In 1957, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School opened its doors with the goal of providing a rigorous academic experience for each one of its future students. No matter what changes have taken place in society, Our Lady of Mercy School (OLMS) has successfully blended a focus on faith with a focus on successful learning in an ever-changing world.
“In 2010, OLMS earned the Blue Ribbon of Excellence from the US Department of Education, thereby ranking it in the top 10 percent of schools nationwide,” said Director of Advancement Lara Davenport. “In combination with its [emphasis] on faith, the vision of this Pre K–8th-grade school is to give its students a foundation for a purposeful life. With the completion of their three-year technology upgrade, OLMS is adding innovation to its strong academic tradition.”
Technology is a large part of our changing society. OLMS understood the importance of implementing new technologies into education in a way that was safe and beneficial for its students. “In the first year of the plan, OLMS upgraded their infrastructure to provide robust wireless Internet throughout the building,” said Davenport. “During the second year, each teacher received a laptop and a tablet for use in his or her classroom. School-wide, they adopted an online parent portal called SchoolSpeak for tracking and posting of grades, attendance, homework assignments and overall school communications. They also installed interactive projectors in all their classrooms so that the whiteboards could be used to display and interact with content from the teacher’s laptop. The pre- K/kindergarten building and their media center received 70″ touchscreens that act as a giant tablet for the students to view and interact with content, as well. This fall, OLMS introduced windows-based tablets for their students to use. There are two 30-unit carts shared among grades K–5, and each middle school student has been assigned his or her own tablet for use throughout the school year for both classwork and homework. They are now in the final phase of their technology initiative.”
To implement technology correctly, OLMS has taken time necessary to do it right the first time and lessen any potential disruptive changes to learning. “Our goal was to develop a comprehensive technology plan that satisfies the needs of students, parents and teachers, and implement a best-in-class technology environment that is usable, scalable, sustainable and affordable,” said Janet Tennyson, lead technology instructor and member of the technology committee. “With the help and support of many parents and families, we’ve been able to do just that. Best of all, we are improving our students’ educational environment by integrating technology throughout the curriculum. We had MacBook computers that needed replacing and asked our PTO to help. Some key parents stepped forward to help us look at the big picture and see that just getting new laptops would be a Band-Aid fix—we needed a comprehensive plan and a complete technology overhaul. Technology is a tool that we use to enhance our teaching and to individualize our curriculum. It allows us to adapt our teaching style to our students’ learning styles.”
OLMS involved the instructors and parents in the decision-making process, and that involvement has been a crucial element to the success of the project. “Not only does the technology allow me an opportunity to show students places and events I otherwise could not, it enables me to communicate with parents and show families what the students are learning,” said Karlie Stewart, second-grade teacher.
“OLM’s technology investment in infrastructure, classroom tools and student devices has been a great success,” said Kathy de Jong, middle-school parent and member of the technology committee. “Our students now have a wealth of tools at their fingertips to enhance their learning experience. The skills and knowledge they gain with these tools today will help them reach education and career goals in the future.”
“We had some parents voice concerns about one-to-one computing, based on some current studies that it doesn’t really help students,” said Nancy Farmer, seventh- grade teacher. “At OLMS, these devices are only one tool that we use. Students can’t just Google answers to their assignments here. If they are assigned an article to read online, they are to write a fully developed response based on what they read. Technology is just another medium that we are using to give our students an even richer academic experience.”
To ease concerns of Internet safety, OLMS has put the following safeguards into place:
• a robust internet filtering device;
• Windows Family Safety enabled on each tablet;
• acceptable usage policy signed by students and parents;
• software enabled on the tablets to allow teachers and IT personnel to block applications and webpages;
• cameras and external ports blocked, to be used only for special projects as teachers permit.
Our Lady of Mercy School is located at 1730 Link Road in Winston-Salem. Those interested in the school and its offerings are invited to attend an upcoming open house: Thursday, January 15th, from 5–7 p.m.; Wednesday, January 28th, from 9–11 a.m.; Thursday, February 12th, from 5–7 p.m.; and Tuesday, February 24th, from 9–11 a.m. You can also call 336.722.7204 to set up a tour at your convenience. For more information, visit the website at www.ourladyofmercyschool.org.
Our Lady of Mercy Technology Upgrades:
• Wireless internet throughout building
• Interactive projectors for each classroom
• Laptops and tablets for teachers
• Online parent portal for grades, attendance, homework and school communications
• Shared tablets in grades K–5 (ratio: 1 tablet for 2 students)
• Each middle school student has tablet
• Subscription services—Discovery Education, EbscoHost
• Library catalog upgraded to an online version for ease of use