February 8, 2019 Blog

What 21st-century students need

In his five years at Martha M. Ruggles Elementary School, Principal Stephen Parker has witnessed a transformation. He has helped spur much of this improvement by bringing technology to every classroom and to every student. “You will have a successful school if you spend most of the energy in building a high-quality education for kids,” said Stephen.  For him, a high-quality education is predicated on technology, an aspect he views as a driving force behind modernizing education.

“When I first came in, I started asking about what money had been allocated for technology improvement,” Stephen told us. He faced some opposition from the Local School Council, as Ruggles had just received new computers three years prior. “But technology grows obsolete so fast,” he noted, so he wasted no time getting to work with his technology coordinator and a team of teachers. Together they applied for a grant, the kCura Gives Technology Grant.

Ruggles was awarded the grant during the 2017-18 school year and received $250,000 spread over three years. “That money has allowed us to have a one-to-one student to device ratio from fifth to eighth grade,” said Stephen. The grant also paid for a new computer lab, iPads and interactive whiteboards.

Stephen was honored to receive this grant and is proud to see how it has allowed him and his teachers to “build curriculum through technology” and to “continue instruction outside of school.” Stephen’s students at Ruggles were equally excited to see their educational experience enhanced as a result of kCura’s award.  For them, Stephen said, it means more than using Chromebooks at their desks, “communicating with their peers through blog posts” or seeing their work “reflected on a Promethean board” in the front of the classroom. It means they will be better prepared to succeed in a world that is “really trying to promote technology.”

Stephen is encouraged to see Chicago Public Schools reaching out to other districts for tips on integrating technology while also unifying curriculum so that there are equitable practices across the city. Bringing updated technology to Ruggles has been a part of this unification for Stephen, who knows the changes that have come in the 21st century necessitate a rewiring of the student experience at all levels.

Stephen continues to go above and beyond in serving his students, bringing in partners to further increase technological literacy. “Partnerships give students opportunities and exposure to learn outside of the classroom,” he says. One such partnership Stephen pioneered at Ruggles is with Girls, Inc., a nonprofit that seeks to introduce STEM fields to young female students and provides after-school academic support and mentoring. Girls, Inc., came to Ruggles last year and worked with several students on campus.

Stephen knows that a strong STEM curriculum can provide his students with “an opportunity to look forward to the next big thing that’s coming.” From his point of view, what’s on the horizon is a future tied tightly to technology skills and usage in all aspects, from success in school to successful careers.