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At Hatboro-Horsham School District, every student is dubbed as a “champion of learning.” It’s a title that the district takes seriously, wanting to ensure its students are living up to that expectation. And while it’s proud of its decorated history and academic performance, its focus lies on the future and what it’s doing to help students adequately prepare for it.

Hatboro-Horsham School District is a suburban district located just outside of Philadelphia in Horsham, Penn. It serves approximately 5,000 students through five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Historically, the district is known as a high-performing district and is considered one of the finest districts in the state. All of its schools have received blue ribbon honors from both the Pennsylvania Department Education and the US Department of Education due to the district’s strong focus on performance and standardized testing.

While it’s proud of past achievements, Hatboro-Horsham School District is focused on the future and preparing students for the modern world. Nothing demonstrates that philosophy more than one of the district’s latest achievements, having been awarded with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Classrooms for the Future grant. With the funding from that grant, the district has been enhancing student access to state-of-the-art technologies over the last several years.

Innovative integration

The $278,126 grant is just one demonstration of Hatboro-Horsham’s dedication to updating its technology. In fact, its been focused on creating a modern learning environment since 1996, when the school board allocated funds in support of a three-year technology plan to acquire, implement, and infuse technology throughout the district.

The initial goal was to install the infrastructure to support data, voice, and video communications, but soon the district’s technological ambitions grew. In 2001, Hatboro-Horsham was selected as one of the six finalists for a digital school district competition. Since then, the district has become a leader in incorporating technology into its curriculum.

It found a number of ways to innovatively integrate technologies into the classroom and was even featured on “MTV News” for its progressive paperless courses in 2007. Back then, the district embarked on conducting paperless science courses in its high school by using palm pilots.

Instead of using loose-leaf notebooks, textbooks, and three-ring binders, students were typing, researching, and even beaming their assignments to their professors via the handheld devices. Additional efforts to incorporate technology into the classroom soon followed, including creating computer-based tutorials in its math classes and developing online discussion forums for book selections in its English classes.

Tomorrow’s technologies

Today, that legacy of innovation continues for Hatboro-Horsham School District thanks to the ongoing support and generosity of its community. It was recently awarded 13 grants totaling $100,395 from the Hatboro-Horsham Education Foundation (HHEF) as well as a $20,000 grant for the Jarrett Nature Center, the district’s unique outdoor classroom.

Traditionally, HHEF’s grants have been used to fund math, science, media literacy, and environmental programs. But according to Laurie Rosard, HHEF’s executive director, the foundation plans to encourage more leadership and civil projects in the near future. The district’s Crooked Billet Elementary school will benefit from five of the foundation’s grants, two of which the school’s principal applied for directly.

The first is a $13,300 media literacy program called Video Conferencing: a Window to Learning Around the World. The program will enable students to interact with pupils in the district as well as the world at large. The new systems will supplement the video-conferencing equipment already in use at Hatboro-Horsham, which has allowed students to conference with pupils in Canada and Portugal as well as a rock specialist from the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, according to a district newsletter on patch.com.

The second grant called iPads: Launching Collaboration and Learning, will be shared between the district’s Crooked Billet and Simmons Elementary Schools. The $7,000 grant will allow both schools to purchase five iPads each for their mobile learning centers. Additionally, all elementary schools will benefit from the Engage and Respond grant to install interactive response systems in all of its classrooms, which will provide students with “clickers” to answer questions electronically. It’s expected that the use of such automated answering devices will be an effective mode of student assessment for the district in the future.

When it comes to serving its special needs students, Hatboro-Horsham will receive a separate grant called Interactive Learning for Students with Special Needs. The grant will enable the district to purchase eight iPads along with gift cards for applications to offer cognitive support, speech therapy, and access to other tailored tools for students with learning disabilities.

Of course, technology isn’t the only tool Hatboro-Horsham is using to prepare students for their future. The district has been steadily working on expanding its dual-enrollment programs through partnerships with Mercy, Drexel and St. Joseph Universities as well as the University of Pennsylvania.

Another development in the works is the creation of internship opportunities for high school students that will provide them with real-life working experiences as well as the ability to earn college credits. This will be a key focus area for the district as it continues to expand its learning opportunities for students.

Whether it’s online or onsite, Hatboro-Horsham is proving it knows how to prepare students for the modern learning and working world. As its legacy of innovation continues, one thing remains constant at the district: it is focused not only on educating students, but also on empowering them to be intellectual leaders and the masters of their own destiny.

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