Digital Learning at Paul Duke STEM
George Mallory was part of two expeditions to Mt. Everest in 1921 and 1922. When asked by a New York Times reporter why he wanted to reach the summit, he responded, "Because it's there."
While this may be an admirable motivation for climbing a mountain, it has unfortunately become the reason many schools integrate technology into their classrooms. At Paul Duke STEM, we do not use technology because it's there; using technology for the sake of using technology is ineffective and a waste of time. Our mantra is students learn with and through technology. This means that not only do the tools students use help them learn the content more deeply, using those tools help prepare them for the college and career experiences that await them after high school.
The use of technology at Paul Duke STEM manifests in many ways and at many times. Walking into a classroom, one might see students proving mastery of content through formative assessment tools or gathering data using professional grade science software. Students could be designing and creating products using 3D printers or computer numerical control machines. When school ends, drones are flying outside and robots are roaming the halls. No matter the time of day, meaningful technology use is pervasive throughout Paul Duke STEM High School.
Fridays at Paul Duke STEM
What makes instruction at Paul Duke STEM High School unique is our implementation of blended learning. Students are not required to be on campus on Fridays; instead, lessons are delivered digitally. Using teacher course pages on eCLASS, students can learn content at their own pace and use a variety of tools to demonstrate that learning, and they can do it anywhere with an internet connection. Many students find they work better at home or at the library where they can take frequent breaks.
Of course, students are welcome to come to school on Fridays, and if they do, they will experience a day that is much more flexible. Students begin their day in 1st period to choose where they want to spend the rest of their day. There are three blocks they sign up for, each lasting about one and a half hours. During these first three blocks, students can attend tutoring hours from specific teachers or find a quiet place to work on their digital assignments.
Students choose their fourth block, or STEM Block, every six weeks. STEM blocks are non-academic courses led by teachers. These courses build community and camaraderie, serve the community or school, or simply provide students a way to explore their interests outside of traditional schooling. Some STEM Block courses include Poetry Out Loud, Raspberri Pi Projects, Intramurals, Night at the Improv, and Game Creation.
The coursework for Fridays alternates, so not every class has a lesson every Friday. Paul Duke STEM utilizes a rotating Gold/Blue schedule.