WILMINGTON – St. Elizabeth High School has been recognized by the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce as one of six Superstars in Education for its Viking Initiative for Innovation program, better known as ViFi.
The effort has changed the way technology is used in the classroom to make the curriculum more effective and more deeply engage students and faculty.
St. Elizabeth is the only nonpublic school in Delaware to receive the honor. Thirty nominations were submitted to the chamber.
The superstars program has honored Delaware schools and educators since 1989 that have “implemented and sustained a creative, unique program, or a teaching practice that shows measurable results and raises students achievement,” according to the Chamber of Commerce. Funded by the business community, the program concentrates on projects that improve “critical workplace competencies.”
The award recipients will be honored at a ceremony on May 4 at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington. Tickets are $25 and are available at www.dscc.com/events/eventdetail.aspx?EventID=1639.
The team at St. Elizabeth that prepared the nomination included principal Shirley Bounds, technology director Christophre Matarese and Tech Team members Kammas Murphy and Jessica Shoja-Edwards.
Shoja-Edwards said the recognition from the chamber shows how St. Elizabeth is moving forward and being a leader in the educational community. “We don’t want to be good. We want to be great. We want to be the best at what we do.”
St. Elizabeth implemented ViFi over a period of several years beginning in 2009-10, Bounds said. That included enhancing the technology capabilities in the school, researching how technology had been used elsewhere and holding professional development for the faculty. Over the next few years, the school took steps to increase the presence of ViFi.
Finally, in 2013-14, the 1:1 iPad environment went live. Each student and teacher uses iPads and electronic books, along with seven “foundational” apps.
“It’s been a very intentional, very deliberate process. We wanted ViFi to be more than an iPad implementation process. What we wanted to do is transform the learning environment,” Bounds said.
The professional development is ongoing, and as the program moves forward, the school has made adjustments where necessary. Shoja-Edwards has been involved with this aspect of ViFi.
“We couldn’t just give everybody iPads and say, ‘Go figure it out,’” she said.
Bounds said the faculty deserves credit for changing the way they approach education.
“It was really changing the way they did a lot of things, to use an e-book and to find apps and to kind of hand kids this device that they use so much,” she said.
There were some worries about the students getting distracted with the iPads, but Bounds said most use of the technology is for educational use. There have always been ways to cheat no matter what the teaching tools have been. Also, the school is trying to teach students to be responsible. So, if they decide to play games instead of take notes, that will likely be reflected in their performance.
“They see it as so useful that they don’t abuse it,” Bounds said.
One thing St. Elizabeth officials stress is that the technology is a useful piece of the educational puzzle, but in the end, the iPads are just a learning tool.
“We don’t want it to focus on what apps you’re using because it’s not about the tool, it’s about how you’re using it to enhance what you’re doing in the classroom, to have better outcomes for students,” Shoja-Edwards said.