More Innovations in the Classroom September 2015

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We, at Northern Connection magazine, continue to applaud the many educators in our area schools that continually seek out new, leading-edge technologies and methodologies to integrate into their classrooms. Working extensively to instill a sense of the love of learning into their students. Past Innovations in the Classroom are still available on our website at and we will continue highlighting new innovations and programs in the coming months.

Aquinas Academy of Pittsburgh – The Robotics Club at Aquinas Academy of Pittsburgh is gearing-up for another great year participating in the international, FLL LEGO Challenge.  The mission of the club, “is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.” Designed for 9-14 year olds, the team members design, engineer and program robotics to achieve and navigate through a series of challenges. In addition, the students must collaborate, problem-solve, and use mathematical calculations to calculate time, distance, and effort required in achieving each challenge. The Lego EV3 Mindstorm robot is a computer with attachments including infrared sensors, touch sensors, color sensors, gyroscopes, ultrasonic sensors and motors that the students can program to accomplish a challenge. Last year was the club’s rookie year and achieved 7th out of 64 teams and the club is already looking forward to this year’s competition. This year the team is moving into the ARC – “the Aquinas Robotics Center” where the motto is:  “And then came the robots.” To learn more,

 A.W. Beattie Career Center – A.W. Beattie Career Center offers many innovative and high tech programs of study including Computer Systems Technology, Advanced Computer Programming, Network Engineering Technology and Agile Robotics/Advanced Manufacturing. The Agile Robotics/Advanced Manufacturing program is supported through partnerships with the Advanced Manufacturing Industry, local colleges and universities including California University of Pennsylvania, Community College of Allegheny County and Carnegie Mellon University. In this program students move through a series of introductory activities into advanced design and control challenges using curriculum developed through the National Robotics Engineering Center. Students also develop skills related to Advanced Manufacturing including CNC, FANUC Robotic Arm and 3D modeling and printing. During the summer of 2015, A. W. Beattie Career Center received a STEM Pilot Project Grant in the amount of $56,000 through the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board.  The Career Center was able to host an Advanced Robotics Camp that engaged students with new hands-on robotics and programming.  The second part of this grant was to provide on-the-job learning experiences for students. To learn more, visit

 Edinboro University – Edinboro University integrates state-of-the-art computer technology and cutting-edge scientific instruments to facilitate effective classroom learning. The EU Nursing Department includes three high-fidelity human-patient simulator rooms (a maternity suite, a pediatrics room and an adult medical/surgical room), allowing for simulation of clinical situations within an interactive and safe learning environment. A recent grant allowed the department to replace the Adult Human Patient Simulator with a more-sophisticated model that includes an advanced drug recognition system. The system allows students to administer drugs while simultaneously registering the amount, speed and type of drug automatically and applying the appropriate physiological responses, among numerous other innovations. In the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality head-mounted display, has bridged the famous divide between the arts and sciences, rallying students from across the academic spectrum and opening the door to limitless interdisciplinary possibilities. Used by the University’s nationally ranked Game and Virtual World Development major, on which the Computer Science Department collaborates with EU’s celebrated animation program, this one small instrument allows our students to develop professional-level gaming environments. Professors at the University are exploring how the device can be utilized to re-create major events and place students inside them virtually to create a real-time feel, creating limitless educational possibilities in the fields of history, the forensic and military sciences, psychology and education. Beyond the classroom, the University has committed itself to innovative green energy initiatives and sustainability projects that attest to our work toward an energy-efficient future. These include a solar array, geothermal heating systems in several residence halls and academic buildings, and motion sensor-based lighting systems. Both in and outside of the classroom, Edinboro University is at the forefront of technological innovation in an effort to fully prepare our students to be competitive in today’s tech-centric world. To learn more, visit

