Catholic schools in the Diocese of Orange are undergoing a technological transformation.
In some grade levels of every elementary school and in all high schools, every student is equipped with either an iPad, Chromebook or laptop that they have access to both in the classroom and at home through the one-to-one program.
But Greg Dhuyvetter, superintendent of schools, says that integrating technology into education is not the most important goal.
“What I care about is effective education and technology is one of the many tools that’s doing this,” says Dhuyvetter. “The idea here is that the device is a student’s tool. Whether it is for taking notes, creating, or researching information, that the student has the device available whenever it best fits the need of what they are doing.”
About four years ago, Dhuyvetter and his staff dedicated themselves to implementing the one-to-one program, one device for each student, in all the Diocese of Orange schools by the beginning of the 2015 school year, a goal that was met last fall.
Dhuyvetter says the Diocese of Orange is the perfect size for programs like this; with only 41 schools, teachers and administers are easily able to communicate and work together. Additional staff within the diocese with technology expertise also is part of the collaborative process.
In addition to the one-to-one program, the diocese has the capability to provide Wi-Fi in all the schools in order to support online access for the devices on campus. A content filter was also implemented to restrict access to questionable websites and content. Each of the schools has the ability to recommend adjustments to the filter for their own school or for a particular grade level. In addition, every school uses Common Sense Media, a program that teaches students responsible use of technology.
“Of course nothing is 100 percent so some of it comes down to good judgment, which is taught through the Common Sense Media program,” says Scott Gotreau, director of educational technology at the diocese. “But we also manage student devices at each school site so that they can’t access certain programs and get into things they shouldn’t be using.”
Heather Ambler, a fifth- and sixth-grade language arts and religion teacher at St. Polycarp School in Stanton, finds that having technology as a tool in her classroom helps her hone in on each student’s progress. She uses IXL, a program that includes problems for students to solve and instantly tells them if it is correct. If not, the program explains the correct answer. It also offers medals for high scores and certificates to the teacher for their classroom completing a certain number of problems. The program also sends the teacher data on each student’s progress, which allows her to instantly know when each child needs additional instruction.
“I no longer have to wait two weeks until I grade a test to know that a student is struggling in an area,” says Ambler. “I’m able to focus on what the child really needs.”
Cynthia Garcia, an eighth-grade student at St. Anne’s School in Santa Ana, enjoys the convenience of using her iPad to access Google Classroom and Notability to complete her assignments. Google Classroom is a paperless system designed for students and teachers to discuss learning materials with each other and has a feature for students to submit their assignments.
“It makes it easier to communicate with my teacher,” says Garcia. “I can easily complete my assignments and send it right back to my teacher. If I have a question and she’s online, she’s able to answer. Or if she’s not online, I can post the question on the classroom page and if one of my classmates is online typically someone will respond to it.” She also enjoys using programs like iMovie and Keynote to create presentations for special projects.
“I think that the iPad offers a lot of different apps and different resources that we can use which make learning a lot faster and easier,” says Garcia.
Kelly Botto, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at St. Anne’s and also the school’s technology coordinator, is excited about integrating technology into education.
“One of the things that I love about it as a teacher is that there’s no more excuses that they couldn’t complete their assignment because they left their book at home,” says Botto. “They can access their book not just on their iPads but also on their phone or their computer at home.” She says that next year her school is considering using only e-books, which should lighten students’ backpacks and also make school texts more accessible for students.
Botto adds, “I think that what I’ve been able to see with them since we started one-to-one, is that it helped me aid them in growing and strengthening their critical thinking skills and creativity.”
“The idea is that teachers should have a tool box in which the technological tools should be in the tool box but not the only thing in there,” Dhuyvetter says. “You can do an awful lot with a tablet or a Chrome Book or a laptop, but if I were to say that’s the only thing that you’re ever allowed to use we would be losing a lot of education. The idea is this is just one more tool that they have to be able to use to be functional in our society and it makes their learning experiences better.”