With the addition of new technology-centric courses in recent years and the opening of the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration last fall, Blair has brought technology to the forefront of learning. The Chiang Center’s dedicated technology classrooms and spaces are outfitted with tools—such as 3D printers, a laser cutter, computer labs for audio and video editing, and 2D and 3D digital design software—to drive innovation. With so many resources available, students have more opportunities than ever to explore topics in subjects like computer science, digital music and songwriting, artificial intelligence, graphic design, robotics, and film and animation, and to collaborate across disciplines, combining art, science, math and more to create products and solve problems.
“The Chiang Center represents a recognition of the importance of innovative thinking in education,” said Director of Technology Sam Adams, who also chairs Blair’s computer science department. “It represents an awareness of the critical role which design and technology play in today's world. Most importantly, it represents Blair's commitment to providing an education that is dynamic and current as our students prepare to face the challenges ahead.”
As the School continues to expand technology offerings and encourage students to embrace a “maker mentality,” Blair faculty will pursue several professional development opportunities this spring and summer to deepen their knowledge.
A ‘Tech Safari’ in Design & Fabrication
Throughout the spring, computer science and robotics teacher Mike Garrant will explore ways in which he can aid students in their creative pursuits in the maker space, from learning tricks and tips to relay to students with little or no computer-aided design (CAD) experience, to exploring new equipment that will help bring those ideas to reality.
Embarking on a “tech safari,” Mr. Garrant plans to explore advanced CAD training, visit and attend workshops at nearby maker spaces, explore partnerships with local companies, research equipment for next-level 3D projects, develop ideas for future student projects and more.
The 2017-2018 school year has been crucial in establishing a knowledgebase of the tools and resources available in the Chiang Center, Mr. Garrant said. While there may always be an element of teaching the tools and technology, many students are ready to take the next step.
“The discussions are problem- or idea-driven now,” he said. “We’re no longer just talking about the tools; more and more, students have the skills and familiarity when they arrive in the maker space. They are comfortable and ready to try something.”
By expanding his own skillset this spring, Mr. Garrant hopes to aid all student-maker endeavors, no matter the project. Ultimately, he, and his fellow arts and technology faculty members hope students will continue to bring their own ideas and projects to the Chiang Center.
“We hope to inspire students to think about how they fix or improve things in their everyday lives. If we can motivate students to bring their own interests and ideas, that will serve them well in learning a design and fabrication process that they can apply to their next project.”
edACCESS Conference Comes to Campus
For four days in summer 2018, Blair’s technology office will host counterparts from more than 20 peer schools at this year’s edACCESS Conference, an open forum during which participants drive the content and discussions around technology in education.
Mr. Adams, who is a member of the edACCESS steering committee, is excited to invite colleagues to campus to address topical issues and ideas in education and technology, as well as to showcase the many features of the Chiang Center. During the conference, attendees will participate in focus groups on timely topics and issues.
Blair faculty members will also host seminars for conference attendees: Head of School Chris Fortunato will run a focus group on the challenges of creating new technology spaces and how Blair advanced the vision for the Chiang Center. Mr. Garrant will hold workshops on robotics and Blair’s maker space. And, to round out the experience, Reuben Loewy, a scholar committed to teaching Internet studies worldwide, will deliver a keynote address on digital citizenship and how to encourage teachers and students to engage in a positive way online.
EdACCESS is a nonprofit organization committed to providing support and networking opportunities for smaller schools. For more information on edACCESS and its annual conference, visit www.edaccess.org.