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Technology at CDS

Monday, March 3, 2014

This year, over 700 people toured the school and we had one of our largest applicant pools ever for the 2014–2015 school year. Our administrative team spends a great deal of time responding to questions about the program, the campus and the community. One of the questions that is asked at every tour is how CDS uses technology. So with help from our division heads, Margaret Piskitel, Rebecca Kroll and Josée Mayette, I put together the following post about how each division engages with technology at CDS, from preschool through middle school. 


At CDS, we use technology in very different ways in each of our three divisions. In preschool, the main focus of technology is to allow parents a window into the amazing learning that takes place each day in the classroom and on the yard. Teachers use blogs and photos to document the learning. Teachers post hundreds of photos of students engaged in daily activities and describe the skills the students are acquiring as they sort colored teddy bear manipulatives, or measure flour for Play-Doh. Teachers also use digital projectors and internet resources to share content with our students. For example, if the class is studying bees, teachers might project digital photos to show the body parts of a bee or show a quick movie of how a bee makes a honeycomb.

Lower School

By the time our students are in the lower school grades, all of them are familiar with technology. As I was leaving campus one evening, a parent of three CDS students was exiting the yard gate with her children. The children were loudly vying over who would get to use Mom’s iPhone on the ride home. We are not worried about lower school students lacking screen time. As a developmental school, CDS believes in blocks and math manipulatives and hands-on projects in the lower school. Students develop much better conceptual skills when they are given opportunities to handle, explore and discover how things work. By the third and fourth grades, students work with MacBooks, often doing internet research. In the fourth grade, students are using MacBooks for standardized testing. CDS also offers coding classes in the summer program and the after school program for lower school students.

Middle School

It is during middle school that our technology program really takes off. Not only is technology a tool that engages middle school-aged children in their learning, it also allows our teachers to access software programs that differentiate learning far more efficiently than one teacher could do. CDS uses Vistas, an online Spanish program used by several Bay Area high schools. Kirk Bell uses Khan Academy, an online tool for learning math and other subjects. Our middle school teachers use sites such as The middle school has MacBooks, iPads, Google Chromebooks, Apple TV and smart projectors. We now have one device per student. Middle school students are also very familiar with the Google-shared applications, such as Google docs and spreadsheets.

The David Minus Science Center in St. Joseph’s Hall has two 3D printers and the students use Arduino boards to build circuits. After school and summer classes have featured “maker” sessions, coding, 3D printing and Lego engineering. And CDS students have designed apps for both iPhone and Android.

Students in fifth and sixth grade science and math are also using city planning research and SimCity as well as Geometer's Sketchpad. And in fifth and sixth grade, various drawing apps are used for the students’ annual interior design (fifth) and architecture projects (sixth). For more hands-on application, eighth graders recently studied industrial standards and how consumer products are measured and tested. For example: the strength of toilet paper (how hard is it to tear? how strong does it need to be?) or testing the breakability of pasta (how is it shipped to the store without breakage?).

Middle schoolers use the internet frequently for enhancing hands-on labs. Simulated dissections online are great for animals that are impractical for class dissections—such as mammals, etc. The online student portfolios are exciting documents of our middle school students’ work.

Sites of interest, used by our teachers and students: