An animated presentation of a research project created by an 11-year-old sixth grader. A social studies teacher reading his presentation from his iPhone while he shows the bullets of the presentation on a projector screen by clicking the same device. Another sixth grader showing what an owl has eaten through an on-screen dissection of its pellet.

These are just a few of the interactive live demonstrations of how young students at certain Catholic schools are using the new educational software and new devices and technology available on the market.

Edmodo (a social learning network for teachers and students), and Mathletics are among the Web sites used this school year, which have already shown a grade level increase compared to previous years.

The above was presented during the Feb. 27 C3 (Catholic Communication Collaboration) Implementation Launch at the auditorium of St. Columbkille School in Los Angeles, where Archbishop José Gomez expressed his desire to make technology an important part of his ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“You, the students, are the leaders of tomorrow,” he told a group of students sitting on the stage with laptops on their laps. “That is why it is so important that you get the tools to succeed today.”

St. Columbkille is one of the 25 locations that receive resources from the pilot technology program --- implemented by the archdiocese in partnership with Clearwire, a provider of 4G wireless Internet connectivity --- to improve evangelization efforts and to boost academic performance. That includes involving parents in the learning process by developing English skills for those who are foreign-language speakers.

St. Columbkille facilities were upgraded with the funding of the J.F. Shea Foundation. Father Francis Mendoza, pastor, offered a demonstration of its revamped Web site, done with support of the Doheny Foundation. 

To emphasize the importance of technology in today’s world, the archbishop reminded the audience of Pope Benedict XVI’s encouragement to the Church to use technology to reach every person and family, and noted that the pope held a conversation with astronauts in a space mission. 

Archbishop Gomez said the use of the new technology will strengthen the collaboration between teachers and parents to educate their children, which has been the “hallmark of Catholic education.”

Participating in the pilot program are 13 schools (11 elementary and two secondary), nine parishes, a school of ministry, and two administrative sites (San Fernando Regional office and the Archdiocesan Catholic Center).

Discussions of how to look at technology with new and innovative ways throughout the archdiocese began two years ago, said Kevin Baxter, archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic elementary schools and chairman of the work group formed then to oversee the “test platform” in order to assess and enhance technology use in the selected locations through 2014. 

By then, it is expected that the program will be active in the 600 archdiocesan locations (schools, parishes and administrative offices). 

Baxter said accomplishments in the past two years include the one-to-one initiative in six pilot schools where students received personal devices (laptops or iPads); identification of the student information system, Eagle Aeries, a program for managerial tasks at schools and parishes; identification of a learning management system in partnership with vendor MoodleRooms, a platform where teachers can deliver content in innovative ways; and a partnership with netTrekker, a content provider.

A big investment was required as well, said Baxter. Many facilities went through a “facelift” to introduce the appropriate conduit and bandwidth needed for the new technology.

“The pilot project is centered in one key idea,” remarked Baxter. “We’re looking at education with a capital E.”

He emphasized that the pilot is not a school-only program. “The dream is to start to look at evangelization and how to start to reach people in a world today where technology is ubiquitous,” Baxter noted.

“The whole idea is to identify what technology is most effective to evangelize,” he continued, “and that might be education in our Catholic schools, it might be a ministry at some of our parishes, and it might be how we deliver content in our religious education programs.”

For that purpose, he explained, it is necessary to look at the outcomes and measure how successful those technology implementations are. 

The flexibility of the technology will make possible the opening of new avenues for parents’ interaction with their children in the learning process, and potentially be used to help parents earn an online GED (general education development).

“We have broader goals to see how we can impact family life as well,” Baxter added.

He suggested that parish, school and religious education officials and personnel should start conversations in preparation for receiving these new generations of people in their institutions who come with a different way of processing information, in order to “truly handle the way that they learn.”

He urged the audience to identify what “substantially” works in their locations, what is impacting learning, evangelization or involvement at the parish, or impacting people’s behavior and commitment.

A way to cut costs in the future, Baxter suggested, is to tap into the technology used by 21st century learners who oftentimes are connected in multiple ways. Studies, he said, indicate 75 percent of teenagers use cell phones, regardless of their social status; 30 percent of those are smart phones (iPhones, android phones and phones connected to Internet). It is estimated that in two to three years the percentage of smart phones in the hands of younger generations will increase. 

“About 80,000 students attend archdiocesan schools, and it costs from $8,000 to $10,000 to educate students in California public schools per year, which translates to $1 billion of archdiocesan efforts providing state budget relief each year,” said Margaret Graf, the archdiocese’s general counsel.

“That is only a yardstick of the even greater value contributed throughout the archdiocese in ministry and to fill the ever-growing gap in services to communities in this country,” she said. 

Jacqueline Casta√±eda, mother of four students at St. Bernard School, another pilot location, said she has noticed a great improvement in her children’s performance and involvement in school activities since the pilot program started this school year.

“They love to research on the Internet, and I’ve also noticed more collaboration between parents and teachers,” she said.

“This is incredible! I never had this opportunity before,” said St. Bernard sixth grader Sebastiana Carrillo, 11, who was a public school student until last year. “We are really blessed,” she said, while typing on the personal laptop assigned to her at school.

For more information about the Catholic Communication Collaboration, call Dr. Kevin Baxter, (213) 637-7328. To check St. Columbkille’s new Web site, visit

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