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Balancing High-Tech Lessons with High-Touch Campus Life
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Balancing High-Tech Lessons with High-Touch Campus Life

Forging well-rounded individuals for the challenges of tomorrow.

In a transformative era where screens and devices dominate many areas of our lives, from the workplace to healthcare, the educational landscape is no exception. However, challenges come with the increased use of technology and the evolving world. How do we balance high-tech lessons with a high-touch campus life to create real-life connections? What does it take to keep campus life alive and vibrant? How does GAC maintain traditions from years past? Join us as we embark on the journey to explore the balance found at GAC, where high-tech lessons coexist harmoniously with high-touch campus life, forging well-rounded individuals prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

GAC's "No Cell Phone Policy" and Its Impact on Students

At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, GAC updated expectations with policies to ensure a positive peer culture. We refined our cell phone policy, limiting all students’ phone use throughout the school day. The policy means that students must keep phones stored out of view at all times, including lunch and between classes. High School Counseling has heard from dozens of students reporting that the policy leads to less stress from not checking social media constantly during the day. GAC previously had this cell phone policy up through Middle School, and the policy was expanded through High School beginning in the 2022-23 year.

“The single most interesting gain post ‘no cell phone’ has been the increase in socialization and conversation, especially in lunch and in transit,” Dr. Brad Denton, High School Academic Dean, said. “It’s gratifying to see kids talk and laugh from class to class.”

“Lunch is the biggest thing that changed. In the past, if I didn’t have many friends at lunch or if everyone else was still getting their food, I could just be on my phone at the table. A lot of kids would use it as a crutch if their friends weren’t there. Now, I have to find something else to do. I think it’s good that we’re more encouraged to talk to others. In those moments I might find a teacher or someone else that I don’t normally talk to. I’m definitely socializing more without my phone.” - Ruby Butler, 12th grade

Striking the Balance Between High-Tech Learning and High-Touch Campus Life

Balancing high-tech and high-touch approaches to learning and campus life is complex. Striking this balance ensures students access cutting-edge technology while fostering meaningful relationships for personal growth and hands-on learning experiences for academic growth.

“In 2023, the device is an integral part of their learning,” Denton said. “The hybridization of high-tech and high-touch is our students’ culture. Technology (at its best) has the ability to foster meaningful relationships, energize personal growth, and advocate for hands-on experiences.”

At GAC, we embrace a blend of modern technology and hands-on experiences to enhance learning and campus life. Some examples include:

  • Learning Beyond the Classroom: Students participate in Learning Excursions and Language Immersion Trips to explore different cultures, ecosystems, and historical sites, extending their education globally.
  • STEM Makerspace: Middle schoolers use our STEM Makerspace to design and create various projects, from woodworking to 3D printing, fostering hands-on creativity and technical skills.
  • SPARK Class: Lower school students master essential digital skills in our SPARK Class, covering topics like coding, digital citizenship, and engineering basics.
  • Nasmyth Environmental Center: This center offers students a hands-on learning experience about topics such as ecosystems, creation-care, food webs, life cycles, gardening, trout management, vermicomposting, and aquaponics.
  • GAC Synchronous Learning: Our K-12 students have the flexibility to attend classes remotely using cutting-edge technology, allowing students to experience real-time teaching and collaboration, regardless of location.
  • Apple Integration: Every student from K4 to 12th grade receives an Apple device, such as iPads with Apple pencils for younger students and Macbook Airs for older ones, enhancing their learning experience.
  • Engaging Campus Life: GAC hosts a wide variety of campus events, including family gatherings, fine arts exhibitions, and spirited athletic competitions, fostering a sense of community and school spirit.

Notable Examples of Authentic Learning Experience with the Effective Integration of Technology

Educational software and technology have made significant advancements in recent years. Engaging technology used at GAC includes English vocabulary through the Membean program, Spanish and French practice via the Vista Higher Learning (VHL) Digital Platform, Science lab Skill training via OneLabs, and math practice via the various Cengage and Macmillan Online Platforms.

“Requiring a software interface as a part of the textbook requirement is now a given, whereas when I started my teaching career in 1998, I used an overhead projector to diagram sentences and parse Daily Oral Language sentences,” Denton said.

In general, the key factors that make these programs engaging for students include:

  • Interactivity: Many of these programs offer interactive elements that keep students actively involved in the learning process, rather than passively receiving information. •  
  • Personalization: Tailoring the content to each student’s abilities and progress ensures that students remain engaged and continuously challenged.
  • Gamification: Gamified elements, such as point systems, leaderboards, and rewards, add an element of competition and fun to the learning experience.
  • Real-world Relevance: Connecting the subject matter to real-world scenarios and applications help students see the practical value of what they’re learning.
  • Immediate Feedback: Timely feedback on their performance and progress allows students to track their growth and make improvements.
  • Multimedia and Interactive Content: The use of multimedia, simulations, and interactive content can make abstract or complex concepts more accessible and engaging.

Evolving and Adapting to the Educational Technology Landscape

The pandemic proved that schools at the forefront of technology adoption will succeed in the digital age. GAC continues to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing educational technology landscape while prioritizing the core value of authentic, hands-on learning and a vibrant campus life.

“Education is a formational event, not simply the act of knowledge transfer. At GAC, it’s about helping students grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man,” Dr. Derek Wilson, Dean of Technology & Innovation said.

“The tools we use should always point towards that. We don’t want something flashy or cutting-edge at the expense of genuine teaching, learning, and connection. We will continue to innovate but in a way that serves students. New programs are results-focused not just academically but also socially, emotionally, and spiritually.”

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