New technology at St. Mary School enhances learning

Wed, Jan 31st 2018 09:00 am
Teacher Abby Budzinski-Lake's second-grade class benefits from a social studies lesson on a Chromebook. (Courtesy of St. Mary Swormville)
Teacher Abby Budzinski-Lake's second-grade class benefits from a social studies lesson on a Chromebook. (Courtesy of St. Mary Swormville)

SWORMVILLE — The dream of one-to-one computing has been realized at St. Mary School, thanks to the generosity of the St. Mary's faith community and the creativity of the St. Mary's faculty. All students are benefiting from the latest technology and teaching methods that technology brings to the classroom.  

St. Mary's has 230 Chromebooks, which are used at all grade levels for STAR reading and math assessments, lessons, shared Google Docs and differentiated reading programs such as Raz-Kids for leveled reading, IXL Math and Accelerated Reader for personalized reading practice. Nearpod is an interactive tool that presents teacher-generated lessons and enables students to respond to queries and share their response with the entire class.

According to Mary Jo Aiken, principal, Chromebooks enable teachers to set up learning centers within the classroom, and better differentiate instruction to meet children at their learning levels. They also support collaboration among the students.

Parent communication has been optimized through the use of Google Guardian Classroom, which forwards homework updates and classroom announcements to parents each day. This enables parents to be more involved in overseeing their children's work expectations and requirements.

"We have several benefactors to thank for these wonderful hardware and software tools that support our outstanding teachers and their students, and we pray in thanksgiving daily for them," Aiken said.

The flipped classroom method, used to teach New York State Regents level Algebra 1 eighth-grade math classes, is another new use of technology. Teacher Emily Horan created this method at St. Mary's.

According to Horan, a flipped classroom allows students to watch a prerecorded lecture at home, where they can pause and replay numerous times to understand the main objectives and concepts.

Students can pause, re-watch and work through their problems and then check their answers, without the hardship and struggle of working independently at home.

"The in-class goals are to do more in small groups, pairs or independent practice, and I am ready to catch them if they fall or get tripped up," Horan said. "This also allows for more active learning in class such as breakouts, games and other activities. In addition to flipping my classroom, I am also working on flipping my instruction, which allows students to work through the standards at somewhat of their own pace."

Horan, along with two other math teachers in the diocese, developed the curriculum. Based on this year's results, Horan hopes to flip eighth-grade math and advanced seventh-grade math in 2018-2019.  

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