Holy Family Academy – Holy Family Academy is an innovative, independent Catholic high school for families of any means. This state-of-the-art school employs several advanced teaching methodologies, including integrated learning that blends academics across disciplines; a work study program that provides students with real-life experience; and the “flipped-classrooms” teaching-style in several classes. With the “flipped-classroom,” homework becomes class-prep where students prepare for class by doing a reading assignment or watching a video; then, during class time, they do projects, experiments, work in teams to collaborate, problem solve, and so much more. For example, in conjunction with Edmentum, an online learning program designed to drive student achievement for academic and career success, math classes have been “flipped” so that each student can have a personal, individualized learning plan for math. Using what is called the “lab rotation model,” the class has two teachers and students rotate through three groups that can include one-on-one time with a teacher, a teacher led group, or a team-based project that is peer-led. This way, students can move and learn at their own pace. Likewise in the sciences, students first explore a topic such as ecology within Canvas, the Academy’s learning management system and then use class-time for performing hands-on experiments and projects. With a “flipped” classroom, students learn collaboration, creative problem solving and other skills necessary for success both today and within the innovative jobs of the future. To learn more, visit or call (412) 307-0230 to schedule a tour.

Oakland Catholic – Oakland Catholic High School has been busy over the summer with the development of many innovative programs and projects, including the total renovation of the former computer lab into a new, high-tech Collaboration Center. In this Silicon Valley-like Collaboration Center, four-person pods have been installed where students can wirelessly connect their school-provided MacBook Airs to the workstations for group projects. The pods are outfitted with a large monitor and digital, interactive whiteboards for brainstorming activities, collaborative communication, and group problem-solving. There is also a Teacher Center, from where the instructor can push materials out to the pods, or students can send items to the teacher, or information and images can be shared with the entire class by pushing it simultaneously to all monitors. The Collaboration Center and high-tech pods are ideal for many projects and are transforming many classes by permitting inclusion of small-group projects involving businesses, other schools and even other countries. For example, in Karisa Haslett’s Math class, students will work in teams to plan an activity for local elementary school students.  From the Collaboration Center, they will present monthly to an elementary school in face-time sessions via the webcams and other technologies available in the Collaboration Center. Future plans include international projects.  With a 5% international student population, Oakland Catholic students will be able to happily celebrate Chinese New Year in real-time with families and peers in China. To learn more, visit

Our Lady of Sacred Heart High School (OLSH) – OLSH is proudly growing its OLSH Writing and Learning Center (or O.W.L. center.) The focus of the O.W.L. center is to develop students into stronger writers for college and for the rest of their lives. This innovative center was founded by the Chair of the English Department, Barbara Desman, and through a partnership with Duquesne University and led by Duquesne University’s own Dr. Jim Purdy, PhD.,  who trained teachers and peer tutors to help students develop polished writing styles of a professional quality and help students find their own “voice” as a writer. The O.W.L center has a total of 22 peer writing tutors and 41 peer academic subject experts dedicated to assisting their fellow students. For example, the center can help students with any writing assignment in any subject such as, history term papers, senior cross-cultural projects and much more. Last year, in its inaugural year, over 75% of students were either involved in the center tutoring or being tutored. Now, entering its second year, the O.W.L. center continues to grow. To learn more, visit

Quigley Catholic High School – Autumn is arriving with its annual splash of colors and the promise of crisp morning air, and Quigley Catholic High School is adding its own array of brightness and freshness to the season. Over the summer the gym was completely repainted and refreshed and the burgundy and white ambience emits a powerful symbol of both renewal and tradition.  The gym hosts not only athletic competitions but also many other student activities including drama productions, assemblies and school Masses. The athletics program is also boosted this year by the appointment of Matt Kuntz as the new Athletic Director. Bringing with him a wealth of experience as both an athlete and coach, Mr. Kuntz is excited about the prospects for Spartan squads this year. “My goal is to promote participation and sportsmanship,” he said. Quigley Catholic is also pleased to announce that Madie Hudak will be the head coach of the rejuvenated girls’ varsity volleyball team. The library at Quigley Catholic also is sporting a new look. Freshly painted and re-designed to offer a better environment for both private study and group interaction, the library offers access to technology and a comfortable and quiet place for students to sharpen their research skills while casting an occasional glance out the expansive windows that look upon the courtyard. To learn more, visit

