Technology at RC
Does Robert College, with its 156-year heritage, run faster than the dizzying pace of technology? This question instigated the RCQ Technology Issue. While the RCQ reviews Robert College’s technology vision and its practical educational applications, it also takes stock of the impressive achievements of our students and alumni active at the forefront of technology.
RC has always been an early adopter. Computers, the most obvious symbols of technology, have been used at Robert College since 1977. The first programming classes started in 1984 and revolved around Basic, Fortran, and Pascal languages. Faculty and staff were also given word processing and programming training with the hopes that they would write their own software and be able to evaluate educational software.
In 1985, a computer class was added to the Orta prep curriculum, and the Sait Halman Computer Center came into existence, named in memory of the son of Talat S. Halman RC 51, who had shown great promise in Computer Science (see RCQ 47, p. 51). The students were increasingly interested in using the center. They were mainly interested in the word processor, a database called College Explorer, and an SAT program. From those early years onwards, the role of technology in education at RC grew.
The technology vision statement of the school asserts that RC community members are purposefully engaged in ongoing learning, supported by the use of integrated technology to model citizenship, leadership, critical thinking, creativity, global awareness, communication and collaboration. In conjunction with the new strategic plan, this vision includes not only adapting to the new world but also shaping it. Specifically, the vision addresses the expectations of the students, faculty and staff by focusing on:
- Ensuring technology fluency: Students graduate from Robert College with a sophisticated technological competency and skills. Teachers have professional development opportunities to blend teaching with new technologies.
- Enabling new and changing technologies: Technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, big data analysis and the internet of things are and will be incorporated to enhance both teaching and learning.
- Building student communities: Student communities will contribute to the next disrupting technologies.
An example of one of the practical applications of this vision is that all the classrooms were equipped with smart screens in November 2018. Teachers can now access course material and corresponding resources on the internet instantly during class. This technology enables saving classroom content for later use and provides remote access for students to participate live in the classroom. Also in line with this vision, Tanol Türkoğlu joined Robert College as Chief Technology Officer in 2018. Türkoğlu underlines that, “Even more than selecting the right devices for the classroom, professional development for teachers is the key ingredient for successful technology projects in school.”
New ways of teaching
RC teachers are exposed to many methods to transform their teaching with technology. Department training programs, monthly TechWeek sessions covering the tips and tricks for technological tools, and Teacher Teaching Teachers (TTT) sessions, where teachers share best practices with their colleagues, constitute just a few of the practices ensuring professional development. In addition, the Technology Leadership Team, comprised of both teachers and IT staff members, work on establishing minimum use standards for all the new tools.
The hard work around incorporating technology pays off in terms of results: The joy and passion in both learning and teaching are even more amplified. While Turkish Literature teachers use storytelling tools to provide creativity and communication skills to students, math teachers give mathematical modeling lectures with 3D printed products. Science teachers even held an Augmented Reality Science exhibition with students.
Same Library space with more resources
How does The İbrahim Bodur Library fare in the whirlwind of change? The Library has extended its services, providing remote access to resources, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. New eBook and audio book collections, online newspapers, databases, popular eMagazines, and research tools and guides can all be accessed by RC students while on and off campus. Despite the various ways the RC community use online resources, people still very much value the physical space and print resources. “Technology has not changed the Library’s fundamental purpose of bringing together people, information and ideas to inspire for the future,” says head librarian Cara Keyman. “It is the center of creativity, research and collaboration at Robert College.”
Balancing quality of life
Amid the increased access to technology in and out of the classroom, can students fight off technology addiction - now a growing concern around the world? It is reassuring to know that the RC curriculum includes an introduction to digital citizenship, addressing issues like cyber bullying and device addiction, with reminders that continue throughout high school. Erkan Uğuzalp from the RC Counseling department states that internet addiction is not a serious concern among RC students. Even so, the school focuses on pre-emptive measures and raising awareness.
Students at the forefront of tech activities
In the meantime, many RC students are on a variety of interesting technology-related quests. The RC Robotics team ARC6014, participated in FIRST Robotics Competitions (FRC) in Turkey and competed at the World Championship in Houston. The Student Tech Crew (STC) are a team of on-site technological problem solvers. This team received training for the smart screens at the same time as the teachers, so that they were able to anticipate possible problems during class time and help the whole school navigate them. The RC Makers club, which currently boasts more than 50 members, is working on an underwater robot, a mine detector robot, and a system where students can make canteen payments with their ID cards. Students interested in filmmaking bring their concepts to life with the state-of-the art hardware and software available at the Serdar Bilgili Film Editing Center. University professors and filmmakers who visited the center have all stated that this technologically advanced facility is one of a kind in Turkey.
From students to teachers, from vision to execution, Robert College embraces technology as a tool to support the overall goal of learning and personal development. The dual effort from students and teachers allows Robert College to live up to its standards of excellence: RC teachers take care to understand and adapt new tools to enhance the learning experience, while students learn to use these tools innovatively and also responsibly.
Robert College has and will continue to use the most up-to-date devices and applications. However, there is one thing that teachers and administrators all agree on: while technology is a tool for learning that will change over time, the fundamentals that have been part of the curriculum for RC students since the start – critical thinking, collaboration, leadership and global citizenship – will always stay the same.