Distance Learning, Academics
Ursuline students keep learning, no matter what,
because Ursuline teachers do what it takes.
It's not magic, chance or luck.
It's vision and preparation, over the years.
It's creativity and teamwork, every day.
It's care for students, from the first class.
Technology at Ursuline has deep roots. We rolled out the 1-to-1 student laptop program in 1997 under the leadership of then principal Sr. JB Nicholson. Very quickly, all students were required to have laptops, in conjunction with a school computer network, website, and educational learning system. Technology was integrated into the curriculum very thoughtfully.
Our Virtual Learning Environment, MOODLE, was implemented in 2008. This enabled teachers to create online dynamic web pages for their courses. Two years later, we implemented Google Apps for Education (now G-Suite for Education). In 2015, we introduced a hybrid approach to learning with Khan Academy for math. A hybrid approach combines face-to-face classroom instruction with online activities. More hybrid learning platforms were added.
In 2014, Ursuline began digitally mapping our curriculum. This makes it easier for teachers to collaborate and have conversations outside of face-to-face meetings.
In 2010, Mrs. Edwinna Lucyk was named Director of Technology Integration. Mrs. Lucyk guides and mentors teachers, and helps them create different forms of learning using technology. She is especially busy now as an important resource for all teachers. You may read Mrs. Lucyk's biography Here.
The Technology Vision has been clearly articulated. It begins with the statement, "The educational culture within the school, at the levels of administration, faculty and students, promotes technology as a critical element in the learning process." The Technology Vision is Here.
Professional development is considered a vital component of growth for all teachers and continues now. Our modified block schedule has had built-in time every Wednesday for the past 2 years for teachers to gather and share new ideas or best practices with each other. And this team approach continues now. During our time of distance learning, math teacher Ms. Vallar created and shared a tutorial on Educreations while social studies chair Ms. Geller demonstrated Pear Deck interactive slide presentations.
Our modified block schedule was further adapted to add flexibility for distance learning.
Our long-time learning management system, MOODLE, has many interactive learning features that now support distance learning. All assignments, activities and resources are posted on MOODLE. Many assignments are graded online and synced with the grade book.
We have also been using certain software and apps for years so students are very familiar with them.
Here are some definitions and some of the technology tools we use to transform teaching from classroom to kitchen table.
Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning - Distance learning aims for a balance of teacher-guided group time and independent work. Synchronous describes class interactions happening at the same time. Examples are students all logging into a Zoom call or Google Meet to discuss, answer questions, or present something. Asynchronous means students work on class materials and complete assignments at their own pace, typically within a given time frame.
Online videos - Teachers create their own videos using Educreations, Screencast-o-matic, Screencastify or Smart Recorder. Teachers try to break a lesson into parts and make multiple short videos rather than one long video. Videos are then posted on MOODLE or shared with students during a Google Meet or Zoom class.
Quizzes online - Some teachers have been using the MOODLE Quiz activity. Our teachers are also continuing to use software platforms that have a quiz capability such as Khan Academy, Duolingo, and Vocabulary.com. These platforms are known well by our students because we have been using them in the classroom for 2 years or more.
Khan Academy is integrated in math classes in all grades. It is also used in some science, social studies and English classes. Duolingo is an app that World Language students enjoy to increase vocabulary and practice grammar, as they earn points and fluency badges. Vocabulary Bowl is an online adaptive learning game and competition that our English faculty, in particular, have embraced. We are actually #3 among all NY state high schools of any size, #1 among all NY state Division II high schools and #1 among all Division II high schools nationally.
Presentations - Google Slides can be enhanced and made interactive with Pear Deck.
Latin 4 Honors students in Mr. Wade's course continued their reading in Ovid's Heroides and Homer's Odyssey. They read as a comparative study in preparation for writing a paper.
Latin 1 classes did open, long-form translation and grammatical instruction. Ms. Johnson used the Pear Deck program to teach relative pronouns and clauses, first in English and then in Latin. Pear Deck is an interactive Google Slides tool that allows the teacher to ask students questions, either multiple choice, true-false, or short answer.
