Skip to main content

Teaching technology is the focus at Unionville-Chadds Ford

04/16/2014 04:20PM, Published by ACL, Categories: In Print, Schools



By John Chambless

Staff Writer

The textbook recommended for AP United States history classes at Unionville High School opens up new doorways for interactivity, and it dovetails with the new ways of teaching that are coming to the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. 

At a meeting of the education technology committee held on April 7 at the district conference room, school board members got a quick tour through the ways that “By the People: A History of the United States,” by James Fraser, will go well beyond the printed page.

Social studies teacher Fran Mulhern explained how the 2015 textbook will come in a hardback print edition, as well as an online component and e-book. 

“They've revamped the focus of the course, which is going to be not on content and a tremendous amount of facts, but in using thinking skills," Mulhern said. "We're going to be getting students to think about what they're doing, and how they're interpreting.”

The text reflects a new approach to teaching American history. “It's more thematically based," Mulhern said. "They're going to focus on social identity, work exchange and technology, politics and power, America and the world, environment and geography, and ideas, beliefs and cultures. The course is no longer going to be, 'Remember this fact about John Smith.' It's going to be the kind of test where kids can use their thinking skills and the bigger picture to put together the answers. A lot of the questions will be reading passages, comparing authors and their biases, and a lot more historical interpretation.”

The traditional drawback of rote memorization of names and dates is that American history is so sprawling “that it's extremely difficult for the kids,” Mulhern said, “although they do very well.”

A better way to reach them, and to get them to interpret broad themes of American history, is reflected in the style of “By the People.” 

“It is far better organized than what I'm using now,” Mulhern said. “It has content objectives that relate to the Common Core, right in the front of each chapter. It has practice tests at the end of each chapter. It has the analytical questions at the end of each chapter. Everything is right there.

"But what I really like is the website,” Mulhern said, showing the school board members My History Lab, a website run by the book's publisher, Pearson, that posts the whole textbook and a huge range of videos, audios, images and maps, online quizzes that offer instant grading, and links to primary source documents, all in one place. 

As she played interview clips and scrolled through the other features of the site, Mulhern said, “This can save an awful lot of money on paper” because all the materials can be accessed online instead of being printed out and handed to students.

While students will still have to memorize key facts, "the focus just won't be on covering absolutely every subject," Mulhern said. "My Civil War unit is three days. My World War II unit is three days. The way I've structured the course is to get all the content in by two weeks before the AP test."

The online component of the history text will also fit into the Learning Management System (LMS) being tested in a pilot program of 20 teachers in the upcoming school year. The district's technology integration committee has narrowed its choice of vendors to two firms, according to Ken Batchelor, the assistant to the superintendent. Teachers have been testing the two systems and will meet again with both vendors on April 24.

Essentially, the LMS will be accessed by students and teachers using their own devices – smart phones, iPads, laptops or Chromebooks – and will supplement classroom learning with instantly available videos and supplementary materials. Each teacher will also build and maintain a website that will hold whatever materials he or she feels necessary.

For students without such devices, the school will supply carts full of Chromebooks, a Google product that activates a web browser and can access online content. By using the BYOD (bring your own device) plan, the district will save money it might have spent purchasing devices for each student.

“The LMS is not tied to a particular device or platform,” Batchelor said. “That's because the world the kids will see when they leave here is a world of multiple devices. The more we learn, the more we realize that certain devices are better for certain things. ... Maybe the iPad apps are better for elementary students, and the Chromebooks are better for middle and high school.”

John Nolen, the director of curriculum and instruction, said, “We're being very careful about this. We do have a lot to learn. ... But we see this as the teacher having this incredible tool to use to improve learning, when it's appropriate. The students will not be tied to technology for the entire class period.”

School district superintendent John Sanville added, “We have a really rich curriculum that is well-written across all of our courses. We're not getting away from having that rich curriculum. This is about accessing that curriculum in a deeper way with technology.”

The new history text, e-book and website package will cost $130 per student, Nolen said.

School board member Eileen Bushelow held up the huge, heavy textbook in one hand and her tiny phone in the other by way of comparison.

Nolen laughed at the contrast, saying, “It won't be long until a student could have all their textbooks on their device, and that's a great thing.”

Nolen also addressed the fears of some parents that their children are already spending too much time on their devices. “When I visit a really strong teacher's classroom with this technology, the learning is enhanced," he said. "I see these as tools that have the potential to increase learning. I get really excited about the e-books and the 24/7 access that students can have. These tools will unleash great teaching.”


Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Chester County's free newsletter to catch every headline



unionville high school unionville-chadds ford school district textbooks


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    05/26/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Native Shrubs for Home Gardens

    05/26/2016
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Birds, insects, and a host of other fauna rely on the natural resources supplied by our native sh...


  • False Indigo - True Beauty

    05/26/2016
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    False indigo (Baptisia spp.) is a great plant for the sunny border and has a broad range of flowe...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    05/26/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • Flags for Heroes

    05/26/2016
    06:00PM

    Please support our local fundraiser Flags for Heroes which honors heroes in our community and fam...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Fitness Walks

    05/27/2016
    08:30AM — 09:30AM

    Enjoy the natural beauty of Mt. Cuba Center's gardens, forests, and meadows this spring and exper...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Children’s I-Spy Birding

    05/28/2016
    09:00AM — 10:30AM

    The last Saturday of the month from 9am-10:30am. Join local birding expert and environmental edu...


