AVON — Sophie Dowd has found lots of things to enjoy about the shiny new, state-of-the-art Chromebook laptop computers at St. Agnes School.
“I like them a lot,” said Sophie, a fourth-grader. “I like that they have a touchpad and a mouse, I like to get on Google Docs (an online word-processing program), and it’s a lot easier to change the font and letter size.”
Tina Culhane, the school’s technology instructor, agreed that the 16 computers have many appealing features — with one in particular standing out for her.
“They are, first and foremost, faster. I just think it’s going to give the kids more opportunity to learn quicker, learn new things,” Culhane said, explaining that with the school’s old computers, “lots of times the kids would come in and after five or 10 minutes, they were still waiting for their computer to come on — and it’s a 40-minute class and I see them once a week.”
The new laptops “don’t, like, freeze as much,” added Reilly Calman, a fifth-grader.
The computers are the main attractions in a recent set of upgrades to the St. Monica Memorial Library and Technology Center at St. Agnes. In addition, the facility now features a new charging station for the laptops, fresh mouse pads and devices, and stylish new desks set up in a circular fashion to replace long, space-eating rectangular desks.
The upgrades were made possible by the St. Agnes School Foundation, which provides funding for improvements that cannot be met by the school budget.
“From small land donations that we have auctioned, to parishioners who give what they can, or alumni working out in California, our foundation made this possible,” remarked Elizabeth Jensen, principal of the prekindergarten through sixth-grade school in northern Livingston County.
Additional upgrades to the library/technology center are new bookshelves, courtesy of the Avon Free Library, and one of four SMART Boards donated to St. Agnes by McQuaid Jesuit High School.
Students started using the Chromebooks in early January. On the morning of Jan. 18, the school conducted a dedication ceremony that was attended by students, faculty, staff and guests. Cindy Zhe, school librarian, gave an address paying tribute to St. Agnes’ many donors and volunteers, including Mark Dennis, a school parent whose technological troubleshooting led to acquisition of the computers. Judy D’Angelo, one of the effort’s major contributors, cut the ribbon, and Father Michael Fowler, the parochial administrator of St. Agnes Church, St. Rose in Lima and St. Paul of the Cross in Honeoye Falls, performed a blessing of the library/technology center.
Culhane told the Catholic Courier that she’s looking forward to using the new laptops in her technology curriculum, which begins in the first grade. She noted that younger students acquire general computer knowledge before moving on as they get older to research, coding and such applications as Microsoft Publisher and PowerPoint.
“Everyone so far loves the ease of them,” Culhane said of the new laptops, adding that students have adapted to them smoothly. “The generation they’re from, they’re very technologically savvy,” she said.