This is the Mercy Information Technology (IT) Department site. Mercy High School is an all-girls Catholic High School in Farmington Hills, MI USA. We have a one-to-one program that has been in place since 2005. On here you will find useful information regarding the issues, challenges and successes of our innovative program. This site is and always will be, a work in progress.
The I.T. Team asked our Fine Arts Department to guest blog about the many ways students acquire valuable technology skills through their courses.
“Having a diversity of perspectives leads to better decision-making, more relevant products, and makes work a whole lot more interesting.”
On May 28th, Google published statistics related to the demographic composition of its workforce. Only 30% of Google’s worldwide employees are women and the gender gap is much greater when one compares the number of men (83%) and women (17%) in tech jobs at the company. While the report about the lack of diversity at Google was no surprise and the reasons for the lack of diversity in tech careers are complex, it was another reminder to me about the importance of helping young people aspire to careers in technology and design. Throughout the past year, I have had other such reminders in my work as the art department chairperson at Mercy High School, an all-girl school in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
The most powerful message came from fellow Mercy graduate, Heidi Bliss, who is the Project Manager for Global Creative Resources at General Motors in Warren, Michigan. At the beginning of the school year, she contacted me asking if we could collaborate to promote awareness around creative careers for women at GM. We met and agreed that one of the obstacles is that students and parents are not aware of all of the career paths available with a background in art and technology. Heidi followed up by creating a brochure that highlights the wealth of companies seeking talent and statistics regarding the purchasing power of women. She also arranged a special presentation for our students bringing two young designers who were highly recruited during their art school years and who now work at the GM Design Center. The presentation affirmed for me what I already suspected – that a career in design encompasses a well-rounded background in both the humanities and science.
This is the philosophy that drives Mercy’s Design Foundations course, which is entering its third year. Ninth graders learn the technology skills needed for multi-media projects, and the design principles that will make those projects competitive. Furthermore, Mercy’s art department has expanded its technology offerings from a single advertising course to two courses covering a wide range of computer art topics – Photo, Film, and Animation and Graphic, Product, and Web Design. Improving the awareness of career options in artistic and technological fields is one of the goals of this curricular change.
These courses also provide an overview of several different software programs. Mercy High School has consistently invested in professional software that can give the students a feel for the working world. These programs include the Adobe Creative Suite, Apple’s Final Cut, and SolidWorks. Students in Graphic, Product, and Web Design are assigned a fictional company for which they design the logo using Adobe Illustrator, advertising materials using Adobe InDesign, a website using Adobe Dreamweaver, and a company product using SolidWorks. While the students do not cover every bell and whistle in these programs in a semester, they leave with a good overview of the purpose of each program and a portfolio, which they may take to a college or job interview to show their new skills.
One component of Mercy High School’s mission is to empower girls to be life-long learners and to be leaders in their prospective fields. Certainly, Mercy should continue to capitalize on its diversity drawing from over seventy metropolitan Detroit communities and encourage young women to become leaders in technology and design fields in the future. –Susan Smith (’84), Mercy High School Fine Arts Department Chairperson
*Lucy used a Wikicommons image by Jiří Sedláček (aka Frettie) for her SolidWorks piece.
Mercy High School has put significant time and resources into professional development (PD) for the past three years. The impetus of this was Mercy 2.0 which included the adoption of the iPad as a 1:1 device, becoming a Google Apps for Education school, and adding a new, required Design Foundations course to our curriculum.
We supported Mercy 2.0 with several PD formats. For example, we brought in several highly skilled presenters and trainers. But the after school workshops and drop-in labs led by peers within the building seemed to produce the best results. Peers have instant credibility and know their audience. I don’t regret any of the help we enlisted and paid for from professionals. But the peer-to-peer training made a real impression on me. I admired the generosity of the trainers and the willingness of our staff to take advantage of the help.
|2012 Professional Development Drop-in “Lab”|
We are taking another major technology step into the next school year. And all of the professional development has been peer-to-peer. The decision to replace Moodle with Schoology as our learning management system (LMS) was made by teachers and advocated to staff by teachers.Their leadership in this endeavor has been most impressive. Besides evangelizing the move, these teachers have also become early adopters during the school year that is ending, trouble-shooting issues that will save their colleagues a lot of trouble.
