CROWN POINT | You might be hard pressed to find an educational article or journal today that does not mention the impact technology is having in the classroom.
For the staff of St. Mary Catholic Community School, staying current with technology advancements is not only a goal, but a priority. After installing a high speed, commercial grade internet system in 2012, the school transitioned from "allowing" students to bring in their devices to "encouraging" them to do so last school year.
This fall, every student in grades 7 and 8 was required to bring in a device, from iPads to Chromebooks. Knowing how to navigate, create, and evaluate technology is a skill students will be expected to have in the classroom and in the workplace.
For example, students are collaborating on group projects through Google drive, conducting research in class, taking tests with instant feedback, responding to class forums on Schoology, and creating presentations and projects.
Eighth-grader Jenna Thomas said she likes taking tests online because of the instant feedback. "The devices help to keep everyone organized. Turning in work is definitely more efficient, too. You don't have to worry about losing papers if your work is on your device," she added.
Recently, students created projects for a language arts and social studies assignment that included researching information on the federal government shutdown, collaborating and creating scripts with group members, and using their devices to plan and film their own news reports. The students even created green screens and apps to superimpose backgrounds.
St. Mary's is also embracing technology outside the classroom.
More than 1,000 spectators cheered 300 contestants, at the first-ever Indiana University Northwest FIRST LEGO League Regional in Gary. Thirty-one area teams competed, but St. Mary's was the only school represented by two teams.
St. Mary's RoboCops won the Against All Odds Award, while the RoboDog Jr. team won third place for Teamwork.
“This program is important because many of the kids aren’t interested in athletic leadership. They tend to gravitate toward intellectual pursuits,” said Heather Clarkson, coach for both St. Mary's teams. “It is essential to have this competition that facilitates and rewards kids that strive for problem-solving excellence.”
The FIRST LEGO League is an organization that seeks to promote innovation, science and technology in youth. Participants program robots to complete themed missions on a gaming field. In addition, teams give presentations that embody the year's theme and core values.
"This is a talented group. With this much interest in robotics from our young students, and a dedicated sponsor, I can see our students continuing to build their robotics and programming skills for many years to come. This could be the beginning of something special," said principal Tom Ruiz.