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School Feature: Tech at Vis
Here at Visitation, we know that when our students are tech savvy, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for them. Whether they are editing videos, designing websites, learning to code, or simply taking advantage of the organizational tools on their personal devices, Visitation students gain the technology and digital citizenship skills necessary to thrive in our evolving world.
We are lucky to have two full-time Technology Integrationists here at Vis. Kelsey Irrizarry in Lower and Middle School and Ronna Baca in Upper School support Vis teachers and students in all things tech. These master educators enhance the curriculum at Vis in many exciting ways. We recently had an enlightening discussion with them about what their jobs entail.
Tech in Middle School
Middle School students each have an iPad, which Ms. Irizarry helps them use in age-appropriate ways. "My goal is to start mindful tech as early as possible and help students develop tech literacy skills in ways that enhance their learning," Ms. Irizarry said. She supports Middle School teachers with project-based tech integration and helps students develop skills like typing, coding, developing a healthy relationship with technology, and digital citizenship.
"One unique thing about Vis is that we're teaching digital citizenship right out of the gate," Ms. Irizarry said. "From the beginning, students at Vis learn to use technology safely and ethically. I teach students to balance technology and relationships--always emphasizing that relationships are more important." For example, Ms. Irizarry helps students understand why posting someone's photo without permission can be harmful; how to respect copyrighted material; how to stay safe online; and how to build a healthy relationship with social media.
Ms. Irizarry co-teaches with Middle School faculty to enhance students' digital skills, helping them make slideshow presentations, podcasts, videos and more--all while infusing the mindful use of technology and creative property.
Ms. Irizarry works closely with Upper School Tech Integrationist Ms. Baca to support teachers and parents as well. "Because there are two of us, we can really customize the support we give to each age group," Ms. Irizarry said. "We got to build this job together, and it's constantly evolving in new and exciting ways. It's fun to see how much our students and teachers benefit when we incorporate tech into the curriculum."
Ms. Irizarry graduated from St. Kate's with a BS in Elementary Education and received her Masters in Education from St. Mary's University. She also holds a Technology Certificate and a STEM/Engineering Certificate from the University of St. Thomas.
Tech in Upper School
Every student in Visitation Upper School is given her own MacBook Air laptop computer. Ms. Baca trains these students to use these devices to their fullest capacity, so that they can hit the ground running when they enter college. According to Ms. Baca, having a MacBook Air as opposed to a tablet allows students to gain competence in using powerful, high-level devices and applications. "Engineering, Digital Photography, Computer Science, and other courses here utilize applications that require a powerful computer to run," she said. "Our students get exposure to applications that other devices can't handle."
Helping Upper School students organize their digital life is also a big part of Ms. Baca's job. She does flex tech sessions with ninth graders to teach them how their computer can help them keep their assignments, emails, files, etc. well organized. She serves as a valuable resource for any Upper School student who needs extra support. "If a student is having trouble prioritizing her coursework or keeping up with assignments, I collaborate with her and with our learning specialist to develop a system that works," Ms. Baca said.
Teachers at Visitation rely on Ms. Baca as well. She helps teachers with everything from 3D printing to podcasting to creating websites. She loves when she can teach the Visitation teachers something new. "I love to help teachers integrate tech into their curriculum. They’re experts in different subjects, but technology can support their work in so many ways," she said. "I'm here to take the intimidating factor out of tech and to help them enhance their curriculum. Many things need to be digital these days, and teachers are gaining these skills alongside their students."
Ms. Baca also reinforces digital citizenship concepts, supports students who may need to work remotely, and serves as a resource for parents as they navigate Visitation's Learning Management System, Schoology.
Some of Ms. Baca's favorite Tech Integration projects from the 2020-21 school year included: helping Physical Science students design Women in Science posters that were digitized, reproducible and professional-looking; helping students design and 3D print atom models in Chemistry class; and helping Art students design and 3D print name stamps for their pottery creations.
Ms. Baca brings over 27 years of K-12 technology and art-related experience to Visitation. She has a BA in Art and Spanish from the College of St. Benedict and a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota. "I have always had a passion for incorporating technology into curriculum, and I feel so lucky to be doing this work at Vis," she said.
Fun Facts About Tech at Vis
Visitation has a Genius Bar in its library, which offers tech support all day every day, so students can get customized support anytime for tech issues that arise.
In addition, Visitation has:
- Four 3D printers
- A classroom set of Sphero robots
- A classroom set of Code and Go Mice Robots
- A classroom set of Ozobot robots
- A classroom set of Little Bits Engineering Kits
- A classroom set of Makey Makeys
- A classroom set of paper circuits
- Lego kits for free-form challenges
- A classroom set of Garmin GPS
- A Breakout Edu kit
- A GoPro camera
- And more!