Ms. Johnson used Zoom for breakout games with her 7th grade Latin classes. The girls especially had fun playing a breakout game that involved writing Latin sentences based on emojis. Ms. Johnson also used Google Docs for group translation and notes, and the game-based learning platform GimKits during class to solidify new concepts. A new tool is the humorous videos Ms. Johnson created through Screencast-o-Matic and EdPuzzle; the videos use spoken Latin to review mythology, as shown in screenshots below.
How do you teach robotics during social distancing? It turns out that Mrs. Carbone and Mrs. Riker found a site to continue their 8th grade Robotics class. The site RoboMindAcademy is very similar to the programming that the middle school students had been using in class with their Edison robots.
Mr. Lorden's Computer Science Honors 1 class wrote a currency converter application in March. Working from home, students converted American Dollars into Euros, Pounds, and Rand.
Ms. Bacich's English 10 class studied traditional fixed forms of poetry in third quarter of this academic year. And April is National Poetry Month so Ms. Bacich started each class session by reading a poem.
The sophomores studied Dyan Thomas's poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" which is a "villanelle" poem. This form of poetry is meant to express strong emotion by adhering to a strict rhythm and rhyme scheme. In late March, these sophomores went on Google Meet and read to each other the beautiful poems they created in the villanelle style.
Ms. Tenore’s 8th graders completed their analytical essays on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Ms. Tenore gave them feedback on the writing process through TurnItIn.com and in real time on their Google Docs. Next, they did a grammar review unit to brush up on some common mistakes. They have successfully used the EdPuzzle and CommonLit platforms.
Mrs. Joyce started reading Henrik Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, with her English 10 Honors classes. Mrs. Joyce assigned parts to different students and they very much enjoyed reading the play together while zooming.
Mrs. Seiler’s 6th grade class used Google Meet to discuss the importance of writing personal histories. They then read “Louisana’s Way Home” which begins with a personal statement. They learned about what a personal history means, and primary sources. Their writing prompt was to write about something that happened in the past week. Students took turns reading their writings and then kept a journal for the following week.
Ms. Vallar’s Geometry students studied inverse trig ratios. Ms. Vallar used SMART Technologies Notebook to share her screen and write on the slides during their Google Meet class. Students solved for sin, cos, and tan and when a calculator was needed, they could use the TI-Nspire CX Premium teacher software.
Mrs. Barnett's Algebra 2 class worked on Polynomial and Rational Functions. These sophomores learned how to identify and graph vertical asymptotes, then horizontal asymptotes, and apply all these skills to graph the rational function.
Ms. Iorio's Math 6 classes continued their work on decimals and ratios via Google Meet. Ms. Iorio showed her work to the class in real-time using Scribble Together, an online whiteboard.
Independent study is ideal for project work. Ms. Iorio's Math 7th Accelerated class completed their Slope Art projects on a Friday dedicated to Independent Study. Students were asked to draw a picture on graph paper, and determine the slope of each line used within the drawing. They were required to have 7 lines with a positive slope, 7 lines with a negative slope, 3 lines with a slope of zero, and 3 lines with an undefined slope.
After reviewing musical notation, Mrs. Kennedy-Clarizio's 7th grade World Music class was introduced to the many complexities in African drumming. Students joined Mrs. Kennedy-Clarizio on Zoom and watched a short video about djembe drums. Then they practiced the three notes in hand drumming - the base, tone, and slap - as they took turns playing hard surfaces at home.
The final project in Mr. Moran’s 9th grade class was to create a news program based on topics studied during the year such as the Exodus, the prophets, or the judges. Students formed groups and took on the roles of reporters for the Old Testament Times. They included editorials and reports on current events. Students prepared a written outline on MOODLE and presented their PowerPoints via Zoom. Their creativity and depth of research were excellent!
