isolate text in busy web pages, and customize their digital experience in a number of other helpful ways,” she said.
Not only do the teachers learn new skills, but their knowledge trickles down to the students, who can then use those skills and tips on their own devices.
“After earning their certification, teachers can delve deeper into what they learned if it piques their interest, and they end up both strengthening their skills and finding meaningful and creative ways to integrate the technology into their curriculum,” Dr. Campanile said.
One of the programs that teachers learn during the certification program is GarageBand, which is a creative program that enables students to create music or podcasts and collaborate with others.
“We are starting to see a lot more creativity around the school. There are no boundaries – students can try anything and see where it takes them. We see this across grades and in multiple content areas,” Ms. Gladstone said.
Another creative program that teachers learn for the certification is Keynote. This program can be used to create presentations and slideshows.
“You can take a song that you created in GarageBand, put it in Keynote, add a picture that you drew and have it be animated,” Dr. Campanile said.
Many such examples have been listed on a PDF file, which was created as part of the application process.
“Once we were nominated, we formed a committee that was tasked with creating a two-page document demonstrating how students were using Apple products and programs in an innovative way,” Ms. Gladstone said. “The document became a snapshot of how teaching and learning are practiced at the school.”
The school received its designation in September of this year, but the teachers are not resting on their laurels.
“We are continuing to use the programs in innovative ways,” Ms. Gladstone said. “One of the programs teaches how to create QR codes, and recently a seventh grader who is running for student government created a QR code that links to a video she made for her campaign. This is a great example of how these Apple programs are being used – not only in class but supporting extracurricular activities as well. Students are using these tools in many creative ways.”
Another benefit of the designation is that it enables faculty members to connect with other educators from across the world.
“We can connect with educators from other schools that share this designation and exchange ideas,” Ms. Gladstone said. “We have met virtually with folks from Scotland, Australia and Brazil, as well as from throughout the United States. This has really broadened our professional development.”
Both Dr. Campanile and Ms. Gladstone have expressed immense pride in the school’s achievement.
“We are proud to have received this distinction but even more proud of how we are using technology in meaningful and creative ways and providing students with the tools to do the same, both inside and outside of school,” Dr. Campanile said. “We are preparing our students for the future. Collaboration, creative thinking and problem-solving skills are very important in today’s world.”
Ms. Gladstone shares Ms. Campanile’s vision.
“We seek to mold our students into global citizens who love to learn and love to express themselves in unique ways,” she said. “This work is not something that only began since we were nominated last winter –we have been committed to these values for many years and we will continue to be for years to come.”