St. Gregory School – St. Gregory School has a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in our middle-level grades. Did you know that only 1 in 10 schools (high schools included) teach computer programming? St. Gregory School is very proud to be one of those schools. So far, they have been able to expose their students to two different programs. The STEM focus has been very beneficial to their students. Students in grades six through eight each receive a Google Chromebook. Chromebooks are a type of computer/tablet designed to help students and teachers get things done faster and easier. Chromebooks have built-in cloud storage, popular Google products for education, apps, and much more to better students’ learning experience. Students and teachers can use “GAnimate” to create video projects, “Geogebra” to learn geometric theorems, and other apps for conferencing and collaboration. With the new Chromebooks, our middle school students have technology incorporated in their daily learning.  Their vision is to integrate technology as much as possible into their middle school curriculum to better prepare their students for high school.  Since all of their classrooms are equipped with SMARTboards teachers are able to engage the students better and make for an exciting, learning environment.  In addition, the younger grades attend weekly computer class where they are taught computer coding along with educational, innovative games. Technology is an important part of the St. Gregory students’ education in addition to Spanish and the rigorous diocesan aligned curriculum.  If you would like more information about St. Gregory School and the ways they can help prepare your children for the future, visist  or call 724/452-9731 and schedule a tour.

 Saint James Catholic School in Sewickley – Saint James Catholic School: Excellent Minds – Exceptional Hearts. Saint James School is getting ready for the 2015-2016 school year with 161 students is proud to welcome Ms. Jamie Zik as the new Second Grade Teacher. In addition, several improvements and upgrades include:  25 I-pads for student use in grades 6-7-8.  iPads were also purchased for teachers at all grade levels and will have interactive capability with the SMARTboards that are in each classroom.  The school itself has an updated look with new carpeting installed in the middle school rooms on the second floor; stairs, handrails and the kitchen in the cafeteria were painted royal blue; motion light fixtures were placed in the bathrooms to help save on utility bills; new surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the school. St. James Catholic School in Sewickley offers kindergarten thru eighth grade and half -day Pre-School for 3 year olds on Tuesday and Thursday, and full or half- day Pre-School for 4 year olds on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. St. James Catholic School is located at 201 Broad Street in Sewickley. For more information or to schedule a tour, please call (412) 741-5540 or visit

Saint Vincent College – Saint Vincent College’s growing Master of Science in Management: Operational Excellence (MSMOE) program is now offering a hybrid online option in a new high-technology classroom on campus. Students can take courses either in a classroom or “online” but in real-time and in person via a new, tele-presence technology system. The heart of the system is a pan zoom tilt camera that shoots in all directions. The faces of all of the students in the class – whether they are present in the classroom or thousands of miles away – appear on a screen in the classroom along with the instructor. And the instructor has the ability to project anything written on a whiteboard as well as auxiliary images from PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, Internet sites or other sources. Current students to classroom lectures come from Pennsylvania, California, Georgia, West Virginia, Florida and China among other national and international areas. As an online learner, students are expected to log-in during class lectures to join their in-classroom counterparts in order to contribute to discussions. Students in China log-in at 5:30 in the morning to participate live in the classroom. “The major benefit to the students is flexibility,” commented Dr. William J. Hisker, professor of management, “Because these are graduate students and many of them do not have control over their schedules. But this system enables them to log on from wherever they are. It also preserves the advantage of the in-class experience.” To learn more, visit

Sewickley Academy – Middle School science at Sewickley Academy is where engaged students and passionate teachers work together in the classroom. Specifically through the new program “Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology (IQWST)” which is a new world-class, rigorous, investigation-centered science curriculum designed to challenge and engage Middle School students. IQWST includes a truly Interactive Digital Edition (IDE) for tablets and laptops, enabling students and faculty to leverage the power of a 1-to-1 environment. As a 1-to-1 school, the Academy uses the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) model, taking advantage of the enormous power of technology by ensuring that it is in the hands of every student Grades 6 through 12. Students will use their digital devices while investigating phenomena, collecting, organizing, and analyzing data, and using their data to construct explanations. The IDE expands the ways in which students are able to engage with science as it incorporates audio, video, graphic simulations, and writing and drawing tools. Lessons are organized into thematic units that support students as they build understanding of core ideas in science as well as understanding and use of scientific practices. Students also pursue their own original questions in units that integrate the fundamentals of Physical Sciences, Life Science, and Earth and Space Science. To learn more, visit

Be sure and look for more Innovations in the Classroom in our October issue! If you are implementing an innovative program or enrichment lessons for the coming school year, be sure and let us know by emailing or calling 724-940-2444.