Our Middle School Religious Studies classes and their teachers prepared a Virtual MAY CROWNING for our school community. Traditionally, the May Crowning takes place in the Province Center Chapel. It is a special prayer service and concludes with the oldest middle school student placing a crown on the statue of the Blessed Virgin. We invite you to click on the image velow to view the full virtual prayer service or go to: https://youtu.be/WpQrszNMlLk
Sr. Pat's grade 6 Religious Studies class was introduced to the Book of Ruth, and the story of this ancestor of Jesus, who epitomized kindness and faithfulness.
Ms. Micceri’s 8th grade Earth Science Honors class worked on a combined final project with Social Studies as they studied climate change. They enjoyed a special session with guests thanks to the Skype a Scientist program. In one class, Dr. Jessica Oster, Associate Professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at Vanderbilt University spoke about her study of how rainfall has changed over thousands of years. She goes to caves, collects water and rocks, analyzes in the lab doing wet chemistry, and uses mass spectrometers to understand isotopes. In another session, 5th year Ph.D. student Imogen Browne told students about her studies of core samples from the Arctic Ocean and how loss of ice contributes to sea levels rising. Her research is conducted at the Shevenell Lab at University of South Florida, College of Marine Science.
Our Biology Honors class studied the immune system and the covid pandemic. These 9 th graders discussed the benefits and drawbacks of herd immunity. Ms. Sica-Summa shared her screen as they reviewed their assignment – to review a case study published just last month. The class was assigned to 4 focus groups and met in Zoom breakout rooms to answer specific questions and consider different public health strategies.
Distance did not slow down learning in Mr. Monacelli's Physics classes as he incorporated problem-solving video lessons and EdPuzzles and online assessments. He also offered "Office Hours" via Google Meet to work through problems in real-time with his students.
Maggie '20 practiced her Engineering skills outside of class time, as she and her father cut, sanded and began to prime a table.
Ms. Summa's AP Environmental Science class, students were required to do five activities on their own time that relate to class. Stella Banino '20 chose the topic of soil and agriculture. She sampled and tested all the soil on her property to determine what factors are needed for growing plants. She then submitted photos and a written report.
Ms. Geller used Pear Deck, an interactive Google slides presentation tool, to engage her Psychology students on the topic of Stereotypes and the Media. The class discussed stereotypes they observed in TV shows and stereotypes about people around them. Ms. Geller used Pear Deck to transform the static presentation into a live conversation.
The AP Government classes held Google Meet sessions. Google Slides, uploaded documents and videos were watched and analyzed together. Ms. Geller kept the class as seminar-based and interactive as it had been at school. They finished the course material and did AP review in preparation for the AP exams.
Mr. O’Hare’s 9th grade Global History Honors class discussed the role of the Church during medieval times and how secularism, lavish lifestyles of Church hierarchy and selling of indulgences led to the Protestant Reformation.
Ms. Coffey’s sophomores used Flipgrid and submitted presentations on Genocide or Crimes Against Humanity for their final project.
Ms. DiIorio's Studio Art classes held ZOOM Art Critiques. The pieces seen here were selected based on a list of 125 sketch ideas which students were provided with. During the critique, students described and discussed their artwork based on the process and elements of art.
Computer Graphic Design classes tool advantage of Adobe's offer of free temporary licensing for their Creative Suite software and continued work on their Movie Poster design project while unable to work in the Sr. Anne Therese Dillen Media Arts Center.
Mrs LaBella's Photoshop and Photography Classes viewed a presentation on the work of photographer Annie Leibovitz, best known for her expressive portraits. Then students created their own expressive portraits over several days.
AP Painting & Drawing and Advanced Drawing student Mary '20 took advantage of the nice weather and gained inspiration in her "outdoor studio."
Mrs. Brescia's Accelerated French class continued their Dialog Development as they presented their group dialogues using their newly learned vocabulary about shopping. Students created their dialogues on Google Docs and then used Google Meet to present to their peers, four at a time. Then the class watched and translated video clips and ended their session with iCulture.
