Catholic Free Press

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  • Jan
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Technology at St. Louis School

Posted By January 31, 2013 | 4:16 pm | Lead Story #1

By William T. Clew

WEBSTER – When St. Louis Elementary School students graduate they will know a lot about computers if, Gina Keddy has anything to say about it.
And she does.
They’ll know a lot about a great many other things, too.
Mrs. Keddy is the computer technology teacher at St. Louis. All students in the school, from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, spend at least one weekly 45-minute period in the school’s computer classroom throughout the school year.
There are 30 iMac computers in the room, along with an interactive smart-board on which students can move projected images around with a touch of their hands. Smart-boards also are in other classrooms and are especially good for the younger grades.
Buffie Pepka, former technology specialist and now a sixth-grade teacher at St. Louis, wrote the grant applications for the equipment. The computers are state-of-the-art, Mrs. Keddy said.
The students can take what they learn every day in mathematics, English, social studies, science and other classrooms and extend that learning and those skills in the computer room, she said.
The youngsters in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade learn how to use the computer and play games on them. Students in higher classes learn more about computer technology and language. It becomes more technical and comprehensive as they continue through the grades.
For example, when the pupils in kindergarten through first grade play their computer games, they also are learning to read and to do simple mathematics.
“We do lots of math and reading with the younger grades,” Mrs. Keddy said.
Second graders are writing a “Magic Tree House” story in their classroom which will be produced as a book on the computer, she said.
A fourth-grade class studying astronomy in class can and did come to the computer room to work on programs from the textbook.
A class was asked to write a poem about a historical event. Students used their skills on the computer to pick a type size and style for their poem, came up with a background on which the poem was displayed on the computer screen and printed out the finished product in full color.
But before they got to the type style and size, before they picked out a background, before they did the printout, they had to learn enough about the historical event so that they could write a poem about it. They also had to know how to write a poem.
Mrs. Keddy said time is dedicated to various subjects. There is a math month, a science month, a reading month and a month in which other subjects are highlighted. Many aspects of education can be taught through technology.
The students can get creative with their history studies. For example, eighth-graders put together  their own television news program on the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s, treating it like breaking news. First, an eighth-grader anchor woman read the news lead-in from what looked  like a TV newsroom. Next came a switch to an authentic-looking White House oval office, in which an eighth-grader acting the part of President John F. Kennedy read a statement.
Then, since no news program is ever so important that TV commercials would be eliminated, two eighth-grade girls came up with an imaginary travel agency. They appeared in appropriate Hawaiian clothing in front of swaying palms, then  bundled up for an arctic trip with a polar bear in the background, and then appeared before the ancient pyramids doing what might (or might not) have been an Egyptian dance. Their tag line, “You can travel anywhere!” ended the commercial and the program went back to the news.
They were creative, apparently had fun, and more importantly, learned something about the Cuban missile crisis.
Another project for eighth-graders runs all year, Mrs. Keddy said. They have been asked to imagine what life will be like when they are adults and to lay it all out on charts, graphs and spread sheet.
They find a career they think they may want to pursue, find out the average annual salary or wage for that career, then plan a year’s budget for that salary. They figure out expenses such as how much rent or mortgage payments will be, what household expenses might be, how much a car would cost and, if they were to have children, how much it would cost to raise them. At the end of the year the students then write a paper on the project, print everything out and have a book of their work to take with them, she said.
Mrs. Keddy designed the school website and is working on one for St. Louis Parish. One of the services the school website provides is a chance for parents and teachers to communicate. For example, parents or students can go online to get their homework assignments or find out about programs at school.
In addition to the 45 minutes a week of class time in the computer room, students can come in to work on projects when they have time and the room is not occupied. Some come in during recess. Students can get help if they are having trouble with a subject, she said.
Mrs. Keddy, who is in her first year at St. Louis after several years of teaching at Bartlett High School and the Park Avenue School in Webster, said “the technology here is high quality. I’ve never seen such high quality. The computers are an integral part of the instructional programs at St. Louis.”