A new ultra-high-tech public school in Pennsylvania, called the Microsoft/Philadelpia School of the Future, is using a smart card for food purchases and calorie tracking, access control, locker access, and online login.
170 Philadelphia High School Students Beginning School Year at New Microsoft/Philadelphia School of the Future
New School to Enhance Learning through Innovative Approaches, Enhanced Technology
PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 7 /PRNewswire/ – One-hundred-seventy Philadelphia high school freshmen began the 2006-07 school year today in a brand new setting: the new and innovative Microsoft/Philadelphia School of the Future.
The new school will provide advanced technology and top notch resources for students and teachers, said Secretary of Education Dr. Gerald L. Zahorchak.
“When Governor Rendell shares his vision of what a first-class public education in Pennsylvania is, this school is an example of what he’s talking about,” Zahorchak said. “This school gives students the chance to learn in an environmentally-friendly setting, using world-class technology.
“We must prepare our students to compete in the ever-expanding global economy. The students who will be educated here will have a leg up on the competition and will definitely be on track for prosperous futures.”
Since taking office, Governor Rendell has invested $1.8 billion in new initiatives to boost achievement and better prepare students for post- secondary education and work.
As part of his 2006-07 budget, Governor Rendell introduced his Classrooms for the Future program to provide $20 million for 100 high schools to provide laptop computers on every math, English, science and social studies classroom desk this school year. An additional $6 million in state and federal resources funded two days of teacher training this summer and will further provide for a technology coach for every two high schools and a teacher technology leader in each building.
Funding for the Governor’s Project 720 high school reform initiative has been increased from $4.7 million in 2005-06 to $8 million for 2006-07, allowing 30 more high schools to participate. Project 720, named for the number of days a student spends from 9th through 12th grade, transforms the way high school students approach their academics by ensuring that all students are provided a challenging, rigorous curriculum.
At the elementary and middle school levels, Governor Rendell has introduced his Science: It’s Elementary program, which provides $10 million to enable 78 school across 36 counties to revamp their science curriculum and enable students to become scientists in the classroom.
The School of the Future was created through a partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft and will continue to add grades over the next few years until 2010 when it will have a full 9th-12th grade student body. The School of the Future is a technologically-advanced, environmentally-friendly building that operates on a traditional school building budget.
Each student is provided a laptop or mobile personal computer and will have access to high-speed broadband Internet connection. Eventually, through the “Wireless Philadelphia” initiative, students will also be able to connect to the Internet and school from home.
The school also has an additional support structure in the form of a virtual teaching assistant. Through this computer software, which is the first of its kind in the world, teachers can distribute impromptu assessments during class to weigh students’ comprehension of the day’s lesson plan. This initiative allows students to work at their own pace and enables teachers to individualize follow up lessons. For example, students who do well on the assessments can be directed to resources that will further challenge them, while students who grasp concepts less quickly are provided remediation resources.
“Chalk, blackboards and textbooks are still essential components for educating students today, but there is no question that in order to adequately prepare our students for life beyond the classroom that we must incorporate a greater level of technology into our schools,” Secretary Zahorchak said. “By introducing students to these resources, the School of the Future is helping to ensure its students will be best prepared to grasp new technological trends and utilize them to their fullest advantage.”
Each student is also provided a “smart card,” which is used for an assortment of functions. Instead of standard combination lockers, students will be able to open their lockers with their “smart cards.” The cards will also be used for entrance to the school’s interactive learning center and food court and to log in to their online accounts.
The cards will also track purchases made at the food court and will track the caloric intake of the students’ daily diet. Additionally, the cards will also provide data on nutritional values.
The school is also environmentally efficient. The building has a water collection system on its roof that catches rain and filters it for non-potable usage throughout the school, such as water for the boilers. The cabinets in the school are made from the trees that were removed from the building site. Special panels in the windows and roof reduce heating and cooling costs by converting sunlight into current, which will help lower electricity costs. These panels will also be used in science labs and experiments to teach students about how energy is generated and consumed.
Additionally, the auditorium’s roof is covered with vegetation to insulate the building and deflect ultraviolet rays. The school’s ice-storage system, which makes ice when students are not in school, is used to help cool the building.
The class of 2010 will be the first School of the Future graduating class to have been educated for four years at the facility and has a diverse population:
- 54 percent female and 46 percent male;
- 98.8 percent of the students are minority;
- Roughly 85 percent of the students come from low-income families; and
- Approximately 12 percent of the students have special needs.
Aside from completing academic coursework in core subject areas, each student must also apply to college in order to graduate.