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Empowering Future Leaders

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“It’s much more than old-fashioned computers.”

Principal Carolyn Murphy with St. Michael the Archangel School described perfectly how technology has evolved across schools in the archdiocese over the past several years. What may have been a computer lab or media space in schools 10, five or even two years ago are not the same technological opportunities thousands of students are experiencing as they go back to school this fall.

Many schools throughout the archdiocese now have spaces strictly dedicated to technology. From makerspaces to media centers, no matter the name, these classrooms are giving students opportunities to create and explore like never before. Here are four schools showing how technology is making a difference for their students and their futures.

ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA SCHOOL

Kevin Vance, Principal at St. Ignatius of Loyola School, has served more than 20 years in administration at various schools and is starting his fourth year at St. Ignatius of Loyola this fall.

“I had started a smaller [makerspace] at a previous school,” Vance said. “When I came to St. Ignatius, the technology team took some time to review hardware, software and curriculum. We identified that we wanted to expand our technology options, implement some social-emotional training and increase the number of higher level thinking exercises.”

That’s how the school’s iLab was born.

“On the surface, the iLab is a beautiful place to encourage exploration, creativity, and to ‘make cool stuff,’ but I have learned that its purpose is much more powerful than that,” Director of Innovation amd Design, Megan Mears, said. “Through the implementation of the innovation projects, we are equipping our students with empathy, powerful critical thinking and problem solving skills, and the confidence to take risks within a context that is wholly and beautifully Catholic. I firmly believe that students who engage in this type of learning will truly, ‘Go forth and set the world on fire.’”

Mears added that the nearly 1,200 students of St. Ignatius learn more than just how to operate a computer when they enter the iLab — it’s imperative that what students learn ties back to their faith.

“Instead of solely focusing on training our students to operate an iPad or a 3D printer — which may change or become obsolete within their lifetime — we are also asking them to take cognitive risks, synthesize what they’ve learned across subject areas, think critically and creatively to solve problems, develop social-emotional skills as they work in teams, and, most importantly, examine issues in light of Catholic teaching,” Mears said. “The technology will continue to change, but the skills our students are developing will give them the tools to thrive in a multitude of situations they will find themselves in as they continue to grow and mature.”

ST. MARGARET OF YORK SCHOOL

Kristen Penley, Principal at St. Margaret of York School, called the school’s technology curriculum an “essential learning opportunity.”

“Children are so intuitive with technology,” Penley said. “Students at St. Margaret of York are able to work with the 3D printer and robotics kits as well as many other devices during their technology class. This experience increases students’ understanding while building a positive relationship with technology in the world around them. We strive to ensure our students are confident in all skills, especially in technology.”

Penley added that the school’s technological advances also prepared their student body when COVID restrictions were in place or if students opted for virtual learning last school year.

“It was amazing to see the creativity of our staff and students allowing us to lift one another while together in-person or virtually,” Penley said.

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION SCHOOL

In Dayton, Immaculate Conception School is preparing to open a Makerspace this fall.

“A computer/STEM space for students is important because we are living in a globalized world,” said Tammy Haus, Principal of Immaculate Conception School. “Creating an environment where students have the opportunity to be exposed to technology that they may not have access to elsewhere is one way to empower our students to be future leaders in their communities whether locally or globally.”

Haus said plans for the Makerspace had been in the works since before she arrived at the school two years ago. And just as the school builds up its diverse student body (“We cherish it, we value it, we embrace it,” Haus shared), she is ready to also build up this new learning space for both students and staff.

“Getting the space ready post-COVID year has been a challenge… however; we’ve gone into this with the attitude that we are going for it… no matter what the challenges are,” Haus said.

ST. MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL SCHOOL

Nestled in Sharonville lies St. Michael the Archangel School, which is also opening a new Media Center this fall.

“We have a lot of teachers that do STEM things in their classroom but this will take that one-step further and it’s going to take the use of the computer one-step further,” Murphy said. “Computers aren’t just to get information out, they’re also to put information into it.”

Murphy noted that the school’s former library is being transformed into the new Innovation Center. While students will participate in a technology class, Murphy is confident that teachers will collaborate with the technology program to build cross- curricular awareness and experiences.

“We’re trying to empower students to be innovative designers, creative communicators, and global collaborators working together,” Murphy shared.

While these four schools are not the only ones in the archdiocese embracing technological advances, they certainly showcase the advantages students in area Catholic schools are receiving as more and more young people embrace technology in the future.

This article appeared in the August 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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