Doral-based school also named to SMART Technologies’ 2021-22 cohort of Exemplary Schools, a global network of educators advancing learning through professional development, collaboration with peers, technology.
Doral, Florida – October 28, 2021 – When Divine Savior Academy teacher Gabriela Vargas heard that students in Sweden were curious about what American kids ate during breakfast, she jumped at the learning opportunity.
Under the guidance of the school’s Director of Technology Phil Kurbis, the staff set up a live learning event on September 21 that included students from both Divine Savior and Thoren Framtid, a school in Växjö, Sweden. The students discussed everything from breakfast traditions to what it was like being teenagers in their respective countries. They used strategies such as small group discussions and multimedia presentations to explore the cultural connections they found between the two schools and their cultures. Some students even kept the overseas friendships going by partnering on Playstation and Flipgrid.
As the director of the World Languages program at the Academy, Vargas is confident that the impact of this relationship reaches far beyond a simple lesson plan.
“This connection helps our students become more aware of the fact that they are just citizens of the world,” she said. “That always creates more empathy for others because you realize that there are people in the world that are different from you, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
It’s because of this type of innovation at Divine Savior, in addition to its commitment to leveraging technology to build meaningful connections to advance student wellbeing and academic learning, that the global edtech company, SMART Technologies decided to induct the school into its international 2021-22 cohort of SMART Exemplary Schools, as announced today.
“Our promise as a company is to help enable and to celebrate Connections that Matter, and we have seen the most incredible stories of creativity and determination of educators over the last 18 months. This gives us the opportunity to recognize the hero educators and schools and showcase their commitment to their students, their communities and their profession,” said CEO Nicholas Svensson.
Schools selected to the Exemplary Schools program participate in unique professional development and peer learning communities and receive early access to SMART products. Divine Savior Academy will also open-source lesson plans and learning activities that strengthen connections among peers, between educators and students and between families and the classroom. The lessons will be available for free through the SMART Lumio library, the free-to-use digital learning tool that allows teachers to transform their lessons with interactive activities, games, group workspaces and assessments.
“The integration of technology in the classroom setting as a means to enhance learning is only effective when it’s age-appropriate, purposeful and is given by teachers who have the know-how and knowledge to make it meaningful and engaging,” said Tim Biesterfeld, Divine Savior Academy’s Head of Schools. “We’ve been intentionally enhancing instruction through the use of SMART boards for many years, and it is a testament to our teachers and technology experts on staff that we have been recognized as a global SMART Exemplary School. This is a tremendous honor and one that highlights the fact that DSA is purposefully utilizing technology as a tool for enriching a child’s educational experience.”
As part of SMART’s suite of tools and products designed to help teachers and school leaders navigate the pandemic, SMART recently partnered with GLUU, a UK mental health education organization, to create a series of free, mental wellbeing activities that teachers can integrate into their lessons. Using the SMART Lumio platform, teachers can create interactive lessons that foster critical thinking and promote strong mental health. In addition, SMART’s Funterra for grades K-6 is an online destination filled with engaging and fun games, videos and activities designed to inspire curious minds and develop skills for life-long learning including creativity, resourcefulness, perseverance, grit and empathy.