Oct 31 2006

Tech Integration

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Schools reward teachers for pursuing technology instruction.

Teresa Wilkins

ASKING TEACHERS TO INTEGRATE technology into their curriculum areas is one thing; getting them to do it is another. The solution adopted by Our Lady of Mount Carmel Schools in suburban Baltimore County, Md., has attracted national acclaim.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel K-12 Catholic schools serve a population of multicultural middle-class families. The campus includes a church, rectory, learning center, elementary school and high school. There are 417 students in the elementary school and 283 students in the high school.


Ten years ago, Kathleen Sipes, Mount Carmel’s high school principal, realized that she needed to move forward with technology integration. She hired technology coordinators who knew the ins and outs of hardware and software and who understood the issues—curriculum integration in particular—that the classroom teachers were facing every day.


Together, they devised a plan to encourage the staff to use available technology, and the Mount Carmel Technology Certification Program was born. TCP serves the needs of the entire campus, but it focuses on staff development. Teacher competencies in the use of technology, as stated in the guidelines of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Mount Carmel’s technology plan, are emphasized.

The program is modeled after a typical bachelor’s degree program. Teachers must take a battery of core classes, followed by a concentration of courses that they select. Curriculum integration and a final project complete the requirements of the program.

Faculty members may take courses in various ways: one-on-one instruction with a technology coordinator; during professional days; courses at other institutions; and with faculty members, students or community members. Teachers may also receive credit for knowledge already acquired, and they may mentor other faculty members.

The program’s objectives flow from the goals for teachers that are stated in the technology plan. They say that teachers will redefine their roles to be facilitators, coaches and co-learners; use multimedia strategies; vary methods to include available technology; act as resources to others on campus; and continue with personal and professional growth.

The program consists of a core with applications such as Microsoft Windows, databases, spreadsheets and desktop publishing. The second phase concentrates on elective slots in areas such as digital photography, advanced graphics, Web-page authoring and sound editing. The third phase incorporates curriculum integration and a thesis project.

What distinguishes Mount Carmel’s program is the inclusion of incentives. Upon completion of various stages, teachers earn cash, days off and, ultimately, notebook PCs. During the spring awards assemblies, teachers get accolades in front of the entire school community, acknowledging their hard work. They also receive certificates and notebook PCs.

Critical Support

Implementation of the TCP program depends on certain factors, most importantly the support of the pastor and principals. The presence of a technology coordinator is also vital.

Before beginning the program, teachers complete a survey that indicates their level of confidence in particular areas. They also receive a checklist of core and elective courses that will be available during the coming year. These steps enable the technology coordinator to assess the needs of the teachers, as well as the needs of other members of the community.

In 1999, the Washington, D.C.-based National Catholic Educational Association and Boston College recognized the program as a model in its Selected Programs for Improving Catholic Education program. As a direct result of a presentation at the NCEA national convention, Goucher College in Baltimore invited Mount Carmel to be a satellite campus for graduate-level courses in technology training offered through Goucher’s Teachers’ Institute.

Teachers remain on the Mount Carmel campus, enroll in the courses offered through Goucher and receive three graduate credits when they complete the work. Courses are taught by the Mount Carmel technology coordinators, who have been hired as adjunct faculty at Goucher. Four courses are currently offered: basic Internet, effective use of computers in the classroom, multimedia in the classroom, and Internet resources and pedagogy, an online class.

Mount Carmel and several other schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore have formed a working relationship with Goucher. “The partnership has been extraordinary,” says Dr. Carole Redline, director of educational technology leadership programs at Goucher.

“We have become a family and a community of learners. Success like this is based on mutual trust. It did not happen overnight. It occurred through understanding each other’s intentions and motivations and seeing each other’s perspectives. The relationship is built on communication and is mutually beneficial.

“We have established excellence through modeling. It’s not ‘each one teach one,’ but ‘each one teach 30.’ Teachers taking the courses through Goucher go back to their schools and put the same model into place.”

Leslie Andrathy, the director of curriculum and professional development for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, agrees that the connection with Goucher College is a “wonderful partnership.”

“Together we can bring to the forefront how technology is used in the classroom and how it can enhance student achievement,” she says. “Our relationship with the leadership at Goucher has been fundamental to the success of the participants. It has opened doors that previously were not available to our teachers.

