Digital Classrooms: Public School 123 gets $3.9 million technology facelift

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Public School 123’s Principal Meltina Hernandez thinks her school’s recent technology grant will better prepare her students for college and university.

Harlem’s Public School 123 announced in fall they’re receiving a technological facelift in the form of a $3.9 million three-year state technology grant that will bring a wave of Apple products into their classrooms.

Previously, the Harlem middle school of 700-plus students had only two computer-synced smart boards and a handful of computers. The grant will bring in hundreds of smart boards, Apple desktop and laptop computers, as well as iPads.

“We were really a technology-starved school,” said P.S. 123 principal’s Meltina Hernandez.

Tablets are modern notepads and extinct are filing cabinets swelling with course materials. And chalkboards? Sayonara. Hello computer-synced smart boards. This is the face of technology’s renaissance in the classroom.

“This is the 21st century. We’re going to talk about making children college-ready,” added Hernandez.

The Internet has dramatically shifted the traditional definition of a classroom in a physical sense, too. Technology has made the classroom accessible from almost anywhere. Online courses, learning applications and certain social media platforms with class group threads can extend a students’ learning process outside the classroom.

“All of this technology, if you think of it as a hub — you put in students, you put in teachers, you put in administrators, you put in parents,” said Anthony Picciano, an educational expert at City University of New York.

“Now you have a mechanism that extends classroom activity beyond nine to three.”

Not everyone’s excited for P.S. 123’s technology grant, though.

“I try to not let my kids spend too much time on the iPad because it’s distracting but it depends what you’re using it for,” said parent Jason Pankey, whose daughter Madison attends P.S. 123.

Pankey, 33, is skeptical about technology’s presence in his daughter’s classroom. He limits Madison’s computer and television usage at home.

“It shouldn’t be the main focus. It shouldn’t be the only tool. It should be an addition, maybe even a bonus for the kids to use it,” Pankey added.

Picciano, the CUNY education expert, agrees to a certain extent.

“I basically think it’s a positive thing but it’s not utopia. It’s not, ‘this solves all the problems,’”Picciano explained.

On the other hand, he thinks the digital renaissance in today’s public schools is an inescapable reality, despite protests from parents.

“To say that technology and education are separate — no — they’re one in the same and they need to be in our current climate. It’s the world we live in,” he added.

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