By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
When Principal Mary Ann Spicijaric arrived at Fontbonne Hall Academy in 2013, she recognized that technology would play a crucial role in the development of her students as the leaders of tomorrow. Under her guidance, Fontbonne, a Catholic high school for girls in Bay Ridge, eagerly signed up for Google Apps for Education, a free suite of education tools offered by the Internet giant.
In late 2013, Fontbonne’s plans to strengthen its use of technology took a new, exciting turn when the school was selected to test a new Google product.
At Google’s request, one of Fontbonne’s teachers used and provided feedback on Classroom, a product in development. Classroom is a new tool in Google Apps for Education that lets teachers create and organize assignments quickly, offer comments efficiently and communicate easily with their students. It lets students organize their work, complete and turn in work assignments and communicate directly with their teachers and peers.
In early 2014, Google expanded the trial run and asked the entire school to test Classroom and provide feedback.
"When Google asked us to be the only full-school test site, we were very nervous,” said Spicijaric. “However, the entire school community saw the tremendous benefit of being the first school to see and work with Classroom. Even beyond that, the professional development opportunity for our faculty was too good to pass up, and our students really needed to begin seeing technology as a learning tool as opposed to a device used for entertainment.”
To assist in the development of the product, teachers and students provided daily comments to Google about any changes they thought should be made. One of the additions suggested by teachers was the question and answer tool, which Google incorporated.
The experiences of teachers and students at Fontbonne are featured in Google’s promotional materials for the new product.
After just a few weeks of use, the school began to enjoy the benefits of Classroom and Google Apps for Education. Students liked having access to their work from their computers. They could organize assignments easily and not worry about keeping track of papers. Teachers found that, by having students submit their work with Classroom, they could easily keep track of sections and mark assignments whenever they had time without carrying piles of paper around.
As a result of the experimentation, starting this September, all Fontbonne freshmen will receive Chromebooks. The Google Apps for Education suite will continue to support the school’s Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum.
Spicijaric said she’s delighted. "Partnering with Google has really helped us take another step towards becoming a leading school dedicated to inspiring girls to prepare themselves to take their place alongside their male counterparts in STEM careers,” the principal said.