“At the archdiocesan level, we look at Mount Carmel’s program as a model that we would like to see replicated in other schools. What makes it work is the fact that it homes in on teachers’ needs. It is a very thoughtful program because the people involved listen to the teachers.”

In the Spotlight

In spring 2005, Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine, in conjunction with the NCEA and the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives at the University of Dayton, named Our Lady of Mount Carmel a winner of the Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Award. This awards program spotlights Catholic schools that have led the way by implementing exemplary, innovative programs to improve the teaching and learning of their students, faculty and staff.

Awards are offered in five categories for innovations in: promoting Catholic identity; curriculum and instruction; technology integration; staff member development; and total community involvement.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel won in the category of technology integration. Nationwide, only 12 schools were chosen. Mount Carmel was recognized in a special section of the March 2005 issue of Today’s Catholic Teacher. In addition, school representatives were honored at an awards ceremony during the 2005 NCEA Convention.

Since the inception of Mount Carmel’s Technology Certification Program, 46 percent of faculty members have earned notebook PCs, comfort levels have increased tremendously and teachers have shown an eagerness to incorporate technology into their classrooms.

Other schools in the archdiocese look to the example set by Mount Carmel. Don Stemmler, educational technology specialist for Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Md., and an adjunct faculty instructor for Goucher, praises Mount Carmel’s efforts.

“I have been impressed for years with their program,” he remarks. “I think a change is happening in education technology. Teachers and students are much more savvy.”

“Our Lady of Mount Carmel has long been a leader in professional development in the area of technology,” reports Linda Abrams, technology coordinator at St. Ursula School in Baltimore and also an adjunct faculty member at Goucher College. “Their Technology Certification Program is a model of success for meeting the needs of their staff.

“The strength of their program [relies on] the enthusiasm and competencies of the training team, as well as on the support of the administration. The incentives that are provided for the staff are an important component to the success of the program.”

At St. Ursula, which is another satellite campus for Goucher College, courses are offered in the effective use of technology, publishing to the Internet and publishing to the Internet-implementation. In addition, summer workshops are designed to help teachers integrate technology with reading and math and are offered for Maryland State Department of Education credit.

Diana Fitzpatrick, the director of information technology at Mount Carmel, emphasizes the importance of community that permeates the training that is given throughout the archdiocese.

“Teachers can take courses at a number of our schools,” Fitzpatrick says. “The relationships we are building have really enhanced our instructional styles and, ultimately, have benefited our students. And isn’t that why we became teachers in the first place?”

The Importance of Daily Instruction

Diana Fitzpatrick, director of information technology at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Schools in suburban Baltimore, emphasizes the importance of building time for instruction into the school day. “I have principals who appreciate how hard their teachers work,” she says. “They are willing to provide substitutes so training can occur during the school day. They also allow the flexibility of grade partners pairing up or teachers becoming co-learners with their own students during an in-class session with me.

“Here’s one small example: Both our high school and our elementary school use electronic gradebooks. We can’t just say, ‘Here’s this new tool. Good luck with it.’ We need to train the teachers so they are comfortable using it and all of the other resources available to them.”

Many of the teachers in the Archdiocese of Baltimore have trained with Fitzpatrick. Ken Crabbe, a high school Spanish teacher, has received both Mount Carmel and Goucher certificates and is a proud notebook PC owner. Crabbe stresses that while he appreciates the incentives, his true motivation came from a personal interest in technology.

“I wanted to learn how to use technology as a tool to supplement my classroom, not to replace me as a teacher,” he says. “The Glencoe series we use has a great tech component, so I really wanted to increase my knowledge in that area.”

Kathy Thomas agrees. Another graduate of both the Mount Carmel and Goucher programs, Thomas states that she wanted to “become more competent, capable and knowledgeable about the variety of multimedia resources available. I use the technology available to me to reach all learning styles and abilities.” In her third-grade classroom, Thomas uses Internet resources daily and connects with parents through an online service.

Earning Rewards

Since the inception of Mount Carmel’s Technology Certification Program, 46 percent of the faculty members have earned notebook PCs.

Teresa Wilkins is a freelance writer in Baltimore. She recently retired as a teacher from Mount Carmel, where she had been employed for the last two decades. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in education.