Returning from Spring Break, I encountered stunning proof of Ursuline’s early adopter status and commitment to technology in the classroom when a photo clipped from a newspaper was brought to me for the archives.
The photo depicts two Ursuline sisters along with a couple of video monitors and some equipment. The caption reads, “Mother Superior Helen Marie, right, and Mother Dolores Marie try out Ursuline Academy’s closed circuit TV teaching desk and chart cabinet.” The headline of the accompanying article, which was cut off just a few lines in, reads, “Ursuline Academy to Use Television in Classrooms.”
The photo generated many questions in my mind: When was it taken? Can I get the rest of the article? What was the technology being utilized in the photo? Questions led to time devoted to unraveling this little mystery. With just a few clues: the photo itself, a byline, and the “Dallas News Staff Photo” label beneath the photo, I set about researching the rest of the story.
Based on the habits sported by the two nuns in the photo, I assumed that it was taken prior to Vatican II. I enlisted the help of Assistant Librarian Carolyn Croley. Ms. Croley tracked down the obituary of the reporter, Pat Kelley Faught, and was able to place the photo in a time frame based on when Faught worked for the Dallas Morning News. Ms. Croley then located a reprint of the original article in the Texas Catholic of August 29, 1959. Once we had narrowed our search to 1959, I turned to the Dallas Morning News digital archives. With assistance from a helpful Dallas Morning News customer service representative, I was able to browse the issues published in the month of August 1959 and finally found the original article published in the August 17, 1959 issue.
The article itself details the technology being implemented to allow teachers to broadcast a lecture to multiple classrooms simultaneously with the closed-circuit system. The initiative was put in place to reach more students interested in the advanced subjects being taught via this method and to prepare students for lecture-based courses in college. The article also highlighted that the system was made possible through a partnership with Texas Instruments.
As more information about the photo and the technology became available, I was struck by the parallels to our current experiences with technology. The closed-circuit system is a precursor to the Microsoft Hubs being employed in the classrooms today to reach our students who have been learning remotely during this pandemic year. Similarly, Ursuline has engaged in partnerships to bring technology to the classroom since these early days, first with TI and now with Microsoft as a Microsoft Showcase School. With leadership of vision, Ursuline Academy has truly been at the forefront of innovation and technology in the classroom from its beginnings through today.
Thank you for traveling back in time with me!
Head Librarian and Archivist