Urban Catholic schools receive technology upgrade

| Sara Kovach | August 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

St. Francis-St. James science teacher Brenda Bruesgard trains eighth- graders Sarah Anderson, left, Marissa Schneider and Sarah Ruzichka on how to properly use iPads in classroom instruction. Photo courtesy / Gail Rappé

The 2012-2013 school year promises to be a tremendous one for Ascension School in Minneapolis and St. Francis-St. James United School in St. Paul — one that will bring new technology to the students, teachers and staff.

At least 12 Catholic urban schools received more than $200,000 cumulatively in government funding to help strengthen their infrastructure, phone and wireless access.

“New technology and digital devices are part of our children’s lives,” said archdiocesan Director of Urban Education Laurie Acker, who implemented and administered the Legacy grant initiatives in 2008 to help support Catholic inner-city and first-ring-suburban schools.

Dorwatha Woods, principal of Ascension, said a number of students don’t have access to the technology at home, so receiving funding was greatly welcomed.
“The world is changing and we have to make sure that our students are ready for the future,” she said.

Woods is most looking forward to each teacher owning a MacBook and  LCD projector. Teachers will now be able to pull up information from their computers or Internet and project it to the entire class to see and respond to, she said.

Schools receive help

The technology upgrade was made possible with help from Principal Service, a company contracted by the archdiocese to assist schools with technology needs and funding options.

“Small schools just don’t have the staff to be able to successfully file for E-rate [government funding]. They try and fail, which is a bummer because that is really what this money is earmarked for. So we help them get that money,” Principal Service manager Eric Barstad said.

Barstad explained that his company uses Legacy Grant funds to successfully file for E-rate on behalf of schools.

Just before school starts, Ascension will have all new wiring in the classrooms, new IP phone systems and a new wireless infrastructure for iPad and MacBook use, he said.

iPad deployment

Gail Rappé, principal of St. Francis-St. James United, said this school year students in sixth through eighth grade will each get a personal iPad to use in the classroom and take home with them for homework.

The decision to use iPads came during the 2011-2012 school year. Fifteen teachers were given iPads to see how they could incorporate them in the classroom.

After six months, teachers completed a brief survey and 91 percent said that the iPad was “useful” or “very useful” in their work.

Along with the school adopting iPads, each student is receiving training on how to use Google docs. All students will receive a Google doc email address for easy access to their email and files at home and at school.

“Our math teacher taught girls literature and the students wrote book reports on Google docs. Then later in the evening the teacher could easily check on them, edit them and send corrections back to them to see the next day,” Rappé said. “It’s amazing.”

The change means there will be less need for paper-and-ink textbooks. No need when there’s an app for that.

“One big thing we are doing this year is our whole math book and workbook is going to be an app on our iPad,” she said. “It’s cheaper than buying a book.”

Everyone involved

But to make the program truly successful, all the teachers and staff need to be fully engaged, said Barstad.

The only challenge Woods sees happening is making sure everything launches in a timely manner.

“We don’t want to just look at all these new items, but we want to really utilize them for the good of our children to enhance their academic achievements,” Woods said.

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Category: Back to School