By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DEWITT — Parents, teachers, students and administrators at St. Joseph Catholic School wanted to take advantage of the possibilities of technology in the classroom, but one thing was holding them back: a shortage of equipment.
“When we did a survey a year ago we discovered that students had accessibility at home, but it was difficult to get onto technology here at school,” said Sharon Roling, the school’s principal. Additionally, Iowa Core education standards look for schools to go beyond word processing and integrate computers into curriculum. St. Joe’s couldn’t fully accomplish that goal with a single computer lab for 183 students and an “unreliable” mobile laptop cart.
Donations made it happen. The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school now has 65 Dell laptops and 36 Dell Chromebooks that teachers and students use to enhance classroom learning.
Most of the money was raised at the Alumni, Family and Friends Gala during the school’s sesquicentennial celebration last fall. The event raised about $45,000 for the technology initiative. The school received about $20,000 in additional donations following the event. “We are very blessed … to have parishioners, school family, alumni and community support,” Roling said.
Since the computers arrived last month, teachers have begun to utilize them in the classrooms. Applications such as Google Classroom allow teachers to post assignments which students can submit electronically. Teachers can post supplementary learning materials on Google Classroom, as well.
“Technology is supporting the learning that is going on,” Roling said. “Teachers are able to incorporate the technology into their instruction. It strengthens what is being taught in the classrooms.”
“The computers have made class time so much more efficient,” said Donna Klostermann, a middle school science and social studies teacher. “For example, I had the students working in groups to research the effects of a dam on a river in Europe. They then made a poster to share with the class. Within their groups students were using the computers for research, typing paragraphs for the posters, as well as making titles and headings. All students were doing different things to complete the group goal. It was great!”
Other classrooms have used the new equipment to communicate with pen pals through email and take virtual tours of museums. Additional possibilities for the technology include setting up Skype (video) conversations and connecting with other classrooms.
To support the new equipment, the school installed new file servers, additional wireless ports, new fiber cabling and switches. The school increased its Internet bandwidth to support the new laptops and Chromebooks.
Now that the school’s endeavor to utilize technology is no longer hampered by a lack of equipment, Roling said, “We’re limited only by the creativity of the students and the teachers’ ability to utilize and expand on this.”