|Andy Cupit, the technology integration specialist at Father Ryan High School, assists freshman Reed Robinson as he uses his laptop in Mary Alice McWatters’ freshman honors biology class. Father Ryan recently launched a major technology initiative that requires students to bring laptops to school every day, in order to increase learning opportunities, improve campus communication, and decrease reliance on paper. Photo by Theresa Laurence
When Andy Cupit walks the halls of Father Ryan High School, he often gets summoned into a classroom and quickly peppered with questions: How do I access OneNote? How do I connect to the Wifi again? How do I open this PDF file?
These are not questions that Cupit or any of his Father Ryan colleagues would have been asking in their high school classrooms, but it’s becoming more and more the norm today.
Cupit, a math teacher and technology integration specialist at Father Ryan, took on the latter role last summer to help the school launch its new 2:1 Technology Initiative.
This new initiative, which requires students to bring their personal laptops to class every day, will prepare them to be good “digital citizens,” Cupit said, adaptable to changing technology and ready to succeed in college and the workforce.
The 2:1 program is designed to increase student engagement and create opportunities for collaboration among the Father Ryan community and give students more opportunities to access educational resources beyond the classroom, all while reducing the school’s paper needs for workbooks and hardbound texts.
Father Ryan administrators are quick to point out that they are not implementing more technology at school simply for the sake of technology, but because it enhances teaching, learning, and acquiring essential life skills. “The world is very much technology driven, and we want to make sure students have the skills to embrace that,” said Sarah Hayes, vice principal and academic dean at Father Ryan.
Now that freshmen, sophomores and juniors are using laptops at school on a daily basis, they no longer have to rely on one textbook as a source of information. The laptops “make classroom learning much more student driven” and interactive, Hayes said.
In history classes, for example, students no longer have to rely only on lectures and still photos in a textbook of the Vietnam War, but can now access archived news clips of the war from their desks.
It just makes sense to increase the use of technology in the classroom, because, Hayes said, “if you have a tool that exponentially increases student learning, it would be foolish not to use it.”
While there have been some minor growing pains as the Father Ryan community adjusts to the new technology, Hayes said that overall, she has been “shocked” at how smoothly the launch has gone.
Hayes, Cupit and their fellow Father Ryan faculty members spent almost two full years planning the 2:1 Technology Initiative rollout. This included professional development for teachers, a number of advance notices to parents and students, and a significant technology infrastructure update on Father Ryan’s campus to handle the increased demand for power and internet access.
Then, when it was time for students to begin bringing their laptops to school in early January, administrators opted to stagger the days each class would bring them to help work out some of the kinks. When issues do come up, students can wait for Cupit to come around, or they can take their laptop to the library’s new “Knowledge Bar” where they can get one-on-one help from an IT or media specialist.
“It’s been a transition, but it’s great,” said Father Ryan biology teacher Mary Alice McWatters, who has taught at Father Ryan for 22 years. “Once they get comfortable with it, they just fly.”
McWatters, who does not miss the days of fiddling with an overhead projector in the front of the classroom, is excited about the increased access to information that the new technology initiative will give her students. Now, her freshman honors biology class can remain in their classroom and view, for example, detailed microscopic images of mitosis on their own laptops at their desks. Or they can bookmark a YouTube video that shows a dissection and view it again later if they need help with a homework assignment. Then the teacher can send her students an electronic quiz on the material the next day.
Every Father Ryan student (with the exception of the senior class) was responsible for purchasing their own laptop that meets standards pre-determined by Father Ryan administrators. The campus operates on a Microsoft platform, and students frequently use Microsoft Word, OneNote and Office 365 programs. They also use the learning management system Schoology, through which teachers can send assignments, quizzes and tests. Students can store their data in “the Cloud” and access it from anywhere.
While on campus, each student can log on the school’s secure Wifi network with their name and ID number, which also enables their account to be monitored. Filtering software is installed on the Father Ryan’s campus network, and administrators provided parents with information to purchase additional parental control software if they choose.
“We accept that monitoring laptops is not foolproof,” said Hayes, but the school has taken many steps to ensure that students are using their devices appropriately.
Having students be responsible for their own laptops, and the content on them, is moving them one step closer to operating self-sufficiently in a college setting and on the job. With more college courses offered entirely online these days, the more familiar students are with operating in the digital world, the better.
“This prepares them to be independent,” said Cupit. And for some students, that might be the most valuable lesson of all.
Ryan to host free workshop on Microsoft solutions in the classroom
Father Ryan High School has been selected to host a regional workshop on Microsoft solutions in the classroom on Thursday, February 19, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event, called Teacher Academies, is open to all educators and school administrators in the area. It is sponsored by Microsoft and presented by Eduscape Learning.
Participants will have an opportunity to choose from 12 topics that support teaching and learning in the classroom using Microsoft tools, including Windows 8, OneNote and Office 365. Workshops will be aligned to Common Core standards and state curriculum standards, and include hands-on activities that leverage the value of Microsoft applications.
Registration for the workshop is free for teachers and school administrators. Participants are asked to bring their own devices for instruction.
Each participant will receive the Microsoft Innovative Educator Certificate for Professional Development Participation, workshop resources for all sessions, and a chance to participate in the onsite sweepstakes.
The Teacher Academies workshop comes only a few weeks after Father Ryan launched its newest program, the 2:1 Technology Initiative. Designed to both facilitate and enhance the educational experience at Father Ryan while reducing the school’s paper needs in workbooks and hardbound texts, the initiative was a school-wide switch to a Microsoft Windows-exclusive program.
For more information on the workshop and to register, visit www.teacheracademies.com.