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Vol. LXV, No. 45
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
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IT Coordinator at Academy of the Sacred Heart Emphasizes Human Element’s Role in Technology

Ellen Gilbert

“I kind of grew up around it,” said Michael Taggart, Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart’s (PA) new Instructional Technology Coordinator recently. “My father worked for Flight Safety International, so I knew about flight simulators and there were six or seven computers in our house at any one time. Since some of them didn’t work, it was up to me to figure out how to make them work. I learned a lot on my own.”

Mr. Taggart is putting his knowledge and passion to good effect now as he oversees and implements PA’s new technology initiatives, working with students and teachers on integrating the new technology with classroom instruction. Students in the 7th and 8th grades are participating in a 1-to-1 iPad pilot program aimed at giving them the opportunity to explore different methods of learning and alternative sources of information. The Lower School has two iPads per classroom, and each faculty members has their own iPad.

Mr. Taggart also teaches computer literacy and runs two after-school clubs, Robotics and Martial Arts. He sees no disparity between the martial arts, a practice that grew out of codified fighting traditions, and the cerebral nature of computer science. Both are ways of “improving the human condition,” he said, and learning how to use a physical practice is no different than learning a virtual art. “It’s the only way to achieve good ends,” he observed. The philosophy of the martial self, including “mastery of mind and body in order to live well and improve the lives of others,” is equally true, he said, of teaching technological skills. He cites PA’s culture of “wise freedom” and responsibility as the best atmosphere in which to teach. “Boys learn well by playing,” he said. “It’s important to give them a little latitude, but you want to make sure they’re protected.”“Michael is a creative and tireless solution seeker, and wonderful role model for our young gentleman commented Headmaster Olen Kalkus. “We are very pleased to have him bring his experience and skills to bear on Princeton Academy’s growing use of mobile learning platforms and the ‘cloud’ in our instructional technology program.”

Some pretty sophisticated concepts go along with learning computer skills. Mr. Taggert warns fourth graders about privacy issues and the dangers of social networks and clouds that store information. He also encourages them to use critical thinking skills when they do a Google search; it’s important for them to know that not everything that gets online is worthwhile.

In response to recent criticism suggesting that using technology to learn fails to promote deeper understanding in youngsters, Mr. Taggart emphasized that “the pedagogical part is still incumbent on the teacher. Technology is a tool; what determines its success or failure is its implementation. The human element can’t be removed from education.”

“I sort of feel that the same might have been said about typewriters,” he added. “People complained that they got in the way of the hand and paper, but these are vessels for guided exploration.” 

Mr. Taggart said that he is happy working in an all-boys’ school. He went to an all boys high school, and believes in the idea of single sex education. “I’ve had a lot of good father figures in my life,” he said. “We like to create good young men.”

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