The future of learning – STAR Catholic column

STAR Catholic Ponoka Trustee column looks at technology and its place in schools.

Dan Svitich Ponoka Trustee

We are surrounded by it everyday. Be it in our homes, in our cars, in the palm of our hands; technology is there and it’s always changing. What once seemed like something Elroy would experience in the “Jetsons” is becoming reality in our classrooms.

Through the Alberta Government’s Learning and Technology Policy Framework, St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic School Division is making those moves to bring the future to the classroom.

The framework identifies student centered learning, research and innovation and professional learning, as keys to learning and technology.

To that end, STAR Catholic has invested $3 million into technology hardware. This has allowed such things as Chromebooks to become more accessible, as our student-to-device ratio continues to get lower and lower. This is a significant change from three years ago that saw an average 4:1 student-to-device ratio. That access to devices is important, as this is technology students are using at home and are comfortable with. Students take to technology quickly, and utilizing it as a learning tool is a crucial way to bring a lesson to students in a 21st Century way.

In STAR Catholic, the division manages more than 4,000 pieces of technology that aid in creating increased learning opportunities. Students and staff benefit from this investment, in tools like interactive whiteboards that create an innovative and interactive classroom. With the advantages of new and exciting technology comes some challenges. STAR Catholic is committed to the professional development of teachers in this regard, as well as implementing the strategic use of technology, while staying current with trends and anticipating future direction.

In addition to day-to-day technology, students are taking advantage of projects that allow them to explore and innovate. As an example, students are creating code for 3D printing projects. Essentially, through the use of a computer and 3D printers, students imagine a design, create and code it on a computer before making it a reality with the 3D printer. Other students are delving into the world of graphic design, robotics and even virtual reality.

Virtual reality allows a class to take a virtual field trip and learn about far off places without leaving the classroom. Imagine exploring the Amazon or touring the Vatican from your own desk!

We know what’s new today can change tomorrow, and there continues to be exciting developments on the horizon. At STAR Catholic, viewing all things through the lens of faith and centered in Christ, we understand that today’s student is embracing new technology at the same speed in which the technology changes. We are committed to keeping pace and exploring the best learning opportunities available, that will broaden horizons and fully prepare students for their future.

Dan Svitich dan.svitich@starcatholic.ab.ca is a Ponoka Trustee on the STAR Catholic Schools Division Board. STAR Catholic Schools has more than 3,900 students in 11 schools located in Beaumont, Drayton Valley, Leduc, Lacombe, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin.