Posts in Technology

Maclellan Grant Recap

In January 2018, GRACE received a $60,000 grant from the Christian Education Charitable Trust (CECT), a branch of the Maclellan Family Foundations. Earlier this month, Mr. Bradley submitted the summative grant report to the CECT. Please take a moment to review report excerpts below and learn more about the exciting progress made possible through the vision and work of several staff members, GRACE parents, students, and the generosity of the CECT.

The CECT grant allowed GRACE to reach the overarching goals of moving Computer Science program ahead more rapidly than the budget allowed, as well as achieving the projected objectives from the initial proposal. The stated objective benchmarks and results:

Increase student participation in STEM and Computer Science related courses.

Student participation increased from forty students at the time of the proposal to ninety-nine students in the spring of 2019. We anticipate that number to increase for the 2019-20 school year.

Students will build ten computers, five to outfit the lab and five to donate.

Students built thirteen computers, surpassing the initial goal of ten. Five of these computers are being donated to local charities: the North Carolina Men’s Baptist Organization, Thrift2Gift, and the Salvation Army.

Expansion of the technology lab, including a connection to the media center.

Facility improvements included the relocation of a wall, the creation of a sliding doorway to connect the media center and technology lab, and a complete renovation of the storage and student workplaces within the lab.

Improve visibility to the community, including hosting three onsite events.

Instead of hosting three large events, the technology team and administration decided to host one large showcase event and several small events featuring outside speakers.

  • The GRACE Tech Expo featured a roundtable discussion with three local technology leaders (a lead programmer at EPIC Games, a World Wide Lab Director for Cisco, and a software developer at Role Model Software), student demonstrations of class projects, and several hands-on opportunities for visitors to utilize various technologies, such as flying student-programmed drones, driving robots, playing student-designed games, and examining the student-built computers. There were over 150 attendees to the event, not including the student participants.
  • Additionally, through the course of the year, the school hosted eleven speakers from local businesses, including a patent attorney, system analyst, project manager, web developer, and a GRACE alum who is graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Computer Science.

As you can see, the grant served as a catalyst to several aspects of our computer science program. For pictures and a detailed overview of the grant project, please visit the “GRACE is Granted” website. Looking ahead, we will refine current classes and add additional courses to the computer science program, creating a unified curriculum reaching from Transitional Kindergarten through senior year. We will also build upon the partnerships created with outside organizations and local companies to increase opportunities for our students. Lastly, the successful implementation of the grant monies enables GRACE to apply for future grants through the CECT.

In conclusion, there are many people who made the grant application and implementation possible including: Mark Bianchi, BJay Brown, Michael Bryant, Cathy Cole, Melanie Dunning, Nathan Ennis, Randy Fox, Brian Garrett, Mandy Gill, Paul Hutton, Dave Katz, Lisa McCarthy, Jonathan Mitchell, Dana Morrison, Buddha Nepal, Daniel O’Brien, and Karen O’Conner. 


The Threats of Personalized Technology: Are You Doing All You Can to Protect Your Child?

It’s no secret that students are more digitally engaged than ever before. With technology at their fingertips at home and in the classroom, today’s children are “digital natives” — having used computers, tablets, and smartphones from a very early age.

While technology provides powerful learning opportunities, parents and educators alike are becoming more aware of the threats at hand when young ones enter the online space. With personalized profiles, unique accounts, and custom online experiences, protecting a child’s safety and identity requires some extra leg work. 

That’s why we compiled this list of tips. At GRACE Christian School, we want to help parents find the balance between personalized technology and security, allowing their children to take advantage of online tools — without being taken advantage of.

Create New Accounts with Care

When downloading a new app or creating a new account, your child will likely be asked for a great deal of personal information. While some information might be required (such as name and an e-mail address), consider whether the value of customization outweighs the risks of oversharing. Some apps, especially those with a social component, may encourage a personal bio, photo, or other details. Be selective with what you share in these fields. Never share birthdays, school names, or hometowns.

Adjust Social Media Settings

While young students may not be using social media, pre-teens and teens are often heavily engaged with networking apps. Accounts should always be set to private. Sometimes, this has to be changed manually as many apps default to public profiles. Further, today’s apps often use location data — but you can disable this feature on your smartphone or tablet settings. Remind your student to use secure passwords and never, ever share them with others, even close friends.

