Queen of Peace goes digital

Kindergarten teacher Beth Clifford, right, meet Marlo Walpole and her children, Dominic Walpole, 8, Sabrina Walpole, 1, and Owen Walpole, 5, in her classroom before school starts on Wednesday at Queen of Peace Catholic Academy in Gainesville,

(Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 6:53 p.m.

When Queen of Peace Catholic Academy opened in 2000, the school had two buildings and 55 students.

On Wednesday — the first day of classes in the school’s 14th year of operation — Queen of Peace has nearly 450 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, a sprawling campus and a full menu of extracurricular activities.

And this year, especially, technology is a main focus.

All middle school students will receive an iPad to use for the school year, which can be used in conjunction with Apple TV, which was installed in every classroom and the media center prior to school starting.

The media center, which is shifting to a more digital focus, will now be known as the iTECH Center — short for Technology Education and Community Hub.

“Our goal this year is a lot of collaboration through technological devices,” technology coach Tammie Vassou said.

The iPad program started last year as an experiment in a more interactive curriculum, Vassou said.

Sixth-graders received iPads that they used to critique each others’ work and present projects in the classroom. Teachers also experimented with uploading lectures to the Internet so students could access audio or video from home, which helps different kinds of learners, Vassou said.

The program was successful enough that the school decided to give all 106 of the middle school students iPads this year. An additional 55 iPads are available for elementary school students to use in small groups in the classroom or the iTECH Center.

Teaching with new technology forces the teachers to stay ahead of the digital curve, too, Vassou said.

“We’re able to grow with the children (because) it’s new for us as well,” she said.

Children speak the language of technology these days, said media specialist Derek Maddux, who is overseeing the transformation of the iTECH Center.

“The classic library as we know it is phasing more into a digital library,” he said. Students at Queen of Peace will continue to use print sources, but the demand for digitizing texts is increasing.

This year, students will use a digital format of their algebra textbooks, accessible by iPad.

The iTECH Center will help integrate traditional learning and technology.

Students can use their iPads with new Apple TVs in the iTECH Center to build presentations and share them with each other. Maddux and his son built a wooden stage in the corner of the room where students can get comfortable with presenting.

And the building has more changes in store in the coming year, said community relations director Darlene Coogan.

The building that houses the iTECH Center is also home to the art room and the computer lab, both of which will move into a brand-new building the school will break ground on this year.

Although much has changed at Queen of Peace in the last 13 years, some things are still the same.

On Tuesday, just like every year, the school opened for students and families to meet their teachers and see where they’d spend their year.

First-year teacher Alicia Peaslee sent her first-grade class, “Peaslee’s Pirates,” on a treasure hunt of the classroom so they could become familiar with the classroom.

“It gets them used to the room so they know exactly where everything is when they get in,” Peaslee said.

Despite the push for technology, Coogan said, Queen of Peace teachers still focus on educating the whole child.

“It’s truly a ministry when the teachers here are teaching for the love of teaching our children,” said Vassou, the technology coach. “It’s a ministry and not a job.”

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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