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Pandemic changes sticking at St. Wendelin

First-grader Libbie McCollough works on a Chromebook in class at St. Wendelin School on Jan. 13. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle

The pandemic forced change on many people and businesses, most notably with the more significant use of modern technology. Think about the increase in the use of digital meeting applications such as Zoom or food delivery companies.

Changes were also true for St. Wendelin School, as the pandemic brought on a significant increase in the use of technology for the students at the school from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

“With COVID, that’s where we started to try and make these improvements with technology to keep the students learning throughout that time ,” said JoLynn Clouse, school principal.

All students and teachers received a Chromebook to work from during the pandemic. A purchase like this was necessary as the school changed from in-person to online learning, but it led to more technological changes for the school in the post pandemic era as well.

“It was so we could continue education throughout the time of COVID,” said Clouse, “But that actually promoted being able to provide more direct instruction, utilizing the Chromebook and technology we haven’t used before.”

The obvious change of technology in schools in the post-pandemic era is the ability to conduct online learning more efficiently. It was a forced adjustment, like so many aspects of life for many people during and after the pandemic, but it has become a welcome adjustment at St. Wendelin.

In addition to using the Chromebooks and other products such as Google Docs for online teaching, the school uses the technology for other aspects of learning, such as presentations or small group projects.

Standardized and quarterly testing is starting to be conducted using the Chromebooks and iPads at the school as well. Parent communication has been improved since the school can now text a parent’s phone.

Layla Baldauf, left, and Maisie Rimer work on a project together in class at St. Wendelin School on Jan. 13. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle

Students in seventh and eighth grades are now able to film, post and share their morning announcements via a YouTube link sent to the classrooms where the announcements are projected onto an updated Promethean board, an interactive white board.

“Teachers can now show that at the beginning of the day, instead of it just being on walkie-talkies throughout the building,” said Clouse.

In terms of lessons, technology has provided new ways for students to learn. The school’s math program, Rocket Math, can be done online. The reading program is entirely online as well. There are different ways to learn the content online too, including games and audio books.

The different ways to learn also may make the lessons more accessible for students who might struggle to learn the traditional way. Audio books of a story, for example, will allow a student who may struggle with reading to listen to the story.

A technological improvement that may seem minor, such as changing the background color of a computer screen, also can make a major difference for some children who may struggle to read lessons in front of a certain colored screen.

It also makes the lesson plan more accessible for parents who want to see what their child is learning. In addition to the aforementioned communication bonus the school implemented, webcams set up in classrooms give parents the ability to watch their child make a class presentation.

It’s much easier for students to show their parents what they’re learning on the Chromebooks, as opposed to having to dig through multiple textbooks and homework assignments.

Parent-teacher conferences can be conducted online, and students are now electronically signed out, making it easier to notify the school that parents have arrived and are taking their children home. Social media usage has seen an increase primarily for communicating information to parents and enrollment purposes.

“That checkout system at the end of the day has been critical to our school and the safety and how we make a smooth transition into dismissal at the end of the day,” said Clouse.

The technological advancement was forced, but the school has run with it. More good news for parents of students who attend the school is that this advancement allows the school a safeguard if a situation like the onset of the pandemic in 2020 happens again.

Teachers are able to upload and assign tests and quizzes via the Chromebook, making any forced transition back to online learning a lot smoother than when the world stopped in 2020.

Preschool teacher Stephanie Baldauf shows a video in her class on her smart board at St. Wendelin School on Jan. 13. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle
Students use Chromebooks at St. Wendelin School on Jan. 13. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle
Andrea Wisniewski, the seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at St. Wendelin School, loads up the smart board for class on Jan. 13. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle
Andrea Wisniewski, the seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at St. Wendelin School, loads up the smart board for class on Jan. 13. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle
Cooper Hawk works on his Chromebook in class at St. Wendelin School on Jan. 13. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle
First-grader Libbie McCollough works on a project in class at St. Wendelin School on Jan. 13. Justin Guido/Butler Eagle

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