Monitor Closely

Today’s parents have a great deal of responsibility; not only do you have to monitor your child’s physical life, you must be involved with their digital lives as well. While it may seem like a chore, it’s important to stay educated about the platforms your child is using, the people they’re connecting with, and the conversations they’re having. The risks of predators, cyberbullying, and other negative activities are very real. Never think of monitoring as an invasion of privacy; your involvement now could prevent long-term challenges. 

Foster Open Communication

Consider ways to connect with your child about their online experiences. For younger students, setting age-appropriate limits and maintaining a balanced approach to technology use may be enough. As students get older, they can understand some of the dangers such as identity theft, malware, and cyber stalkers. The most important thing, at any age, is that your kids feel comfortable coming to you if they encounter an issue online, and that they know you’re there to help.

Limit Overall Time Spent Online

It adds up quickly! Studies show that some children spend six hours a day online. This can significantly impact a child’s development physically, and new research says that excessive internet use is tied to issues like anxiety and depression. Parents themselves can model healthy relationships with technology by limiting their own use and encouraging screen-free time in the evening.

Partner With Your School

Parents are not the only ones with a great deal of responsibility in today’s ever-changing world. Schools have a to protect student data and ensure children at all grade levels are using technology safely in the classroom. Don’t hesitate to ask schools how they maintain a secure network, protect students’ identities, and monitor students as they interact with tablets and computers for learning purposes. GRACE Christian School launched it’s 1:1 laptop program in 2010 and has extensive experience in harnessing the benefits of technology in the classroom while simultaneously teaching our students how to be good digital citizens.

Free E-Book for Parents

Raising children in today’s digital-driven world is a big job. It’s important to choose a school that is equally committed to your student’s safety — in every sense of the word. If you’re looking for a private school, download our free e-book, Start Smart, for more tips on choosing wisely.


STEM Lecture Series

This lecture series will allow students to hear more about and explore STEM careers. Speakers will answer questions such as

  • What does it take to become a professional in your field?
  • What does your job look like on a daily basis?
  • What math/science/technology is used regularly by professionals in your field?

There will be an opportunity for questions at the end of each lecture, and students will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities during some of the lectures. This post will be updated as speakers and topics are confirmed.

  • September 19, 2018:Zach Stone, CFO/COO of Neuwave Systems will discuss financial valuation and statistics
  • October 24, 2018
  • December 5, 2018
  • January 16, 2019
  • March 13, 2019
  • May 1, 2019

GRACE & Technology – The Truth About Our Technology Compass

As the pace of technology change continues its rapid march forward and as information about those changes becomes less centralized, it’s a good practice from time to time to address the big picture of how GRACE envisions using technology, both now and in the future.

Our fleet of computers is on overlapping 3-year leases and so every year we have some devices that are coming off of warranty. This gives us an opportunity, every year, to evaluate the effectiveness of our past choices as we plan for the future. For many years, Apple provided an unparalleled product for the education market. However, in the last five years, other manufacturers have been closing what used to be a very large price/performance gap.

We sat down with IT Director, Dana Morrison and asked him some candid questions about the GRACE technology program, the selection of student and teacher devices and his vision for the future.

Question: Why are we using Chromebooks in some grades?

For the 2017-2018 school year, we decided to switch to Chromebooks for students in 4th-6th grades for the following reasons:

  • Apple has not upgraded the chipsets in their 11” MacBook Airs that we use and we are hearing chatter that the model might be discontinued. While Apple has neither confirmed nor denied this, the possibility was enough to prompt us to look for alternatives should this come to pass.
  • Apple products have always been and continue to be more expensive than alternative products. When the 1:1 program was started, this expense was justified by the superior product being offered. This justification is no longer true. We can be better stewards of our tuition dollars and invest in other curriculum enhancing tools with the cost savings from replacing a $1,250 device with a $330 device.
  • The most common product repairs for the MacBooks (liquid spills and screen damage) are not covered by the AppleCare warranty. For example, replacing a screen in an 11” MacBook Air averaged $700+ in out-of-pocket expenses for our families. Replacing a screen in a Chromebook costs under $50.
  • More and more of the resources we use are online or could be online.  With the knowledge that many of our resources can be cloud-driven, the specific device used to access the cloud becomes less important.

