By | October 26, 2010

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.

Call for Presenters — Tech Talk at MHS 2015

By | September 18, 2014

We have just put out a call for speakers for Tech Talk at Mercy High School(#mhtalk) on February 27, 2015.  This educational technology conference is designed for K-12 teachers throughout our region. With a group price of $30 per attendee, we wish to make this an affordable opportunity for teachers to learn about their peers’ best tech practices.  We will be opening registration in the near future.

At our inaugural Tech Talk in 2014, we drew 250 happy attendees.  The success of the conference was entirely driven by our high quality presenters. Please help us recruit innovative teachers to apply to become presenters at our conference. They may do so at this link:

Direct inquiries to Tech Talk Coordinator Ann Lusch amlusch@mhsmi.org or me lrbaker@mhsmi.org

Hunting down Paramecia with an iPhone!

By | September 15, 2014

On Friday, MHS microbiology teacher Gerry Meloche contacted me to say that there was considerable excitement in his class.  For a microscope exercise requiring students to identify paramecia, he had added a new dimension.  The students were using their iPhones to photograph and video record the microbes before they scooted out of view.  This helped with the identification, but it also generated great collaboration and enthusiasm.  As the photos below indicate, the images the students were capturing could be mirrored on an Apple TV and projected to a screen.  As I reported in a past blog post, Gerry also can show live images through a microscope using a device I was introduced to at the ADE Institute in 2013. 


A New Self-Paced Basic Mac OS Course (with Animated Badges!)

By | September 2, 2014

I have finished creating a new self-paced Apple OS X course for Mercy staff.   You can also explore the materials as well. As I write, no one has made it past Lesson 3 yet, so the assignments have not really been tested.  However, 24 staff members have enrolled and ten have earned badges. 

Course Gradebook indicating badges awarded


The course is offered through Schoology, Mercy’s LMS. It is designed to serve staff members, nearly all of whom have been issued MacBook Airs over the last two years.  It is a self-paced course which does not have to be completed sequentially. When a staff member completes a module successfully, he/she is awarded an animated GIF badge instead of a grade.

These are the lessons offered:  

Lesson 1 – Mac Basics

Lesson 2 – Keyboard Shortcuts

Lesson 3 – Making screencasts with QuickTime

Lesson 4 – Setting System Preferences

Lesson 5 – Organizing Your Desktop and Using Aliases

Lesson 6 - Organizing with Smart Folders and Tags

Lesson 7 – Snacking at the Menu Bar

Lesson 8 – Dictation and Special Characters

Lesson 9 – Using the Cool Features in Preview

Lesson 10 – Getting Help

I imagine that when the new OS X Yosemite is released soon, I will need to do some updating.  But of course computer technology is a moving target. 

– L. Baker 

Scenes from the iPad Orientation

By | August 18, 2014

On August 15, the Mercy High School iWizards conducted an iPad Orientation for all new students.  The iWizards created all of the resources and instructional materials which are now available at Schoology.

All of the technical support and logistics were provided by Mr. James. Mr. Bank, and Ms. Corte.

The iWizards appreciated the staff orientation mentors they had invited to participate: Mr. Skellet, Ms. Kline-Kator, Ms. McGavin, Ms. Wilson, Ms. Harris-Schultheis, Ms. S. Smith, and Ms. H. Smith. Several other staff members helped with greetings, registration, and photography.

The video and photos shown here have been contributed by Mr. Wamp and Ms. Lusch.
3 or 4 iWizards were available to help at each session.

Summer School Tech at MHS

By | August 8, 2014

At Mercy, tech serves instruction.  But for everyone to be able to leverage an extraordinary tool like the iPad, some “summer school” is necessary.  For the past two weeks we have been busy serving our teachers and new students with some tech support before school officially begins.

For ten consecutive days. Tom James (Director of I.T.) and Mr. Gary Bank (Systems Administrator)  deployed iPads to new students through an hour’s set-up session where students   1) set-up their iPads   2) established passwords for the iPads and our computer labs  3) set-up Google Accounts and mail app  4) created their Apple I.D.s  5) installed their apps  6) signed into Schoology

New students become acquainted with their iPad Airs.

New students become acquainted with their iPad Airs.

Schoology is the new learning management system for Mercy.  Most of our assignments and resources are pushed to the students online through this system.  Since it is new, many teachers dropped in for work sessions on Schoology and 1:1 help offered by colleagues Angela Harris, Eleasha Tarplin, Lauren Marquard, Joe Gerardi, Larry Baker, Tom James, Lisa Robinet, Susan Smith, Alison Kline-Kator, and Jan Wampuszyc.

Several iWizards assisted with the iPad deployment, but twenty-five of them will be leading the two and a half hour iPad orientation on Friday, August 15. The sessions will include….

Schoology / Dropbox
Pages / Printing
iAnnotate PDF
iMovie + Keynote
Digital Citizenship (done by Ms. Brown the counselor) 
The iWizards chose the topics, designed the instruction, and created the materials for this session.  They are eager for Friday to come!
All of these activities exhibit the generosity of spirit one finds at Mercy High.

Three helpful iWizards wait in the wings at iPad deployment.

Three helpful iWizards wait in the wings at iPad deployment.


Technology in Mercy’s Fine Arts Department

By | June 6, 2014

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.”

Google’s Diversity Report, May 2014

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.

Devine_Lucy_Logo for fictional company

Sophomore Lucy Devine created this logo using Adobe Illustrator in her Graphics Design class.

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.

7_DEVINE_LUCY_baseball back view

Lucy used SolidWorks to create this eye-popping image* for her Graphics Design project.

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.




The Power of Peer to Peer Professional Development

By | May 29, 2014

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.

Some Thoughts about Online Courses

By | May 19, 2014

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.

Reviving M-Hub

By | March 31, 2014

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.

The Basketball Team Scores . . . . with the iPad!

By | March 25, 2014


photo 3

iScore Interface

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.

Bianca and Kailey take stats at a recent game. (Photo by Nicole).

Bianca and Kailey take stats at a recent game. (Photo by Nicole).