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Mineola High School wins $8,000 for tech initiatives

In today’s digital age, capturing the attention of students to make learning engaging can be a challenge. However, the Mineola School District has taken an innovative approach to using technology, a method that recently won the district $8,000.

The school district recently competed in the Follett Challenge, which asked school districts across the country to submit a short video explaining how they’ve implemented a “unique, collaborative program that engages students and teaches the four Cs” of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.

Students use virtual reality
headsets in the library.

Videos were uploaded to the Follett website and the winner of the challenge was decided on by votes from the public. While Mineola received more than 6,000 votes, they didn’t make it into the top spot; they did however, make it into the top 10, winning a people’s choice award of $8,000.

“It was great, it was very exciting for us to be able to showcase to the world what we were doing,” said Mineola High School principal Dr. Whittney Smith on winning the award. “I thought the [challenge] was a great opportunity to tell our story. The video incorporated teachers, students and everything we’re all about.”

Spearheaded by the efforts of library media specialist Jeffrey Applebaum, putting the video together was a high school-wide effort, which began in November. The video highlighted the district’s innovative learning environment, which includes equipping all students with iPads loaded with educational apps that compliment classroom lessons, a Fablab where kids learn to use design programs and advanced manufacturing machinery, and redesigned classrooms which encourage collaboration.

“It’s incumbent on schools to anticipate the world kids are entering into and prepare them for that,” said Mineola School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler. “We live in a technology society. We need to teach kids about it so they can be productive with it, not frivolous.”

Students play with a Sphero, an app controlled robot ball, at the library.

At the high school, the library is a hub of technology, with the goal of allowing “maker spaces,” where students have tools to create. On any given day, visitors to the library can notice students playing with Sphere-Os, an app controlled robot, Ozobots, toy robots that empower gamers to code and create, or doodling with a 3D Printer Pen. In December, the library also received two virtual reality headsets, which can be used for both play and education.

“Libraries provide opportunities for kids to do their own interested-based learning,” Applebaum said. “It allows students to get their feet wet and sparks that next level interest.”

Applebaum said the $8,000 has to be used to buy products from Follett, which is a nationwide company that sells resources to schools, including to Mineola. He anticipates using the funds to potentially buy Lightboxes, which are multimedia packages that include audio, video, activities, weblinks, slideshows, quizzes and more.

Applebaum said the experience of competing in the Follett Challenge has encouraged him to participate in other competitions and continue implementing new technologies in the library.

“We always want to continue being innovative, that’s what got us to this point where we were able to win this challenge and I definitely see us being able to continue being on the cutting edge,” Applebaum said.

See the full video Mineola submitted to the Follett Challenge at https://follettchallenge.com/video.cfm?id=737.

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