Question: Are we moving away from Macs?

As part of our 1:1 program, we have always focused on the advantages that technology can have on learning. It has never been about the brand name on the device, but how that tool can be used to maximize student engagement and content retention in each subject area. There is a benefit to our students having experience on multiple platforms. It allows them to see the similarities and differences and become nimble at learning variants of programs. Students will continue to learn how to use word processors, spreadsheets, video editors, and presentation software to be able to meet the learning objectives of their classes. The brand of those applications is less important than knowing how to effectively use each tool.

Question: Have you had to lower curriculum standards to adapt to Chromebook use?

Chromebooks have not affected what we teach in the classroom. In some cases it affects how content is taught, but the teachers have not weakened their content in an effort to adjust for a change of student devices.

Question: Why don’t we use something with a removable keyboard or something “better” than the basic model selected?

Chromebooks do come in a variety of styles. We have used the Lenovo 11e Chromebook for the 3rd grade keyboarding instruction for several years and with great success.  Though there are models with flip/touch screens, our decision has been based on what makes the most sense for effective classroom and home use. As it relates to the flip screens and removable keyboards, more moving parts typically translates into more things to break. Looking ahead, we will continue to research the available options to procure the best device to meet our overall educational goals.

Question: Will students on the Upper Campus switch to Chromebooks in 2018-2019?

There are two very different dynamics that affect technology use on the Upper Campus when compared to the lower campus

  • Students across multiple grade levels can be enrolled in the same class. This is especially true for math and language classes, but also true in many upper level science classes.
  • Teachers teach a variety of classes, across multiple grade levels within their subject area with some teachers teaching both middle school and high school courses.

Because of this dynamic, we are waiting at least one year before we make a device change on the Upper Campus to give us additional time to think through all the ripple effects. Due to the dynamics described above, it is likely that the device used by Upper Campus students will need to be the same across all six grade levels. Since some of our MacBooks will be out of warranty for the 2018-2019 school year, we have budgeted extra funds to cover any repair costs that may be needed for those machines.

Within the TAG department, we have begun testing how a replacement device might be deployed. We are working with vendors and want to have all the information we can before making a decision. Regardless of the device selected, you can be assured that we take this transition very seriously and will select a device that best fits the mission and vision of the school.

Question: What’s your long-range vision for technology at GRACE?

It would be easy to think that the discussion on what device we buy is the point. But it’s not. Devices in the hands of students are just one piece of a bigger picture. The real future of technology at GRACE will have roots in solving real world problems.

We were recently awarded a Maclellan Grant to help us as our students develop real-world problem solving skills. Where teamwork, collaboration, and 21st century skills have become “common words” used to describe technology in education, we intend to take our focus to the next level with a fresh and new approach to technology in the classroom. Our computer science curriculum will now include the following elements as part of this vision.

  1. In our Introduction to Java elective class, students will be given the opportunity to work collaboratively on building drones and programming them in Java from scratch. Teams of students will work with a budget to make purchases, design their drone, 3D print the drone chassis, debug circuit control issues, and test their product.
  2. In our Computer Build / A+ Certification elective class, students will build a high end computer to be used in the computer lab. Students will have hands on roles to play as they spec their computer, purchase the parts, build the computer, and test it.
  3. Our Introduction to Python elective class will focus on the Raspberry Pi product with students taking a closer look at circuit design and sensors. From their research, they will use Raspberry Pi’s and programming to solve a variety of problems.

Some of the tasks outlined above are already happening as we empower students to take initiative in our existing computer science classes. We already have students working on a sample machine for the computer lab and another student working on building a drone from scratch to use as a demonstration model for next year.

