During the night of the Nov. 14 Raleigh County Board of Education meeting here, Cranberry-Prosperity Elementary School was recognized for becoming an Apple Distinguished School for its innovative technology efforts it has taken part in over the past three years.
To be classified as an Apple Distinguished School, leaders, faculty and staff use their vision for technology-rich environments to support learning goals.
The only Apple Distinguished School in the Triangle area, according to Apple, is Durham Academy, a pre-K through grade 12 independent private school in Durham.
According to Apple’s official website, an Apple Distinguished School is a center of leadership and educational excellence that demonstrates Apple’s vision for learning with technology.
Apple’s Education Development Executive David Diokno said during the meeting there are only 400 Apple Distinguished Schools in the world.
“And of that 400, two of them are located in West Virginia,” Diokno said. “Cranberry-Prosperity should be very proud of themselves for working hard to achieve this goal.”
He said Apple believes every learner is a creator, and Cranberry-Prosperity’s faculty and staff have worked hard to receive their status by taking on new ways of learning.
“Learning is a priority, and they have made that known.”
Cranberry-Prosperity’s Principal Alicia Lett said she owes all the recognition to her staff.
“They’re unbelievable,” Lett said. “At Cranberry, we love to make mistakes because we learn from every single one of them. With all the technology resource we have received over the last few years, this is a sure win.”
When Raleigh County Schools transferred into their iPad initiative three years ago, Cranberry-Prosperity gained an Apple coach and a technology integration specialist. Lett said they used their new team members to teach them how to integrate technology into all of their lessons.
“The people from Apple wanted to show us how technology could be used all throughout our day,” Lett said, “not just with certain lessons.”
She said Cranberry-Prosperity uses technology during all aspects of its learning.
“We don’t use the iPads just for iPad time,” Lett said. “We’ve been taught that it can be a great tool for a variety of everyday activities and lessons.”
The school uses its new technology tools for pre-K through fifth grade. “Each tool or lesson may be a little different depending on the age range, but all the students take part in this initiative,” Lett said.
Lett said the school’s new Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) Legacy Lab has served as a way to get students introduced to technology.
While taking part in the STEAM Legacy Lab, students have lessons involving coding robots. All students take part in it, but the difficulty level is based upon the student’s age range.
Although the STEAM Legacy Lab is not part of the Apple Distinguished status, it does rely on the use of iPads, which coincides with the status.
“We use apps from the iPads to code the robots during the lab,” Lett said. “And all of the students love taking part in it.”
Raleigh County’s Technology Integration Specialist Audrey Williams has been working with Cranberry-Prosperity Elementary School for the past three years. She works at the school six days a month.
Williams is also the only Apple Distinguished educator in West Virginia.
“It’s my job to help the school by teaching them ways to bring technology in with almost everything they teach,” Williams said. “And Cranberry is so embracing when it comes to technology. We’re doing great things here.”
Williams is the creator of ItunesU courses, which is a teaching management system she created in collaboration with the school’s teachers.
“ItunesU is like a filing cabinet,” she said. “Each student gets a log-in, and all of their work is stored on it.”
Williams and the teachers have access to each student’s account so they can work with each student even if they are not nearby.
The courses are even being used in gym class.
“We’ve used the courses in P.E. class in a variety of different ways,” she said. “Today they used their iPads and robots to learn different aspects of shooting a basketball. It’s all really cool.”
Williams said Cranberry-Prosperity Elementary is the only school in Raleigh County to not only be classified as an Apple Distinguished school, but also the only school in the county to use technology to form a STEAM Legacy Lab.
She said she has seen tremendous growth in Cranberry since she joined its team a few years ago.
“They’re always so willing to take on new challenges, and be the guinea pig,” Williams said. “I’ve learned so much from them, and now I’m able to take what I’ve learned with them and take it out to other schools.”
From the moment Williams began her time at Cranberry-Prosperity, she said she knew the school would soon become Apple Distinguished.
“They think out of the box here. They’re so innovative.”
Principal Lett said it was a blessing to be honored as Apple Distinguished, but she owes all to her faculty, staff and the school’s students.
“This project has opened up so many doors for the students,” she said. “Technology brings things to life for them. It makes learning more real, and more engaging. We’re always on board when it comes to learning new things, and teaching our students new things.”
Here’s what the Apple.com website says about Durham Academy:
Durham Academy’s one-to-one technology program is designed to honor teacher-student interactions while increasing creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. One-to-one, 24/7 iPad for students grades 5–8 and MacBook Air for students grades 9–12 celebrate mobile learning. Teachers have MacBook Air and iPad, and there are also iMac labs. Each classroom is equipped with an LCD projector and a Wi-Fi access point.
Faculty author and publish iBooks Author Multi-Touch books. The faculty iTeam, the group of teachers tasked with improving the iPad program, celebrates and shares best practices via flipped learning models.
Students have used apps to develop tutorials to help teach parts of the English language — they created and published their own serialized story podcast for English. Students are able to create online portfolios in which they set goals, reflect on learning, add content to demonstrate progress, and assess how well the portfolio showcases what they’ve learned.
Teachers engage in ongoing training with twice-yearly professional development days, visits from top technology experts, and working with the iTeam. Within the first year, significant gains in reading and writing scores were recorded as a result of the one-to-one program implementation.