Bishop Heelan students get their heads in the ‘cloud’ by embracing new technology


Patrick Demers insisted he had no dreams of being the next Martin Scorsese or Ron Howard.

However, the Bishop Heelan High School freshman used “Google Hangouts” this summer to work on an animated video with Janet Flanagan in the Heelan administration office. The two were five miles apart but worked together on copy and images to create the video.

The video is just one aspect of how technology is blossoming at Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools, enabling students to get their heads in the ‘cloud,’ the general term used for the delivery of hosted services over the internet.

Work to upgrade school technology infrastructure was completed last year to improve Internet connections in the Bishop Heelan System to minimize downtime and enhance classroom use.

The upgrades will also help introduce students and teachers to 21st century learning using the “Google Apps for Education” service (GAFE), a set of cloud-based applications for student learning.

“We want our students to move from being consumers of information to being producers.” said Kelly Kohout, ELL instructor at Sacred Heart School who will be using it. “GAFE helps students with creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem solving. They can more easily communicate and work with each other.”

Holy Cross and Sacred Heart teachers have attended workshops to learn how to use GAFE. They have been teaching students about using apps in math, reading and science. Students produce fewer paper assignments and won’t need to store work on a USB drive because work and projects will all be stored on accounts in the cloud.

“Students learn more today in groups and GAFE is perfect for collaboration,” Kohout added. “Cloud-based instruction enhances the learning experience for students. They receive instant feedback from the teacher and classmates via their electronic documents.”

Demers, the son of Ron and Katie Demers, was enthusiastic about working on the two-minute video.

“I wanted to help promote our schools,” he said. “I also wanted to communicate how great Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools are to encourage new families decide to come to our schools.”

Demers, 14, used Animaker, an online, do-it-yourself, animation video maker that brings studio quality presentations to its users.

“It made working on the video easier and faster,” he said. “It was rewarding to see the final product.”

Although Demers hopes to focus on front-end web development rather than cinema, others are looking to take their creations to the big screen. JoAnn Clemens teaches a video class at Heelan and has students who hope to embrace that field, including Sean McGarry who has dreams of breaking into the film world.

“Sean participated in the Dordt College (Sioux Center) 48-hour film challenge recently,” she said.

For this annual event, students are emailed a list of parameters to work with. They then have 48 hours to submit a video to be entered into their film competition. The theme this year was a romantic comedy with a lava lamp as the necessary prop and a therapist as a character. McGarry put together a team to work with, including Ethan Bourassa, Blake Kakacek, Sophia Kitto, Libby Markham, Haley Olson, Anna Peterson, Ruby Ritchie, Tanner Summerville and Lauren White.

“Former BHCS students Jonathan Rouse and Zach Malenosky, now at Western Iowa Tech Community College (Sioux City), competed at the college level this year as well,” Clemens said.

See Demers’ video at https://youtube/FkWJORVa_kU.


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