By Rachel Neuburger
The purpose of technology is to make life safer, easier, and more interesting for people everywhere. This has certainly been the case in New Castle, where recent technological initiatives have changed the way the town functions. New technological advancements and communication developments cover all facets of life in Chappaqua; here are just a few examples of the myriad benefits residents and students have received over the past year:
Adjusting Post-Hurricane Sandy
The ferocity of Hurricane Sandy, the infamous late-October storm, took many by surprise. Seventy percent of households in Chappaqua lost electricity, and schools were closed for almost two weeks as the town went through the lengthy process of rehabilitation. Sandy was a wake-up call for the town, as it was clear that the traditional system of communications would not suffice if a similar natural disaster were to occur in the future.
Before and during the hurricane, the town utilized a system called Nixle to cover its communication needs. The system sent advisory messages to citizens containing important safety information and reported road closings via text messages and email. What this system lacked, however, was an element of vital importance in emergencies: a telephone component. “The more information we can get to the residents,” said Town Administrator Penny Paderewski, “the better it is for everyone.”
Hence the reason, in early January of this year, a new safety system was introduced, called CodeRED. This new alert system sends not only emails and text messages, but also delivers “robo-calls,” pre-recorded messages with safety updates, to both cellular devices and home phones. These telephone messages are of particular importance during emergency situations–such as devastating hurricanes–and can be sent by the Town Administrator or Commissioner of Public Works.
In addition to the implementation of CodeRED, the town has also established a new mapping system, viewable by residents on their computers, that shows where road blockages are during major weather situations. Just like CodeRED, this system will only be in operation during significant storms.
Bringing Schools Up-To-Date
The Chappaqua school district is dedicated to applying emerging technology to the learning experience–a commitment embodied in the hard work done by the district’s Technology Department. Led by Director of Instructional Technology Darleen Nicolosi, the department looks to evolve the understanding of what it means to be a 21st-century learner, and to help students use technology creatively, productively, and responsibly.
One of the most prominent and lauded examples of the Technology Department’s work can be found in the L.I.F.E. School, an alternative-learning community at Horace Greeley High School. For the 2012-2013 school year, the L.I.F.E. School received a grant for a one-year iPad program for juniors. According to program director Jon Hirsch, the iPads serve as an enormous game-changer for students, greatly benefiting the collaborative and research-oriented environment for which the program is known. The iPads are used to make videos, presentations, and projects, and their Internet capabilities allow for the use of Twitter and messaging as learning tools. “They are very helpful for communication and organization,” said L.I.F.E. school senior Olivia Sackler.
While Chappaqua high school students reap many benefits from the Technology Department, the department’s initiatives extend to all students. Elementary school classrooms are well equipped for the modern learning experience: each contains a Windows computer cluster with one computer connected to a presentation monitor.
In addition, the music classrooms at the elementary schools are equipped with SMART boards and other SMART technology that enhances music lessons and allows students to view concerts from the convenience of the classroom. With these tools at hand, younger students can learn in an interactive fashion, exploring the wealth of learning opportunities that will be available to them in years to come, while simultaneously establishing fundamental research and study skills.
Perhaps the most unexpected and unique of this year’s technological initiatives, however, can be found at Seven Bridges Middle School: through a Chappaqua School Foundation grant –one of the most common sources of funding for technological projects–art students use Cintiq drawing tablets to design three-dimensional artwork, which is then produced in real life using a state-of-the-art 3-D printer. This printer has greatly enhanced the art and graphic design classes offered at the school.
While thus far this incredible design tool is only in use at Seven Bridges, middle school students across the district have access to many other tools, including Macbook laptop carts. These laptops have been used in every core subject as well as in language, art and music courses, and come with programs such as Garage Band, iMovie and iPhoto, which are often used in class projects.
Public opinion has been highly positive for improvements introduced this year, and the Chappaqua School Foundation is consistently supporting new initiatives with its many grants and projects. As these and copious other recent technological initiatives show, the town of New Castle and the Chappaqua Central School District are devoted to using 21st century innovation to make life easier, safer, and more enriching for all residents, whether they are raising a family or learning their ABCs.
Rachel Neuburger is a senior at Horace Greeley High School. Growing up, her favorite book was A Bad Case of Stripes.