GLEN ELLYN — St. James the Apostle School in Glen Ellyn recently was honored by the Diocese of Joliet for its technology efforts, making it 2012’s “Technology School of the Year.”
“It just feels amazing,” said Patrick Healy, the school’s science coordinator and the teacher behind many of the technological changes made by St. James in the past year.
The school was named Technology School of the Year by the Diocese of Joliet out of 48 schools in the diocese, Healy said. In order to qualify, St. James had to demonstrate its leadership in the technology field and efforts to push the boundaries using technology within the school.
Kathy Heitkamp, technology coordinator, said the efforts really started five years ago when the school purchased new Apple desktops and laptops. The laptops were set up on a cart, allowing them to move from classroom to classroom so that every teacher could use them.
“It really gives teachers the opportunity to incorporate technology in any class during the day, any period of the day,” Heitkamp said.
Healy also has collected iPhones and iPads to use in science labs, donated to him by people who were ready to upgrade to a new model.
In fall 2011, shortly after Healy began working at St. James, he got the idea for a TV that could display photos and information about school activities after seeing a restaurant use TVs to display menus.
The school joined a worldwide case study from LG Electronics and received an LG EzSign that now hangs in the school’s lobby, allowing parents to see what their children are up to.
The case study focused on evaluating the ease with which schools could use the monitor and potential ways they could use it, Healy said.
Healy also created an app for the school, and as far as he could find, St. James is the only preschool through eighth grade school in the nation to have an app.
One of the benefits of the app is it gives students one less excuse not to do their homework because even if they didn’t write down an assignment, they can check the app to see what they need to do, as can their parents, Healy said.
At Healy’s urging, the school switched to Google Apps for its email system, which gives students and teachers a new way to work on assignments. Google programs, which are similar to the Microsoft Office suite and free to educational institutions, allow teachers to monitor students’ progress as they work on assignments and provide feedback before assignments are even submitted.
“It’s not that we’re doing any one thing that’s especially innovative; it’s that we’re doing many things,” Heitkamp said.
Healy said a lot of the progress was possible through Principal Nancy James’ willingness to take risks to keep the school at the forefront of educational technology. He also said Heitkamp has served as his mentor, and they’ve worked really well together to focus on advancing the school’s use of technology.
“It’s a total school effort to get students to use technology in the classroom,” Heitkamp said.