NORTHFIELD — The Northfield Community Middle School has received a national award for its integration of technology into education.
The nonprofit State Educational Technology Directors Association named the school the 2016 Student Voices Award winner, the first time a New Jersey school has received the honor. It was chosen from four finalists that included schools in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
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Tracy Weeks, executive director of the association, said it was impressed with many of the applications received, but Northfield stood out for putting the ideas and vision first, then working with the technology to implement its plans.
“They’ve really addressed the whole mindset of getting students to be innovative thinkers,” she said. “They’re not just getting the technology then figuring out how to use it. They developed their outcomes first, then developed the technology to meet their goals. They really live their ‘life ready’ mantra.”
School Principal Glenn Robbins said he is thrilled that the group did not think of the school as just a “tech school.”
“It is a whole vision for the school,” he said. “The staff is empowered to come up with ideas, and that rubs off on the students to develop their own ideas.”
The school has converted its hallways into an “Idea Street,” where classes can learn “outside the box.”
Students this year partnered with Jefferson University in Philadelphia to develop projects to help sick children be less afraid of hospitals. Weeks said the association was impressed with how the school uses its technology for the good of the community.
The school also received the Elsie Brumback Scholarship, which will support sending a delegation of students and staff to the association’s Education Forum during its summit in October in the Washington, D.C, area.
Robbins said his biggest challenge will be deciding who can attend.
“I can bring three students and another staff person,” he said. “I’ll probably pick eighth-graders because they’ve had the most experience with our mission, but it’s going to be difficult to choose.”
Founded in 2001, the association’s mission is to increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice.