The Rowland Foundation

2013 Rowland Fellow
Colin McKaig
Black River Middle & High School

Connectivity’s Implications for Learning

In schools everywhere, students carry with them enormous computing power in their phones. It has an astonishing influence over them. My project, and our challenge, begins here: study the ways today’s students are digitally connected, and more broadly, how this generation of learners is different from those who preceded them. I suspect brains are changing as a result of this technological shift. My students know nothing but a digital world. Their lives are wired with an access to information and communication not dreamed of even a short time ago. This has changed how they think in ways that we’re only beginning to understand.

I have several other questions too. Should we consider restructuring the school day? Are traditional Carnegie Units still necessary? Might we rethink the ways students meet graduation requirements? How might these mobile devices affect the ways we use our school buildings? And lastly, addiction research. I see students who seem incapable of turning off their phones. Being asked to unplug and focus on other academic tasks is difficult, perhaps impossible. The connectivity is irresistible. Studying this, and drawing implications for teaching and learning, is central to my goals as a Rowland Fellow.


It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since my fellowship award. The learning has been phenomenal and so has getting to know the many incredible people associated with the foundation.

Black River High School is a very different place now than it was just a few years ago. Students have extraordinary access to mobile technology and are using these tools to produce amazing work. In front of all students are chromebooks, lightweight laptops powered by the Google Apps For Education suite of tools. Teachers use various learning management systems to send, receive and assess student work, and these are all able to help personalize students’ educations.

Beyond the chromebooks, other initiatives are also transforming the school as well. We now have a makerspace where students can create video productions, build microcomputers, drones and robots, and participate in other student centered projects. Last year we had independent studies in mobile technology. Both the science fair and the art show integrated technology using innovative presentation programs and virtual reality applications. The high school will have a coding class this year, and the middle school has inserted a tech explorations course into the traditional cluster sequence.

I’m excited for the upcoming school year, mostly to watch the ways in which the school transforms, moving forward towards innovation, powered by the Rowland Foundation.

Skip to content