The Italian 2, 3, and 4 students joined their teachers and facetimed with a businesswoman from Rome, a teacher in Milano, an IT person in Rome, and students from Naples. Our students practiced their conversational Italian and also gained knowledge about life in Italy. They each shared their experiences with the current situation in Italy, how Italians are coping, and how they may be changed as people. Our students prepared questions ahead of time and translated the interview for one another. They loved the class and found it relevant and interesting.
Lauren and her classmates in Mrs. Boselli's Spanish 4 class used Google Meet to read the play El Delantal Blanco by Chilean author Sergio Vodanovic. The play shows the socio-political reality in the author's home country.
Mrs. Delucia's Italian AP students finished their comprehensive reports on Italian women who have been pioneers in the field of education. The students then presented these biographies, speaking in Italian, on Google Meet.
Italian studies went well with Ms. Clarizio’s 7th grade class. They met via Zoom to review parts of speech and to learn about the region of Lazio. Class always started with students saying a prayer in Italian. On one particular day, after they recited the Hail Mary, Ms. Clarizio shared her screen and took students through her Pear Deck presentation. Pear Deck is an interactive Google Slides tool that allows the teacher to ask students questions, either multiple choice, true-false, or short answer. It keeps the students engaged! Please click on the image below to see the full slide show of photos.
Juniors and Seniors in Sr. Brenda’s Spanish 4 course read a Mayan sacred story about the creation of the rainbow. The story taught the use of the subjunctive mood in Spanish and the story theme speaks to our time - how humankind deals with a universal disaster. Sr. Brenda shared her screen as the class analyzed the story, marking the text with key words. Students also learned about Mayan culture, the use of gorgeous stone, and sophisticated hieroglyphic writing. Sacred stories help us understand the relationship between the divine and humankind. The class assignment was then to write their own myth, what they would want future generations to remember.
Sophomores in Mrs. Wolff’s geometry class participated in a cross curriculum Gimkit with classmates in Phys Ed and Graphic Design. Gimkit is a Game-Based Learning platform that requires knowledge, collaboration, and strategy to win. In this GimKit, teams of students drew on their mastery of the math concept "Similar Figures" and volleyball skills from Ms.Gaviria’s Phys Ed class as well as Color Theory and Color Psychology from Ms. Brittis’ Graphic Design class. A great time was had by all players.
"The distance learning experience has provided great opportunity for both students and teachers. We have learned to use new tools and gained a stronger appreciation for our education and the role of technology in our lives.
In my history class, we used the Kialo debate forum to argue the necessity of the atomic bomb to end World War 2. In my Spanish class, we chose roles and read the play El Delantal Blanco in a live virtual class. I am grateful for all the effort that our school community has put into making this a smooth transition to distance learning. We may not be in school, but our teachers have made it possible for us to continue our education from the new learning environments we have created in our homes. Stay safe!" Claire '21
“I have 3 kids in 3 different schools. The Ursuline School is way ahead when it comes to technology, communication, positivity, daily morning prayer, etc. I appreciate it so much.”
“The teacher prepared video lessons of her teaching the material for her students to watch and absorb. That was done at the very beginning of the school closure.”
"Thanks for all that you have been doing. My daughter is the only out of my 4 children that has consistent online class. She is also only one that does not feel overburdened by work. Thank you. "
“I want to compliment all the teachers for how they were able to put together such amazing material and video explanations, assignments, daily emails, and quick and prompt response emails to my daughter throughout the day. I was never a fan of technology, but in this time of need I am thrilled that your staff went into crisis intervention and made it all happen flawlessly. Thank you so much. I do feel like she is getting something out of this. So I just wanted to share that with you.”
"I wanted to take a moment and thank you and all the teachers and staff for the outstanding support and accommodations that have been made in order to continue our daughter's education. My husband and I are very pleased with the way Ursuline has handled this unfortunate situation. I know this is a difficult time for everyone; however, we wanted to take a moment to express our gratitude for all that has been done."