Eight Catholic elementary schools received a much needed upgrade this summer, as volunteers throughout the Diocese of Buffalo refurbished and installed fresh computers and equipment during the 11th annual Ed Tech Day on Aug. 19.
The event, run by the Educational Technology Foundation of Western New York, saw volunteers install more than 130 reconditioned computers, upgrade equipment like Wi-Fi networks and help educators fix various other issues in those schools. This year, Ed Tech Day visited Southtowns Catholic in Lake View, St. Joseph in Batavia, Northern Chautauqua Catholic in Dunkirk, Our Lady of Black Rock in Buffalo, DeSales in Lockport, St. John Vianney in Orchard Park, St. Mary in Lancaster and St. John the Baptist in Alden. Notre Dame Academy in Buffalo participated in Ed Tech Day on July 9.
"It's a volunteer effort of IT professionals throughout Western New York," said Elizabeth Schanbacher, former technology coordinator for the Department of Catholic Education and now serving a similar role at Southtowns Catholic. "The volunteers collect used equipment, refurbish it, and redeploy it into non-for-profits."
The event also helps Catholic schools reach its STREAM initiative, as technology will play a key role in the new program.
"It's part of instruction and part of curriculum," Schanbacher said. "Ed Tech Day supports STREAM in the Catholic schools too by having up-to-date, state-of-the-art technology."
Schanbacher was visiting St. John Vianney School during Ed Tech Day, as they received 30 refurbished computers and 15 monitors. Workers were installing the new computers in a technology lab that will double as a library. St. John Vianney will also have Wi-Fi throughout the building and eight smart boards.
"Once we get it all organized, it will be nice," said Debbie Bonk, the technology coordinator at St. John Vianney.
At St. Mary Elementary, coordinator Jenny Waley was watching eight people work throughout the building on technology upgrades.
"We have computers throughout the school, but what we needed help with this year was, because all of our tech lab computers, and many of the others, were still Windows XP," Waley said. "Every middle school student coming into St. Mary's next year will be assigned a Chromebook for use at school, but we still needed to have computers in the tech lab for non-Chrome use. This is also used by the diocese for some training as well, so Ed Tech Day came to our aid because they saw we had a need."
The equipment distributed during Ed Tech Day is all donated technology, some from large institutions like Catholic Health, Greatbatch and the University at Buffalo. During the year, teams of volunteers will often come in on a Saturday and reimage 50 to 60 computers each day.
"Organizations throughout Western New York are upgrading their labs or equipment, but (the old stuff) is still good, so instead of throwing it out, they donate it," Schanbacher said. "In the past 11 years in Catholic schools alone, we've been through 50 or 60 (buildings) and redeployed over 1,500 computers."