Auburn schools have recently installed new technology for students to use in classrooms.


Schools 100 years ago were a bit different than they are today. One-room schools were still common, heated by coal or wood-burning stoves in winter. Teachers used slate chalkboards on rolling wooden frames and students had to dip their pens into inkwells to be able to write. Eventually, crude technology found its way into the classrooms. By that I mean the revolutionary invention of silent film, which inspired Thomas Edison to predict in 1916, “Books will soon be obsolete in schools.” Theodore Case, an Auburnian, later invented the technology that allowed sound to go with those films, so we should give him additional credit for the impact that technology had on education.

The graduation rate was only 6 percent because so many students had to leave school to work on family farms or help support their families in some other way. In the 1930s, the concept of junior high school became a national trend, although money and supplies were scarce due to the Great Depression. During the mid- to late 1960s, instructional film strips and slides were gradually replaced by films and cassette tapes, and this innovation was called audiovisual technology. In the 1980s, very basic computers started to appear in schools, but in the time from then until now, computers and digital technology have given us a way of life we take for granted.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, the Auburn Junior High School, formerly known as East Middle School and before that East Senior High School, has just opened a new technology suite.

Principal Dave Oliver said the upgrade was funded through a capital project and supplemented by grants. By partnering with the Rochester Institute of Technology as part of the Project Lead the Way curriculum, students will gain experience with advanced software and equipment, and eventually earn college-level credit.

The department is staffed by a team of three technology instructors, Julie Feheley, Matt Drastal and George Powers. As part of an engineering and technology curriculum, the classrooms now possess a 3-D printer and movie production capability complete with cameras, green screens, lighting and editing software, as well as the ability to design robotics and program drones.

George Powers said, “We give them a problem and show them the steps to solve it. This puts learning back in the students’ hands, and the more we can give kids hands-on experience, the more engaged they will be.”

If anyone reading this remembers hearing a beep as a signal to advance to the next slide, raise your hand.

Joe Sarnicola is retired from the Auburn Enlarged City School District. He can be reached at