Julia with Vito Ferrant, Director of Educational Technology
Sacred Heart Cathedral Prepatory (SHCP) is private high-school in San Francisco. SHP is a Bring-Your-Own-Device school, and 90% of students bring laptops or tablets every day. We met with Vito Ferrante
, the school’s Director of Educational Technology and a math teacher.
What are some of the main problems and challenges that you face?
Institutional alignment: Many of SHP’s teachers are accustomed to a traditional classroom model and have resisted digitization efforts. Ferrante spends a lot of time convincing teachers to update their curriculum, incorporate new software, and adapt their teaching style to the digital world.
Best practices for digital classrooms: Techniques for incorporating technology into the classroom are constantly evolving with new software trends. As both an EdTech Director and a classroom teacher, Ferrante tries to advise his peers on how to digitize without disrupting or diluting student learning.
How do you discover new software to use?
Ferrante said that he mostly discovers new software through education technology conferences . Although the Director of Educational Technology position is fairly new at Sacred Heart, he gets lots of cold calls from developers, gets many referrals from other educators, and knows of several blogs and online resources for information. The school is “always looking for things that are free or not that costly.”
What factors into your decisions for what software to choose?
Ferrante said the biggest obstacle to implementing new technologies is convincing teachers at the school that the tech is worthwhile. Classroom teaching has changed significantly over the last decade, but not all educators are comfortable moving away from the traditional content-driven model. Since his budget is small, cost is a major limiting factor and often one of the first concerns when considering a new offering.
Julia and Eric's Ideas / Commentary
Exam question ideas
Ideas/database for standards-aligned exam questions that challenge students to solve real-world problems. Sacred Heart follows the Common Core, a national set of learning standards, but struggles to put together examinations and assignments that critically challenge students without requiring rote content memorization. The school has “learning teams” or groups of teachers who work together to come up with complex problems, and Vita said they’re “creating [the exams] on the fly ourselves.” It might be useful for schools to develop an online repository of exam question.
Secure online testing
Many teachers at the school worry about cheating and how online resources allow students to sidestep real learning. Ferrante mentioned interest in software that gives teachers the ability to monitor student devices or “freeze” browser windows to set parameters around allowed resources.
Improved student portfolio management
Digital student portfolios at Sacred Heart are full of mixed media. Students produce and submit links (Google Docs, YouTube videos), files (screenshots, photos of hand-written work, pdfs), and free-form text, in addition to paper assignments in some classrooms. Both submitting and reviewing assignments is difficult.