The American College of Sofia (ACS) is officially recognized by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science as an Innovative School. The first project that earned the school this distinction was the Integrating technology into the learning environment through the use of Chromebooks and the Google Classroom platform in the 2017-2018 school year. In 2019-2020 the school's status was renewed with the advent of the Student Computer Innovation and Fabrication Institute (SCIFI). In 2020-2021, the American College of Sofia implemented 20% Online Learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, earning an innovative status again. Continue below to find out what makes ACS a special learning and teaching place, striving to get ahead in preparing its students for the world of tomorrow.
20% Online Learning
The 2020-2021 school year is unprecedented in the recent history of the American College of Sofia. The experience from the Distance Learning of the spring 2020 semester is of great help in designing a curriculum with built-in anti-epidemic measures. In the fall of 2020 the College scheduled 20% Online Learning. In practice, each grade level had classes online on one day of the week, thus reducing the traffic on campus. The courses that took place online were in those subjects for which the class would normally meet twice a week.
While on campus, all students, faculty and staff are required to wear masks indoors, observe social distancing, follow traffic directions, and use only designated entry and exit points to the buildings, and disinfect often.
Student Computer Innovation and Fabrication Institute (SCIFI)
The Student Computer Innovation and Fabrication Institute or SCIFI is the College's own beloved makerspace. It features a state-of-the-art Audio-Visual studio, a Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) and fabrication center with 3D printers, a laser-cutting machine and a vacuum model crafting machine, a classical workshop with industrial-grade power tools, a robotics lab and a workspace.
In 2019 SCIFI was home to the third Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) Makeathon - a 72-hour challenge that brought together need-knowers - people with special abilities - and makers – designers, engineers and handy people to come up with prototypes to technological solutions for problems that people with special needs meet every day. The TOM Makeathon was attended by notable guests such Dr. Richard Tucker Ewing Jr., President of the American College of Sofia, H. E. Irit Lillian, Ambassador of the State of Israel and H.E. Eric Rubin, Ambassador of the United States of America, the TOM Bulgaria team of volunteers, participants and members of the ACS community.
Today SCIFI is home to the Engineering, Phoenix News and other Electives, a Maker's Club, a SCIFI Committee and more student-lead initiatives, focused on spreading knowledge and experience with using the equipment for academic and creative purposes. It is not rarely that students visit SCIFI to work on academic assignments in Physics, Astronomy, Geography, Biology and others. It has grown into a social makerspace, where students and instructors connect, engage in scientific and engineering discussions, have fun all while making with their hands and the equipment at their disposal.
Some of the project from the 2019-2020 school year, developed and executed in SCIFI, were the Geography Diorama Project (Geography), LED Constellation Kit (Astronomy), Dream Island Poster Project (ESL), Design a Doll Project (ESL), Physics Meme/Puzzle Maker Activity (Physics).
As SCIFI is such a huge part of the American College of Sofia experience, it has its own website with current projects in the making. Check it out here.
Integrating Technology into the Learning Environment through the Use of Chromebooks and the Google Classroom Platform
Ever since the 2017-2018 school year, the American College of Sofia has been recognized as an Innovative School by the Ministry of Education and Science. The project that earned the school this distinguished status was the Integrating technology into the learning environment through the use of Chromebooks and the Google Classroom platform.
The ACS project is based on specific goals, each one offering to change the educational landscape and the way students learn, via:
1. Creating a platform for interactive communication both among students and between students and teachers;
2. Building skills for ethical and responsible use of digital technology;
3. Guaranteeing easy access for students to platforms that allow a multi-level evaluation of their skills and knowledge;
4. Creating an inspirational environment where students are at the center of education at any time and where their efforts and accomplishments are evaluated in real time, and whenever there is need for teacher support, it is individually targeted;
5. Creating a meaningful and inspirational environment where the students build their knowledge and find original solutions which encourage each student's individuality.
The project was made possible by a generous donation of Chromebooks from the American people via the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The first Chromebooks were introduced in 2015 in Eighth Grade, and with the start of the new school year ACS has 800 Chromebooks to help every student study in Google's virtual classroom.
Needless to say, this innovative approach proved well ahead of its time and a significant technological fundament during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic when schools were closed down. The smooth transition to distance learning was made possible thanks to the early adoption of online technology cloud-based learning, successfully implemented at ACS as early as 2017.