Back to School —
Returning with technology

Dr. Donna Brown

Technology will be a big topic across the archdiocese as schools open this month. Most of the schools in the archdiocese have applied for federal funding through the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) grant, administered by the Kentucky Department of Education.

With this grant, schools have purchased Chromebooks, iPads, and laptops to near one-to-one ratios between students and devices. Schools have requested assistance to upgrade their broadband infrastructure to accommodate remote learners when they are in quarantine.

Schools have added student support in the form of computer programs to address learning losses that might have occurred during the 2020-2021 school year.

Some schools requested grant funding from the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) to move their use of technology to new levels. Under an Empowerment Grant, Assumption High School received funding for a laser cutter and 3D scanner, while St. Agnes and Nativity Academy received funding for podcasting and vodcasting.

Virtual reality is new at St. James School in Louisville. Their 2021-2022 CEF grant included VR goggles so students can experience curricular material in 3D. Taking a different approach to 3D, St. Athanasius School is joining St. Bernard, St. Martha, and DeSales High schools using Z-space computers to work with curricular material in augmented reality.

All these schools have the opportunity to make learning more engaging as students use these tools to learn differently.

Some of the CEF grant monies were spent on more common technologies, with Holy Trinity School and Notre Dame Academy requesting more Chromebooks and iPads and Sacred Heart Academy requesting Vernier probeware and data capture devices.

Our Lady of Lourdes School received a grant to introduce robotics into the curriculum and as an afterschool activity. These technologies, while not new, were more expensive than the respective schools could afford.

Two schools had extremely innovative projects that they requested funding for. Mercy Academy requested funding to develop an on-site cybersecurity range project, where students will create a network outside their school network and will attempt to defeat a simulated “cyber attack without risking live data.” Students can take on the roles of virtual attackers or defenders.

Sacred Heart Model School focused more on the concrete with their request for a milling machine used for prototyping student design projects.

These are just a few examples of the technologies that will fuel powerful student learning in the archdiocese this school year.

Beyond the grants, teachers are returning to their classrooms with a new mindset concerning ways technology fits into their students’ learning.

As was pointed out in “Tech & Learning” in the summer 2021 issue, “COVID-19 collapsed the timeline for technology integration and expanded teachers’ capacity to teach remotely.”

Whether students will be quarantined this school year or not, teachers have a tool kit of technology resources to use with students — regardless of location.

Teachers will use NearPod, PearDeck, Flipgrid and others to provide instruction that far surpasses the static pages of a textbook. And while the phrase “getting back to normal” is bantered about, let’s hope that we don’t lose sight of the valuable gains in student engagement that have been made through the use of technology over the last 18 months.

Dr. Donna Brown is the data and technology specialist for the Archdiocese of Louisville Office of Catholic Schools.

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