Walking into a classroom at Sacred Heart School in Roslindale, MA is almost like walking into a tech startup in Silicon Valley – the desks and tables are lined with computers and iPads, busy hands skillfully clicking on mice and scrolling across touch screens. But instead of casually dressed Millennials typing out reams of code, the chairs are occupied by young students in traditional Catholic school uniforms completing assignments and doing research online.
Welcome to the 21st Century classroom.
Five years ago, Sacred Heart School embarked on a mission: prepare its students for the careers of the future by implementing the STREAM model into its curriculum. STREAM is an initiative to promote science, technology, religion, engineering, the arts and math in Catholic schools. By focusing on technology instruction infused with classes in religion and the arts, STREAM schools can develop well-rounded students armed with technical knowledge and creative thinking skills.
Today, Sacred Heart is the first K-8 full STREAM school in Boston.
“We did a lot of work to become a tech school,” says school principal Monica Haldiman. “All our text books are online. It’s a completely different world.”
An important part of that transformation included equipping the classrooms and the students with the latest technologies to connect them to their teachers, to each other, and to the resources on the Internet. New computers were installed and iPads became as prevalent as text books once had been.
However, the school soon discovered its existing network wasn’t up to the task. Slow connections, or an inability to connect at all, became the norm. Teachers actually had to ration network access in an attempt to accommodate every student. There were even days when one grade would sit nearly idle because another grade was using the network to take a test. It became clear that Sacred Heart’s vision for being a STREAM school was in jeopardy because its network couldn’t support that vision.
“The frustration on the scholars and the teachers was palpable,” says Haldiman.
That changed when the school switched to Verizon.
In April 2016, Verizon announced it would invest over $300 million to build a state-of-the-art, city-wide fiber optic network to connect schools, businesses and residents throughout the City of Boston with high-speed broadband service. In February 2017, Sacred Heart School had Fios installed throughout the building, with Verizon technicians performing the installation over the school’s vacation. Each thin strand of fiber delivers symmetrical upload and download speeds, and greater bandwidth than a cable connection. When the students and teachers returned to school after break, their Internet speeds had doubled. No more waiting for information to download and no more rationing of the network.
Haldiman credits a better network with creating a better educational experience for her students.
“Having a better, efficient Internet has changed the trajectory of Sacred Heart,” she said. “Without technology, we wouldn’t be able to fulfill our mission of being a STREAM school.”
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