During the busy month of May, the following teachers have lead after-school workshops for their peers that have been very well attended:
Schoology Overview / Lisa Robinet (Social Studies)
Using Schoology Calendar / Susan Smith (Art)
Communicating with Schoology / Alison Kline-Kator (Religious Studies)
Uploading Resources to Schoology / Jan Wampuszyc (science)
Creating Rubrics with Schoology / Lisa Robinet (Social Studies)
Creating Quizzes and Tests with Schoology / Joe Gerardi (Religious Studies)
In the summer we will be offering one-to-one tutoring through our drop-in labs. The persons above will be joined by the following volunteer tutors:
Abigail Youngerman (English / Social Studies)
Angela Harris (English / Social Studies)
Eleasha Tarplin (Math)
Lauren Marquard (World Languages / Social Studies)
Renee Loubert (World Languages).
Any major systemic change like this has its hurdles, but the peer-to-peer PD is effectively laying the ground work for our transition.
In my last blog post I collected some varying opinions about online courses. I was inspired to do so by two recent conversations. I was at a meeting when the subject of how online courses would play at Mercy came up. One participant immediately interjected that he “strongly favored” face-to-face.
|e-learning home page at SCAD|
Two days before, I was seated at a banquet when I mentioned that I was currently teaching an online course for graduate students. The gentleman sitting next to me enthusiastically responded and then described how he had been responsible for the technical design for the e-learning program at the Savannah School of Art and Design which has been recently recognized for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching by the Sloan Consortium.
My course is operated through the Blackboard and is certainly not going to win any awards for technical brilliance. That said, I do believe that project oriented courses like mine and those at Savannah certainly do lend themselves to asymmetrical learning experiences for students. This is especially true if students like mine work or have to travel quite some distance to campus. Furthermore, I am not sure I would teach the course this term if I were required to travel periodically at scheduled time to the Madonna campus.
|Assignment creation page for my online course|
Perhaps my students would not consider this a great loss. However it can certainly be argued that it would be a great gain for hundreds or even thousands of students to have access to the very best teachers. Not everyone can afford to attend Georgia Tech or Savannah, but one can earn degrees through online courses at those top programs.
Online or face-to-face does not have to be an either-or proposition. And for very legitimate reasons many secondary and higher ed students are blending online coursework into their programs trying to create the best of all worlds.
As I have repeatedly remarked in this space, my professional life has been radically changed through networking with other educators through social media. Twitter and Blogger have been my primary tools, but more recently Linkedin has impacted my ability to gather resources and build professional relationships.
I have also observed the incredible impact that networking had my students as they engaged in Challenge Based Learning. Students were making vital contacts with experts like lawyers, judges, videographers, business owners, police officers, political staffers, and doctors to gather current and specific information to assist them with their American Government projects.
In 2010, it occurred to me that networking was such an important skill that it should be actively taught at school in the same way that students are taught to do traditional research. I had the notion that networking should be taught “inside-out” moving from family and friends to approachable and “safe” contacts like our own graduates.
I called a general meeting to explore this idea and was amazed by the enthusiastic response. The ensuing project was called M-Hub. Most of the students pictured below were tenth graders at the time, and by their senior year they had actually established a web site which allowed current students to log in with their school credentials and search alumnae in a database for assistance with college exploration, career information, and information for projects.
Dozens of our alumnae happily contributed this information, and M-Hub members learned how to process the data and move it into the searchable database. With
|The M-Hub Launch|
tremendous help from the school web designer M-Hub achieved a unique technical achievement.
The sophomores who started the project, then launched the web site to great fanfare at a staff meeting.
Unfortunately, since that time M-Hub has receded to the back of the minds of the school community. Subsequent M-Hub members have received technical training on how to operate the database, but they have not been successful at marketing the site to the student body. This year, attendance at M-Hub meetings fell off and M-Hub has been more or less adrift.
However, all is not lost. Mercy alumna, Kylie Meyers (’10), recently reached out to me through Linkedin. She graduated from Kalamazoo College a few weeks ago, and her experiences since high school have convinced her of the potential of M-Hub:
This last year I have been working at my school’s career center, where my job is primarily to connect alumni in the legal field to students interested in pursuing a law degree via a group on Linkedin as well as other networking events. After seeing some of the many opportunities these connections have created for students, some of which I have benefited from, I am very much on the “networking” bandwagon!
She has offered to get M-Hub started again. An enthusiastic group of staff members and students will be meeting with her at an open meeting before school on Thursday. Students, staff or alumnae are welcome to join us as we seek to revive M-Hub and realize its potential.
