Newfangled Fiddleheads

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DSC_3603_copyImmaculate Conception School to pilot new Fiddlehead computer software

By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

FAYETTEVILLE — The move to advanced technology use in primary and secondary schools offers great hope for improving the access, quality and efficiency of basic education. Studies show that greater access to technology that’s been effectively integrated with a school’s curriculum increases students’ learning.

The Syracuse Diocese realizes the importance of incorporating modern technology into all areas of a school’s curriculum to ensure that students will be prepared to be productive members of their communities.

The students at Immaculate Conception School will realize that advantage when they return to school in September. The school has upgraded and increased the number of computers with a breakthrough computer-sharing technology developed by C&S Companies in Syracuse. The software is called Fiddlehead and it uses the extra computing power that every newer computer has to allow four extra sets of monitors, keyboards and mice to run off that one single computer. The components of Fiddlehead are contained within two bright green cubes that connect the separate keyboards to the parent desktop unit. Each Fiddlehead kit also contains a four-headed video card and a splitter that sends that video to four different computer monitors.

Sally Lisi, principal at Immaculate Conception School, said that the school’s advisory commission originally planned to replace the computer lab at the school. Due to the hardware and energy savings of  implementing the Fiddlehead technology, they not only replaced the lab but also put new systems in the classrooms. Lisi anticipated saving up to 60 percent on hardware and 70 percent on energy costs.

Rick Clonan, chief operating officer at C&S, said the outdated computers in the computer lab served 10 students to one computer. Now, with the integration of Fiddlehead, the ratio will be two students to one computer. “They now have current technology,” said Clonan. “It’s a great value, no matter how you look at it.”

“It’s so exciting,” said Lisi. “Not only do we have a new computer lab, but we have five new computer stations in each classroom in kindergarten through third grade and 10 stations in grades four through six. And we only had to purchase 19 computers.”

Michael Colabufo, superintendent of schools, is equally pleased about the inclusion of Fiddlehead into the diocesan school system. “I look forward with great anticipation to have Fiddlehead become an integral part of our technology advancement,” said Colabufo. “I am extremely delighted that Immaculate Conception was selected to pilot this remarkable computer system in the Central New York area.”

Colabufo said that he was impressed with the quality and the cost savings of the system because it requires fewer computer towers and saves on energy use. “Fiddlehead allows the teacher to be in control of all of the students’ computer programs at one time, creating a more efficient usage of computers as an instructional tool,” said Colabufo.

“As our Catholic schools move forward to become green schools, Fiddlehead adds to this goal by reducing the heat and energy that computers otherwise create from their usage. To have one terminal connect five laptop screens is a savings. To allow each laptop screen to perform its own operation is a mark of futuristic technology in today’s Catholic schools,” said Colabufo.

Students and teachers at Immaculate Conception tested the Fiddlehead system in one of their sixth grade classrooms last April. “We were enthralled with it and could see the advantages,” said Lisi. “The students were impressed with the speed of it.”

“It’s a miracle in a box,” said Immaculate Conception School technology director Christine Longo. “It makes my life so much easier.” Longo likes the way she can send information from one computer to the other four computers. Before the implementation of the Fiddlehead system, she would need to load software onto the other four computers. “It would take hours to do that,” said Longo.

The school was able to purchase the system with part of the proceeds from last year’s car raffle. The money from the annual raffle is dedicated to technology, tuition assistance, capital improvements and the building of an endowment for the school. Several parents have also donated funds toward the purchase of this new technology.

The Fiddlehead software has been tailored specifically for the classroom. When teachers work from their own home screen, they can view all students’ computer screens simultaneously, or zoom in on an individual screen for a close-up look. Teachers can also  zero in on an individual student’s workstation to help clarify what is being taught. Additionally, teachers can temporarily pause or blank a student’s workstation — or all the workstations in the classroom — whenever they need a student’s attention or want to pause an activity. Teachers are also able to show one student’s work to the whole class — either on a central screen, an electronic white board or on every workstation.

With the Fiddlehead system, teachers gain access to free educational software which is reviewed and approved by the Syracuse University Center for Digital Literacy.

The teachers are able to implement differentiated learning through the facilitation of a project-based learning curriculum developed specifically for Fiddlehead integration.

Lisi said the teachers are very excited and began to receive training in technology integration as soon as school ended in June. The professional development was presented by Dr. Tiffany Koszalka from Syracuse University’s Instructional Design Development and Evaluation in the the School of Education, along with two doctoral students. They also worked with the teachers three days in August and will continue to do so throughout the school year.

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