The city of Philadelphia—with technical assistance from software giant Microsoft—on Thursday opened the doors to “The School of the Future,” an environmentally friendly public high school where students work on wirelessly enabled laptops, teachers glean real-world lessons from the Internet, and parents can monitor their child’s performance on the Web, Reuters reports via WashingtonPost.com.
The school is thought to be the first to merge non-traditional, real-world knowledge plans and cutting-edge technology, according to Reuters. The building features cabinets built from trees taken from its site before construction, is naturally lit where available, and contains a number of windows fitted with solar glass to help cut down on the amount of electricity it consumes, Reuters reports.
This school district doled out some $63 million for construction, according to Reuters.
The public school has no admittance fees or entrance exams, and the first freshman class of 170 people was randomly selected from a pool of 1,500 interested high-schoolers, according to Reuters.
Teens from the neighboring West Philadelphia area make up 75 percent of the student body, and all but 5 percent of attendees are black, Reuters reports. Approximately 85 percent of the pupils come from low-income homes, according to Reuters.
Sessions will still be taught in classroom settings, but teachers will often cull lesson plans from the Web, according Reuters. School of the Future attendees will also employ interactive software to aid the learning process, Reuters reports.
Outside assignments are to be completed via computers and submitted to teachers via the Web, and parents will be able to keep close tabs on children’s progress online, according to Reuters.
Shirley Grover, principal of the school, said traditional teaching methods no longer satisfy the social and intellectual needs of today’s students, Reuters reports.
“It’s not about memorizing certain algebraic equations and then regurgitating them in a test,” she said, according to Reuters. “It’s about thinking how math might be used to solve a quality-of-water problem or how it might be used to determine whether or not we are safe in Philadelphia from the avian flu.”
Mary Cullinane, group manager for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative and “technology architect” with the school, said the firm helped plan the building’s construction and provided its technology, Reuters reports.
Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, said the school will help prepare teens in low-income areas for employment in the age of technology, according to Reuters.
“If we want to continue to see the global economy expand, we need to find a way to lift 5 billion people out of their poor environment,” he said, according to Reuters.
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