One of the hallmarks of the Ursuline Academy of Dallas experience is our technology. Ursuline simply would not be Ursuline without its emphasis upon technology and the importance of understanding it in today’s digital world. Each freshman comes into Ursuline excited to receive her brand-new laptop which she will use for her four years of high school, and our laptops are a core piece of our education. This past year, Ursuline has increased its technological innovation and impact by achieving the title of Microsoft Showcase School, highlighted through the huge banner hanging in the French Family Center building.
According to Anne Robertson, Ursuline’s Director of Technology, “A Microsoft Showcase School is a school demonstrating innovative technologies in the classroom, while incorporating technology and applications that enable anytime, anywhere learning.” Ursuline is joined by only 29 other schools in the United States and is the only school in Texas with the title, illustrating how much of an honor it is to have earned the designation of “Microsoft Showcase School.”
Ursuline’s technology has been increasingly innovative for decades, beginning in 1980, when computers were first introduced into the school. In the years that followed, the first computer science classes and journalism students began to use computers and multiple computer labs using both PC’s and Macintosh computers opened to accommodate using technology in all classes. In the early nineties, class scheduling was first done using computers rather than by hand. Additionally, Ursuline installed a schoolwide network as well as placed computers in each classroom. Ursuline then adopted a schoolwide PC platform, allowing computers to work together seamlessly. All employees were also trained in using the new technology in order to better implement it in classrooms and help students use the new computers. Finally, in the November of 1995, Ursuline administration took a trip to Australia to see a 1 to 1 laptop program in full effect which propelled Ursuline to become the first all-girls school to implement 1 to 1 laptops in the United States.
Earning Microsoft Showcase School status is highly competitive and difficult, and according to the Microsoft website, schools selected must embody five core values of innovation which are: “The school demonstrates thought leadership in at least one area of educational transformation; the school demonstrates innovative use of technology, using Microsoft solutions, to drive positive impact and student success with twenty-first century skills; the school is an innovator; the school leader empowers educators and students to innovate and exercise a growth mindset; the school leader and educators are leading leaders who drive efforts to connect with educators locally and globally and share best practices.”
In order to be considered, schools must nominate themselves by submitting a Sway (a Microsoft program) or video explaining their value as potential Microsoft Schools. Then, a regional Microsoft Teacher Engagement Manager meets with the school to review its nomination. Ursuline submitted a nomination in October 2017 and learned in December of 2017 of their admittance into the Microsoft Showcase School program. Current Ursuline students have used Microsoft programs such as One Drive, Sway, and OneNote since their freshman year, so the transition to Showcase School status was a “natural progression,” said Robertson.
It is truly an honor that Ursuline is a Microsoft Showcase School and Robertson remarks, “Our accomplishment really set in once our showcase school banner arrived. Everyone on campus was very proud. Every time I walk past the banner, I am reminded of what Ursuline has achieved, and it motivates me to strive for more for our students and teachers.” By the end of this year, every member of Ursuline’s faculty will be trained in Microsoft technology and programs, and each faculty member will be officially a “Microsoft Innovative Educator.”
Technology is rapidly changing, and as it develops, so will Ursuline continue to develop and grow in innovation. Ursuline has consistently devoted itself to providing its students with the means for success after high school and its dedication to properly teaching students how to use and interact with technology in a careful manner prepares students for the digital world outside of high school with the necessary knowledge for technological understanding and capabilities.
Our status as Microsoft Showcase School increases the school’s abilities to give its students the resources to be global digital citizens.