Closing the Technology Gap
Loyola Academy is a Jesuit middle school for boys who have the potential for college preparatory work but whose progress may be impeded by socio-economic obstacles to success. Loyola was interested in implementing a STEAM curriculum, but lacked the technology to do so. The ITEF grant allowed Loyola to purchase 70 new laptops, enough for each student, as well as computer-aided design software.
Currently, 95 percent of Loyola’s population is at or below poverty level. Fernando Vigil, Loyola Academy Science Teacher, said that the students start at a disadvantage when it comes to technology, “Many don’t have access to the Internet and there is a real technological divide. Everything these students will be doing in the future will involve computers and we want them to be prepared. This is an academic tool to help pave the way for their success.”
Faith Barnes, Director of Development, noted that 100 percent of Loyola’s students are accepted at St. Louis’ top college prep high schools. “We want them to be prepared for that level when they leave us,” she said. “This new technology and the STEAM curriculum will help ensure they don’t have to catch up with their peers at the college prep high schools they will later attend.”
Vigil said that while changing curriculum to implement the more coordinated STEAM learning was a new challenge for faculty, it also generated significant excitement around coordinating on projects to unite subjects and implement new tools. He gave the example of teaching a concept such as fractals, “we can teach those through math, science, art, and how to research them on the new laptops.”
Barnes said the impact of the technology obtained through this grant would be far-reaching for the middle school students and in bridging the gap in the disproportionate number of socio-economically disadvantaged students seeking careers in STEAM related fields.
“We are so excited for the students. This could be a real turning point for them, leading them to careers they may have believed to be inaccessible. We feel like we can plant a seed for what they will do for the rest of their lives. The biggest benefit is the ability to expose students to technology, sparking their determination and broadening their horizons.”