January 28, 2005

2005 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Project EXCEED continues to bring
new technology to schools

By Brandon A. Evans

Several schools in the archdiocese are now benefiting technologically from Project Exceed (Excellence in Catholic Expectations for Education).

The schools—which include Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, Holy Name School in Beech Grove and St. Mark the Evangelist, St. Lawrence, Holy Spirit, St. Thomas Aquinas and Christ the King schools, all in Indianapolis—have received, or soon will be receiving, thousands of dollars in new technology.

They follow an initial wave of 14 schools that benefited from the same program.

The program is funded, along with the rest of Exceed’s programs, by a $10 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. and more than $6 million in donations. The goal is to help Catholic schools be able to integrate technology into their curriculum.

Kim Shurig, technology coordinator for Project Exceed, said that the program started in the center-city, and has moved out according to need. Currently, the program is only active within Marion County, per the requirements of the Lilly grant.

Each school typically receives three computers for each grade two to five classroom, a computer lab, new software, two computers for the school office, a computer for each teacher, a wireless laptop cart and color printers for each classroom.

Additionally, all the teachers in each school receive training.

“I think [the program’s] been overwhelmingly successful,” Shurig said. “Everybody’s been very thrilled with the quality of the hardware and software, the quality of the service and the quality of the training.”

She said that this will help Catholic school students to be more prepared with how to use computer technology when they enter other schools.

“Certainly, all the kids in the public schools are prepared when they enter high school,” Shurig said.

Robert Rash, principal of Our Lady of Lourdes School, is seeing the good things that the new technology can do for the students.

The technology is a tool for them, he said, to communicate and obtain information.

“Instead of writing a report like the good old days, the kids now do PowerPoint presentations,” Rash said.

The students also are doing a lot more online research—and the Internet is “unparalleled” for obtaining information speedily, he said.

Still, he added, it isn’t wise just to let young people have access to all of these things without explaining how to use them.

“It still takes a teacher [and] it still takes a school to say, ‘How do you take that information? Just because it’s on the Internet, does that make it valid?’ ” Rash said.

“No tool is going to help children discern better than, I think, a teacher,” he said.

Rita Parsons, principal of Holy Spirit School, said that her school was completely rewired to be able to use the Internet, but that most of the hardware and software will be coming to the school in March.

Internet research, she said, helps students keep up with the changing news.

“You can never keep a Social Studies book up-to-date,” Parsons said. “Social Studies happens every day.”

Some families, she said, probably have more technology at home than in the schools, so it’s good to try to keep up.

“This is a technology age and this is what is natural to these students,” she said, “ and if we don’t move at the same rate that they’re getting those kinds of materials in their homes, we can’t keep up.”

The new computers in the classrooms of the lower grades will give also the teachers increased flexibility, she said.

“Small groups of students can be at the computers while other students are in reading groups or [at] math stations,” Parsons said. “It’s just another compliment to the instruction that’s going on in the classroom.”

Chris Battocletti, technology coordinator at St. Lawrence School, said that the new technology is being used in many parts of the curriculum.

Children in first- and second-grade learn how to use word processing software, and by third-grade they are already using PowerPoint. By middle school, the students are using publishing software.

“What we do is build projects from year to year so that they build on their prior knowledge,” Battocletti said.

Eighth-grade students participate in a yearlong project—which culminates in a trip to Washington, D.C.—that makes use of their broad range of acquired computer skills.

They use the Internet to research the monuments of the nation’s capital then build scale models and create a PowerPoint presentation. They also make their own publicity for the presentation.

“It’s just been wonderful,” Battocletti said. “It would be great to see every Catholic school in the city be able to take advantage of this.”

Rash and Parsons both agreed that the program should continue.

“It is well worth it and a lot of students are going to benefit from it,” Parsons said. †


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