Holy Family School Wins New Media Lab (with slide show)

by Antonina Zielinska

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio dedicated a new $100,000 CTN Media Room in Holy Family School, Fresh Meadows, during the first full week of the new school year.

During the blessing the bishop spoke of the importance of technological advances in learning environments.

“The discoveries of technology, if used properly, can be of great service to the human family, not only to bring help in times of need, but also as resources for education and entertainment and particularly for spreading and building up the kingdom of God,” he said.

Holy Family won a contest hosted by the Catholic Telemedia Network (CTN) of Brooklyn and Queens. The Queens school competed against 25 other schools in the diocese for a chance to receive a technological makeover in one of their rooms. The schools were given scores based on the volume of use of CTN services.

At the blessing of the new media lab at Holy Family School, Fresh Meadows, were, from left, Mary Scheer, principal; Father Casper Furnari, parish administrator; Sister Barbara Haran, C.S.J.; Bishop DiMarzio; Deacon Jaime Varela, the bishop’s secretary; Msgr. Joseph Stafford, pastor emeritus, (partially hidden); and CTN’s Paul Cedeno.

Gina Krainchich, director of operations for CTN, said the contest was an effort to both publicize CTN and encourage more access to it.
“We were looking for a way to help the schools,” she said. “We know that in order to use our services, they need technology and we know funding is not readily available.”

Sister Barbara Haran, C.S.J., technology teacher, said she is thankful for the lab because the school had been researching ways to update its technology classroom, which was equipped with 10-year-old computers.  She said she is excited to teach in this new environment that provides more opportunities for the students.

CTN worked with contract company JS McHugh to transform the old lab into a modern media center.

“We tried to design a space that was kid friendly and allows the maximum amount of learning,” said Erik Rappel, JS McHugh project manager.

The new design divides the room into three workstations. A SMART Board is the focal point of the first station, which is equipped with an iPad 2 for the teacher to use as a remote control for the board, and a set of instruction clickers, used for group quizzes and multiple choice.

The second station has 10 laptops for students. Twenty more laptops are stored in the classroom should a teacher chose to engage the entire classroom in a laptop activity.  Students will utilize the laptops to access the vast resources of the Internet including online learning activities provided by CTN.

The third station centers on a 55-inch flat-screen television, which students can use to watch educational videos including programming provided by CTN.

The entire classroom has high-speed Internet separate from the school’s network to ensure maximum connectivity, at no cost to the school.

Paul Cedeno, CTN program director who worked on the project, said the classroom provides flexibility. Students can move between the stations a couple times during the same lesson. The classroom is designed to easily rearrange into different settings including the traditional classroom layout.

Sarah Morici, JS McHugh project designer, said she kept the children’s well being in mind. She said every detail, from the color of the paint to the furniture in the room, was chosen to increase students’ comfort level, attention span and ability to learn.

The room is painted green with one wall covered in wallpaper displaying the color scheme of CTN.

She said the green color will keep students alert. However, the color is light enough to not create a distraction.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Mary Scheer, principal. “It’s bright and cheerful.”

The furniture was imported from Germany. Created by the company VS, it is aimed to increase students’ attention spans.  The chairs are made to allow the students leeway to move in their chairs without creating a distraction. The tables are adjustable to correspond with the user’s height.

Keyana Smith, an eight-grade student, said she was impressed with the overall look of the room. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “Our computer classes can be more fun.”

All the students in the school will have an opportunity to use the classroom during technology lessons. Sister Barbara will teach them computer skills needed for research and creating projects using word processors, Excel and PowerPoint.

Other teachers in the school also can teach their classes in the lab. Donna Collins, social studies teacher, said she already has plans for her first lesson. She plans to teach about the Reconstruction Era after the civil war by allowing students to research different approaches and creating their own reconstruction plans.