  • Herp Search

    05/28/2016
    02:00PM — 04:00PM

    With Gary Stolz, Naturalist Saturday, May 28th from 2:00PM-4:00PM Location: Bucktoe Creek Prese...


  • Brad and Dad Duo At Kreutz Creek

    05/28/2016
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Come join us for a night of wine and Music May 28th at the Kreutz Creek Wine Tasting Room in West...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    05/30/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Pajama Storytime

    06/01/2016
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Wednesdays at 6:30 PM - Join us for an evening of stories, songs, crafts, and fun to end your day...


  • Pro-Act's Family Education Program

    06/01/2016
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    When someone is addicted to drugs & alcohol, the diease affects the entire family. Each month PR...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    05/26/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Native Shrubs for Home Gardens

    05/26/2016
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Birds, insects, and a host of other fauna rely on the natural resources supplied by our native sh...


  • False Indigo - True Beauty

    05/26/2016
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    False indigo (Baptisia spp.) is a great plant for the sunny border and has a broad range of flowe...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    05/26/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • Flags for Heroes

    05/26/2016
    06:00PM

    Please support our local fundraiser Flags for Heroes which honors heroes in our community and fam...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Fitness Walks

    05/27/2016
    08:30AM — 09:30AM

    Enjoy the natural beauty of Mt. Cuba Center's gardens, forests, and meadows this spring and exper...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Children’s I-Spy Birding

    05/28/2016
    09:00AM — 10:30AM

    The last Saturday of the month from 9am-10:30am. Join local birding expert and environmental edu...


  • Herp Search

    05/28/2016
    02:00PM — 04:00PM

    With Gary Stolz, Naturalist Saturday, May 28th from 2:00PM-4:00PM Location: Bucktoe Creek Prese...


  • Brad and Dad Duo At Kreutz Creek

    05/28/2016
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Come join us for a night of wine and Music May 28th at the Kreutz Creek Wine Tasting Room in West...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Downingtown Fine Arts Festival

    05/29/2016
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    The work of 40 professional artists from all over the United States will converge upon Downingtow...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    05/29/2016
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • Twistback Center For The Arts Inaugural Spring Arts Wine and Music Festival will be held on the T...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    05/30/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Pajama Storytime

    06/01/2016
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Wednesdays at 6:30 PM - Join us for an evening of stories, songs, crafts, and fun to end your day...


  • Pro-Act's Family Education Program

    06/01/2016
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    When someone is addicted to drugs & alcohol, the diease affects the entire family. Each month PR...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    06/02/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    06/02/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Kennett/Unionville Relay for Life

    06/03/2016
    06:00PM — 08:00AM

    At Relay For Life events, communities across the globe come together to honor cancer survivors, r...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • On June 4th, 2016, The Octorara School District will be hosting the 2nd Annual Octorara Angels Ra...


  • PurpleStride Delaware 2016 - 5K Run/Walk

    06/04/2016
    08:00AM — 12:00PM

    PurpleStride Delaware is back and better than ever! This year, our 5K run and family-friendly wal...


  • Chester County Blues Barbecue

    06/04/2016
    02:00PM — 07:00PM

    The 7th Annual Chester County Blues Barbecue once again comes to Wyndsor Farm in beautiful northe...


  • Herp Search

    06/04/2016
    05:00PM — 07:00PM

    Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the interesting world of the mysterious Reptiles and Amphi...


  • June Barn Dance

    06/04/2016
    08:00PM — 10:00PM

    Experience the culture in agriculture at Coverdale Farm Preserve's Saturday barn dance! Bluegrass...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Steamin' Days at Auburn Heights

    06/05/2016
    12:30PM — 04:30PM

    Join us on the first Sundays, June through November for Steamin’ Days at Auburn Heights, when the...


  • Birthday Bash at Auburn Heights

    06/05/2016
    12:30PM — 04:30PM

    In today’s disposable culture, it is not very common for anything to celebrate its 100th birthday...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    06/05/2016
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    06/06/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Selling American Innovation

    06/07/2016
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join Tom Marshall, founder of Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve, as he shares stories from his l...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Pajama Storytime

    06/08/2016
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Wednesdays at 6:30 PM - Join us for an evening of stories, songs, crafts, and fun to end your day...


  • Pro-Act's Family Education Program

    06/08/2016
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    When someone is addicted to drugs & alcohol, the diease affects the entire family. Each month PR...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    06/09/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    06/09/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Race to Beat POTS 5K

    06/12/2016
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Kennett Square will be home to a walk and run to raise awareness for Postural Orthostatic Tachyca...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    06/12/2016
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • Join St. Anthony’s Church as we celebrate the art, culture, traditions and excitement of the Rena...


  • oin St. Anthony’s Church as we celebrate the art, culture, traditions and excitement of the Renai...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    06/13/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Pajama Storytime

    06/15/2016
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Wednesdays at 6:30 PM - Join us for an evening of stories, songs, crafts, and fun to end your day...


  • Pro-Act's Family Education Program

    06/15/2016
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    When someone is addicted to drugs & alcohol, the diease affects the entire family. Each month PR...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    06/16/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    06/16/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


Chester County High School Sports