This season’s basketball team distinguished itself on the court as Catholic League and Regional Champs. They also tied a school record with 25 victories. As the girls racked up the points on the court, their two managers Kailey, and Bianca tracked the stats with their iPads. Using the $9.99 app, iScore Basketball Scorekeeper, they provided the statistical breakdown after each game for grateful “Coach of the Year”, Gary Morris.
The Mercy iPad Package can now be ordered for all incoming students for the 2014-15 school year. You must be a registered student to order. You will need your Mercy Student ID number to place your order. Follow the link below for more details and to place your order:
2014 Tech Talk for Educators at Mercy High School is complete. We are tying up loose ends and next week examining ways to improve the event, next year. Please share constructive comments.
Pardon me if I dwell one more blog post on the things that went right.
* We exceeded hoped for attendance by twenty percent. 250 educators participated.
* We had a killer Keynote speech
* Attendees praised a wide variety of break out presenters.
* The day was fun!
* Below is a captioned slideshow along with some of the general email/survey comments that we have received. Click here for the Twitter chatter.
Absolutely wonderful conference! Excellent venue, service, and structure. Thank you for the opportunity to present. I hope to return in the future.
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for putting on a wonderful conference. For a locally developed conference I thought it was incredibly well run and professional.
Thank you! Great food. Mercy is visitor friendly. I appreciated being able to chat with your students in the library.
Everything was well organized. I particularly appreciated how well things were labeled in the halls.
Great conference. Food was great, people friendly, good tech support, so helpful!
Very well organized. Location of sessions very easy to find.
Awesome conference. I gained a lot of valuable information and apps.
I really enjoyed this conference. I’m excited to use many of the applications I learned about today. I think it was affordable and close to my house and work. Excellent job Mercy!
The keynote speaker was inspirational.
Thanks for great day of learning, inspiring and collaboration.
Please offer conferences in the future.
All sessions were wonderful.
I loved that I was able to get useful resources and ideas that I could use in the classroom.
This was very well organized and all of the presenters were very knowledgeable.
Thank you for a great experience! The format of the day allowed for a lot of learning and game me much to think about for my district.
Great event. . . .I look forward to seeing this grow in the future.
Keynote was outstanding!
It was a day well spent.
Most photos by Hallie Smith and Sarah Rogers. Margaret Kurpiers, Heather Kellstrom, and Larry Baker also contributed.
This week the iWizards enjoyed a Google Hangout with the Tech Serpas of central Maine and the Genius Squad of Minnesota. I asked a charter member of the iWizards– tenth grader, Isadora B.– to describe the experience:
My experience having a Google Hangout with the Tech Sherpas and Genius Squad was eye-opening, interesting, and fun. It was very exciting to actually see and talk to other tech groups from different parts of the country. It’s amazing to think that there are groups in Maine, Minnesota, (and undoubtedly other parts of the US) that have similar goals in assisting students and teachers with technology as the iWizards do.
Using technology has definitely evolved education and life as we know it. While talking to the Sherpas and the Genius Squad, it was interesting to discover what they themselves have learned from educating technology. Finding out how the tech members reach out to students and teachers, overcome obstacles, and tips from their own experiences, was intriguing. It gave perhaps some ideas on how the iWizards can make our own technology group better.
All in all, the Google Hangout with these two groups was fun. The atmosphere was enjoyable and I sincerely hope that their will be more Google Hangout like this one in the future. I think that more tech groups, like the Tech Sherpas, Genius Squad, and the iWizards, should keep sharing updates, solutions, and pointers with each other as technology continues to develop at a ever so faster rate.
After a thorough review and evaluation of several different alternatives Mercy has decided to switch learning management systems (LMS) from Moodle to Schoology. Teachers, students and parents will be able to access Schoology from their smartphones and tablets (iOS and Android) or any web browser. Starting this semester a group of pilot teachers will begin to use Schoology. By the start of the 2014-2015 school year all courses will be moved to Schoology.
Here are some of the new features:
- Seamless integration with PowerSchool. If you take a quiz or submit an assignment your grades will automatically sync with PowerSchool.
- Easy integration with DropBox and Google Drive
- The ability to record video and audio submissions right from your iPad or laptop
- No storage limit on what you upload to Schoology
- Full featured iOS and Android apps for use on the iPad or your smart phone.