Crash course in tech for Catholic Schools
By Michael Rafferty
The topic was 21st-century teaching and learning for two days this summer, when the Lynch School of Education hosted more than 100 teachers from 30 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston at its first Summer Technology Academy June 27–28.
Sponsored by the Catholic Schools Foundation of Boston with funding from the Lynch Foundation and in partnership with the Archdiocese of Boston, the Lynch School, and its Roche Center for Catholic Education, the program gave Catholic School teachers a crash course on applying digital tools and preparing students to use them effectively in school.
The academy kicked off with a keynote from Associate Professor Michael Barnett, an expert on science education, educational technology, and university-school partnerships. It updated K-8 teachers on affordable, accessible digital tools. And it showed them how to integrate them effectively into their curricula.
“Technology will not make better teachers,” noted Kristin Melley (pictured), associate director for professional development at the Roche Center and an academy organizer. “Our focus was on helping teachers to use these tools in support of the curricula.”
Lynch School Associate Director of Mentoring and Induction Amy Ryan underscored that point in a session she led on digital storytelling. “History is the best example,” Ryan said, “because it’s really about telling stories.” Digital storytelling incorporates music and voices, colors and motion, she said, adding: “Those elements aren’t distractions. They are part of the story.”
Teachers from the St. Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton, Massachusetts, led another academy session, Fostering Student Collaboration in the Classroom, in which they encouraged teachers to turn over tools to their students, and showcased the software applications that they used successfully working on joint projects with students.
Collaboration is key to digital teaching and learning, academy organizers emphasized throughout the session.
Plans for the academy came together last March, said Lynne Sullivan, a senior program officer at the Catholic Schools Foundation, which underwrote the costs of the academy, including the cost of providing every participant with a new iPad.
Sullivan reached out to Mary Corcoran, Boston College’s associate vice president for IT Assurance and a University executive on loan to the Archdiocese Office for Catholic Schools. Corcoran promptly brought Ryan, Melley, and others into the project, and secured the support of Mary Grassa O’Neill, superintendent of schools in the Boston Archdiocese.
Grassa O’Neill was on hand when the participants arrived to pick up the iPads a week before the academy began. She was pleased to see that “teachers’ eyes lit up. They were eager to learn how to use them and I was eager to see them do so.”