Every year we are adding more opportunities for our students to gain experience with technology, coding, and computer science principles. Already

  • we have introduced programming logic all the way down to Kindergarten, have a Girls Who Code club for 6th graders as well as a co-ed technology club
  • our technology curriculum is designed to seamlessly transition our Lower Campus 6th grade students into Upper Campus 7th grade Computer Science classes
  • our Upper Campus computer science classes offer “stretch” projects to keep advanced students on a continual learning path

To conclude, we desire to place our students in a position where they can leverage their knowledge and skills for their future.  We want to get out of the way and let your students become what God desires them to be.


GRACE Awarded Grant!

GRACE Christian School has been selected as a grant recipient from the Christian Education Charitable Trust, a branch of the Maclellan Family Foundations. The $60,000 grant will support the growth of our computer science program, primarily on the upper campus, through a physical expansion of the computer lab and new equipment to support hands-on learning opportunities. For more information about our plans, please see the summary of the grant proposal on the 21st Century GRACE Blog.

The Maclellan Family Foundation is a Chattanooga-based Christian organization with a mission to “proactively explore and promote fresh, innovative approaches to education that are inspired by Scripture and go beyond the traditional approach to integrate technology and scalability with education.” The Christian Education Charitable Trust serves as the education arm of the foundation, providing professional development and overseeing a highly competitive educational grant process, which is awarded annually to between five and ten schools across the country.

Gaming Seminar for Parents

On Sunday, February 4th from 2:00-3:30pm, the PTF will host clinical psychologist Dr. Doug Davis for a program on how parents can help their kids develop a healthy relationship with gaming. RSVP Link for Video Gaming Seminar
Computer gaming is everywhere: at home on consoles and PCs and traveling with us on our devices. It’s no wonder that gaming can become problematic for some kids, taking up too much time, and detracting from other important aspects of life. Clinical psychologist Dr. Doug Davis has been gaming his whole life. He is well-versed in the up-and-downsides of screen time. He will share how parents can help children, tweens, and teens develop a healthy relationship with gaming. Dr. Davis will point out risk-factors that make some kids more vulnerable to developing unhealthy habits, and advise on how to avoid or deal with the most common pitfalls. Finally, he will discuss how to decide when a minor problem is becoming a major one, what to try to get things under control, and when to seek help.
Dr. Doug Davis, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist with undergraduate degrees from the UNC-Chapel Hill. He earned a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Throughout his career, Dr. Davis has built a broad background of experience, bringing together developmental, cognitive behavioral, and family systems among other approaches to understanding people and helping with change. He has played many roles in the lives of young people, including coach, mentor, teacher, tutor and therapist. Dr. Davis has worked in the Triangle area since 2005. He currently provides individual, family, and group therapeutic services to children, adolescents, young adults, parents/caregivers, and families. For more information, including treatment specialties, please see Contact him at 919.749.4210 or
Please RSVP below if you plan to attend so that GRACE PTF has a head count in order to provide light refreshments. RSVP Link for Video Gaming Seminar

Study Skills and Technology Help Class

Upper Campus Media Specialist Mr. O’Brien will be offering a weekly help class Thursdays after school for students who need help with study skills and/or technology. Come prepared with questions and/or specific challenges you are facing and Mr. O’Brien will work with you to solve your problem or get you connected with the right person to help you solve your problem.

Technology at GRACE Updates

The Technology at GRACE (TAG) Department desires to partner with you in safeguarding your student’s web presence. In the past, we have been responsible for monitoring internet usage and web browsing for all students. Beginning Wednesday, November 1st, parents will receive a weekly “Securly Web Report” which will list search results and web browsing for your student so that you can partner with us in this important activity. 
The Securly report will be sent to each “parent/guardian” email address listed in RenWeb. If you do not want to receive these reports for a particular email address, you can follow the instructions contained in the initial report to remove an email address. Please note that the report will be emailed from support@securly.comIf you do not receive a report on Wednesday, please check your email spam folder and add this email address to your safe sender list. 
Additionally, parents are now able to submit a tech support request to TAG for help with questions you may have about RenWeb and Securly. Tech support questions can be submitted on the GRACE website, in the Technology section, under the heading Tech Support. A member of the TAG staff will answer your question and/or resolve your problem as quickly as possible, with the goal being within one business day. Please note: this is not a 24-hour per day service. Staff hours are school days from 8:00am-4:00pm.