A one-to-one laptop program was initiated in the 2015-16 school year, with every St. Mary Catholic Middle School student being issued a digital device. A nominal user fee is charged to each student. Find out more by reading SMCMS One-to-One Questions and Answers.
Each SMCMS student is assigned a small laptop that he or she uses every day for class work, group projects and homework. In addition, each core area (“pod”) is equipped with several Smart boards, digital projectors and Smart response systems. Teachers worked diligently to prepare for educational technology integration through professional development and meeting with their peers at the high school, where a successful one-to-one program was established in the fall of 2011.
The technology system is fully supported by the SMCS technology department. Students learn to use the web-based Dyno program to submit homework, which will alert the user to possible plagiarism. Though they rarely witness fraud, our high school teachers have found this a useful tool to reinforce good habits in documenting and crediting sources, which is a very important skill for college-bound students. Storia, a library/e-book system that provides access to a multitude of reading resources that are differentiated for a range of student abilities, will also be used.
Internet security is an area of strong concern for parents and school administrators alike. The technology in the new middle school is regulated by a strong filtering program and teacher-controlled monitoring features. Strict expectations are enforced, and teachers have the ability to see, on their own screens, what individual students are viewing, as well as the capability to turn off anything inappropriate. This ability to simply “click out” a student from a site unrelated to the class allows an instructor to carry on without taking the time to reprimand or single anyone out.
Because it is impossible to filter some YouTube content but allow others, access to the site is blocked on all student devices. However, because there is a plethora of excellent educational content on YouTube, the program is available on teacher-monitored computers on campus; parents are asked to regulate its use at home. Popular social media sites such as Facebook are blocked during the day, but the filter is turned off daily at 3:00 p.m. Parents who wish to restrict the use of these sites should be aware that they are available to students during non-school hours.
SMCMS students utilize computer software and applications that enhance the curriculum and promote higher-order thinking through problem solving. Students experience structured lessons, but also have a chance to explore and learn through play. A dedicated technology teacher expands on the foundation they have learned in elementary school with emphasis placed on Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, Publisher templates, internet research and safety, Windows Live Movie Maker and Google Docs. Wireless access throughout the building and a high student-to-computer ratio make technology easily accessible to all students and faculty. Interactive whiteboards enable teachers to use the most current instructional tools and to individualize lesson plans.