Empowering Students Through Imaginative Technology

Students work at TEAL stations during religion class to understand the theology of suffering. (GLENDA MEEKINS | FC)

Bananas used to right click, remote controlled robots flying about, gardens designed on computers coming to life; these are just a few of the realities already occurring in the new Makerspace at the Innovation Lab at Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach.

The Innovation Lab is due in large part to principal Pat La Morte spearheading the movement toward the development of the TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) Centers. La Morte also assisted with the installation of a TEAL lab at Bishop Moore Catholic High School.

He explained some of the capabilities saying, “The Makerspace is a zoned area made up of large collaborative stations, standing desks, 3D printer banks, robotics, computer coding stations where students can build their own software programs, music production, soft-seating areas complete with charging stations and more,” he said. “The whole campus is really the Innovation Center or Lab, but the redesigned space in the O’Neil Family Media Center is the hub (where the Makerspace is located).”

The school began to implement TEAL throughout the school, in every class at every grade level, last November. “The large space in the Innovation Center is designed to spark student creativity,” said La Morte who says all this creativity has changed overall learning and grading.

“As a campus, the students, teachers, administration, leadership, staff, we are all a learning community,” he said. “It has had such an effect that we changed the grading scale this year… so teachers in every grade level and subject area have two alternate assessments per semester where their students are using real life, practical content to solve a problem.”

Delaney, a fourth generation student at Father Lopez in tenth grade, said the new technology helps students to better express themselves. A short walk to three garden beds with wildflowers, fruit and vegetables proved her point. The garden is a product of the campus 4-H Club (head, heart, hands and health club – not affiliated with the national association).

“Our students wanted to create something on campus that was completely our own,” said Delaney who led the project. “We designed the whole project in the Innovation Center. We drew plans in the art room, then went out to the computers and sketched out how we wanted it to look and how we were going to structure the gardens. It was easier to visualize it using the Innovation Center,” she explained. Through sponsors who covered supplies such as wood and dirt, the team worked with the Environmental Sciences Club to execute the project.

“This promoted community involvement,” noted Delaney. “Having our student community involved in something like this is really important to us because it shows the students of Lopez care about the environment, about the things happening on campus.”

The possibilities are endless. From one religion class using the space to create a project to help comprehend the theology of suffering to the Technology Club learning the tools and creating tutorials and their own version of a “Genius Bar” to assist other students, the lab represents the words painted over its entrance archway, “Empowerment starts here.”

One Tech Club member, Tej, an eleventh grader, who was learning how to use different objects (a banana in this case) together with wires to be used as transmission devices, said, “Technology is always expanding so it is really useful to have this kind of space to explore and learn.”

La Morte is confident that his students are on the right track. “It will prepare them beyond the academics to learn how to collaborate together,” says La Morte. “It’s cutting edge. It’s what they’ve grown up with and to have it here as another tool our teachers can use will give our students a lot of advantages.”

“Imagination is the limit,” La Morte tells his students, “We have laid the foundation for your Innovation Center. Use it. Learn in it. Explore it and with your help, we can take it to the level you want to take it.”