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St. Alphonsus Catholic School enjoys new tech program

Over the course of the school year at St. Alphonsus School, the students have been gaining some very useful skills from their technology teacher, Mary Hart.

Posted on 5/9/15

By Melissa Anderson 

“I was very lucky to have found the curriculum we are using at St. Alphonsus while I was teaching at another school,” Hart said.

Hart teaches mainly computer skills to all of the students in kindergarten – 8th grades. Hart’s classes use all new Dell computers with the latest Windows Suite to teach her students. The students also have access to a color printer and digital cameras.

“We also have a new smart board in the technology classroom as well as smart boards, in all of the classrooms and the teachers have new Dell laptops,” Hart stated.

A smart board, also widely known as an interactive whiteboard, is an interactive touch screen technology that connects to a projector or computer. Essentially, these smart boards are touchscreens the size of chalkboards that educators can use to make the learning experience of their students more fun and accessible.

While it can be challenging for educators to make their classes fun and yet educational, Hart feels she has been able to strike the correct balance between the educating and having fun with her students.

“The units are creative and challenging as well as being educational. They give me basic foundation, and then I can tweak and change them as I need,” Hart said.

The curriculum that Hart has set up for her classes at St. Alphonsus depends on the grades that the students are in and what those students will need to learn in order to move forward.

Kindergarten and 1st grade are the starting points for the technology program where the students begin with the basics. Students learn the parts of the computer, how to hold a mouse correctly, and how to use the mouse.

“There is a lot of hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills being worked on,” Hart explained.

From there they move onto all of the ‘do’s and don’ts ‘ of working with computers. The students also learn how to turn on the computer, open/close a program and shutting down.

After the students learn the fundamentals of operating a computer, they begin working in programs, learning how to open folders and documents, working with graphics, and how to use “save” and “save as”.

“They are so excited when they have completed their books and get to print them,” Hart stated.

In 2nd grade they begin keyboarding which is handy when they begin learning how to change and format text. They learn how to change fonts, font size and color, and add special effects like shadows, reflections, outlines and glow.

Once they have mastered working with fonts, they learn how to insert pictures from the internet. They then learn how to move and resize the pictures, which is called “formatting”. They learn how to layer the pictures, move them to the background and how to remove the background.

The 3rd grade takes on the role of school poets where they create a poetry book. They reinforce their font and formatting skills by making words in the poem look like their meaning.  They also review how to insert a picture from the internet to help illustrate the poems.

They learn how to change the way text wraps around the pictures and how to add special effects to their pictures like reflections, frames, fades and how to even recolor the picture. As they create the book they learn how to write/create their own picture poems using Word Art and selecting their own picture.

“They also write their own tongue twisters using the first letter of their name,” Hart said.

In 4th grade they take on the role of a reporter s for an endangered species magazine.

“This is where I introduce how to use a fact sheet,” Hart explained.

They research information on the endangered species they have selected on the internet. They learn how to do keyword searches, find relative facts, and how to site their sources.

Once the students have found all the information for their fact sheet, they begin the writing process by putting the facts they have gathered into their own words. They also have to decide which facts to keep, which ones aren’t important, and how to use an online dictionary and thesaurus. When they are finished with their report, they format their work into a two column magazine article including pictures.

The 5th graders take on the role of an international correspondent who writes articles about landmarks around the world. They learn about the different parts of the newspaper including the flag[the printed title of the newspaper], headline and byline.

After they have chosen their landmark, they begin to fill-in their fact sheets about it by doing research on the internet and reading articles with information about their landmarks. When they have completed their fact sheet, they begin formatting and writing their article to look like a newspaper.

To make it look like they are actually at the landmark, the students take digital photos of each other, learn to take away the background and then superimpose their picture next to the landmark. Once this is done they add their new picture into their article.

The 6th grade have taken on two roles this year. The first task the 6th graders undertook was to become editors of a children’s storybook. The students formatted the text, added graphics, and adjusted the white space to make the stories look great. At the end of the storybook they were given a series of pictures and they were to write a comic using those pictures.

As the students wrote and edited they had to keep in mind who the target audience was and make their edits and selections with that audience in mind.

“When they completed the proofreading stage, they were ready to publish and bind their own books,” Hart stated.

The second role they tackled was to create a multi-media “trailer” for a novel they had read. Their purpose for creating the trailer was to entice other people to read the book. The students used a program called Power Point to make the trailer. The trailer included many aspects of trailers used in real world promotions.

Some of the key features that the students had to include in their trailer was a rating system, a hook to catch the viewer’s attention,and find or create caricatures that represent the characters in the book. The students used feature of the program called Word Art to create phrases describing the story or characters.

“They will add animation to make the phrases to make them “fly” in and out of the screen,” Hart explained.

After the students created all of the slides, they then began the process of adding transitions and animations. This allows the slides to automatically transition from one to the other and adding animation will let the different parts of the slide arrive independently.

The 7th and 8th graders have also taken on two different roles this year. The first role they took on was the role of travel agent. Each student chose a different location and began researching different sites to see, attractions and/or events to attend, and learn about the customs, culture and climate of their chosen location.

To organize all of the information that was collected during research, the students used a formal outline. From that point the students began creating their own travel ad using Power Point. The students created slides describing the sites, events, and attractions that could be seen at the chosen location including pictures, a map showing the location of the places they were going and a slide containing “hot links” taking them to websites with more information.

The other role the 7th and 8th grade students explored was that of an investor where they are participating in a stock market simulation. The students buy and sell stocks, read stock market updates and track their investments by creating charts and graphs in Excel.

“They do this as a team discussing what their next move should be after they have read the latest stock market updates,” Hart stated.

The students also learn how to add conditional formatting to their spreadsheets so that if the value of a stock falls or their investment portfolio goes below a specified amount, it will be flagged. The students have also been learning how to track the history of a specific stock by creating line charts.

“I believe the skills they are learning will help them both as students in high school and college as well as giving them skills they can someday use as an adult both at home or in the work environment,” Hart said.

According to Hart the students of St. Alphonsus love the new curriculum. They are learning practical skills in a creative way.

“When I tell the students to start wrapping up at the end of class, I frequently hear ‘NO! Not already’. Many of the teachers have also commented that the students are excited to come to technology and look forward to it,” Hart stated.

Hart explained that technology is a valuable tool and one that is used in all aspects of our lives ranging from entertainment to the work environment.

“Today, even our cars, tractors, trucks and combines have computers on them,” Hart said.

Having computer skills such as those Hart teaches her students will certainly benefit the students as they go out into a technology driven world where those who know the most go the furthest.