We at the Durham Catholic District School Board are committed to 21st Century teaching and learning. Research tells us that the combination of digital technology and good teaching practice has a significant impact on student achievement. That is why investing in these two areas is critical for student success. Funding from the Council of Ontario Directors of Education has been instrumental in helping us achieve our
vision for 21st Century learners. Through this funding, we’ve been able to
transform our traditional libraries into Learning Commons, explore the benefits of
cloud-based computing through Office 365 and provide training for teachers in
both technology and new pedagogy. Firstly, we have begun the process of
transforming our libraries into 21st Century Learning Commons. These are spaces where students can
collaborate and develop critical thinking skills, while using digital
technology. While a traditional library is different than from the Learning Commons, a traditional library is seen as a room of
books, where students come in work quietly by themselves. A learning commons encourages group work, it encourages collaboration, it encourages all kinds of resources, not just book resources. All the colours, all the new furniture, all the new technology, they’ve really embraced it. I think that they are very proud of it
and i think they feel like there’s a real investment in them, in their future,
in their success. What I like about the Learning Commons is that you can get a friend and work on a project quietly somewhere, you can use Sway and OneDrive to work on a project at home and at school so you get your work in on time and
done well. When the learning perhaps might start in the classroom, when the class comes into the Learning Commons they’re having that opportunity to
access the learning in traditional physical ways, but also using the
technology. If a teacher has an inquiry question, he
or she can bring their entire class down. Students can do the research in real
time. We have a large screen Macs, Windows 10 touch screens and Dells, as well. So the students can work collaboratively around those computers and in small groups. We have a beautiful new Mac lab of 16 iMacs that are booked out by classes. That’s a nice quiet room, so when the Learning Commons is buzzing and it’s noisy, there is a smaller area for classes to use. We have technology on carts that are signed out to students, we have 30 Chromebooks and we have 30
iPads and the students come in throughout the day and sign out these
devices. To compliment this collaborative physical space, we have built the virtual learning portal that allows teachers and students to access ministry and school resources anywhere at any time. The Launchpad encourages virtual
learning and so that’s something that adds to the whole
Learning Commons, that we have this beautiful new physical space but we also
have a virtual space for students to work in. And there are so many options
available to the students in that virtual space and and hopefully moving
forward, we’ll have more databases that the
students will be able to access, more online resources, more ebooks. These kinds of resources that the students need to have access to at home. They do everything online, they, you know,
they talk to each other, even if they’re in the same room they’re
communicating on their phone. So it’s just a natural extension of kind of where their social lives have taken them. How students learn outside school and
how students learn inside school, it’s now mirrored. So, gone are the days
where students can’t continue the learning outside of school. Not having the resources, forgetting the
binders…etc., at school. It’s all accessible 24-hours a day. It’s also a way that parents can continue the learning outside of school. We’ve continued to explore the
benefits of cloud computing through Microsoft’s Office 365 and applications
such as OneNote. The advantages to students and teachers using 365 and the cloud computing is the fact that at this school in particular we have a lot of athletes that are away on a Friday or away on a Monday with tournaments. My kids have figured out now through the
process that they can work in OneNote, whether they’re at home, in a hotel room
in Brampton, in the car even because it will update automatically as soon as
they get Wi-Fi. So, it really alleviates any of that ‘what am I missing?’ OneNote allows for differentiation because every student has their own laptop, every student has their own OneNote binder that only he or she and I can see. If a student has an assignment and they’re on a accommodated program or modified program, I can give them a similar assignment and throw it into their binder and no one’s the wiser. And because it’s online, because it’s
constantly syncing and updating, I’m allowed then to go into their binder
and give them constant feedback right away. So, it really allows the kids to experiment with things and become comfortable with their abilities. There’s less of a stigma they put on
themselves that I’m doing a different or slightly different program. The students are starting to realize
that they can collaborate, even on their own without teacher direction. So, as an example, my students were working on a lab that was going to be passed in and
they needed to compare the data. I opened up OneNote and there was a
collaboration page started by the kids where they’ve input all the data from
the lab so that everybody would have the data available. They’re learning that they have this as a resource and all they have to do is use it. One of the things I love about it is my teacher is able to post all of her notes, all of the study sheets, anything that I’m needing to fill in to be able to study and I can transfer it from her content library into my own kind of folder. I can organize it the way I want it, which is really great for me because then it’s personalized I know where everything is. Another thing I love about it is
being able to take it home. I have it on all my devices, my computer at home, my laptop, I can get it on my phone and I have it at school, so wherever I need it, it’s really here. Using the laptops and 365 has changed my assessment practices in the sense that while I still do give the paper and pencil test in some occasions, a lot of times now – it’s a cumulative assessment where at the end of the assignment or end of a unit, the kids will have to do a PowerPoint or
a SWAY, or a Word, or even we started using Publisher with a program called Tammy and it’s talking about mental illness and at the end of it they had to create
posters that displayed celebrities that suffer from mental illness and they did a
fantastic job on it. The students are very proud of what they
do and we’re basically in the process right now of we’re going to get the posters that they created for Tammy printed so they can be put up around the class, or the school rather, so that they can take
pride in walking past a poster that they created and it’s very professional-looking. The ways I like working on OneNote is because it’s much easier to keep track of all your work and it’s much more organized than
having a bunch of paper in your binders and you can’t lose something in OneNote, but you can have a piece of paper. The fact that OneNote lets you work on
all your work at anytime and on any device is good because instead of bringing like a
paper home or being worried about your binder being to heavy in your bag, you can just use your computer at home as long as you have Wi-Fi. And we can look at our marks at any time, anywhere, instead of coming back to school. For example, if it’s on a Friday we can just go home and look over the weekend. I like the way that you’re using my a
class time to work on it instead of copying from the board. We have invested heavily in teacher training around technology enabled teaching and learning. Teachers are gaining both the technical
skills they need to use the hardware and software we are deploying, and just as
importantly, they are learning a new pedagogical approach that is redefining
their role as teachers and the way they teach and assess their students. Our technology training was much
different than any other PD we’ve had before where we’ve been given lectures and just worked on because we were able to hands-on bring our laptops, bring
our iPads and sit in the sessions and actually try out all the programs one-on-one
and we have plenty of time to do it. We were also given lots of voice in
what we wanted to do and we were able to choose the direction that are learning
went to in the sessions and then we were able to come back to our schools, we were
given release time at the schools and build capacity with other teachers or in our divisions or our grade partners to further their learning and get it
implemented right away into their sessions. I got a student comment from a student
who is not in my classroom this year and she’s like, ‘oh, you guys have electronics
day, every day’ and so she thinks it’s all about we’re playing games in the class and I said yes, but it has a learning purpose, And I think that that’s where TILT helped
me, is to take that, you know, that fun environment and make it learning
with a purpose, with a learning academic goal, whatever that happens to be. So, that shift has come into my classroom and so the kids are definitely more engaged with the learning. We have a long tradition of something
called Lunch and Learn where staff members come to the resource centre or the learning commons for some professional development. Now what we’re starting to do is having
teachers bring students from their classes to these sessions. So, the teacher and the student learn together, they’re co-learners. So, if we’re learning about iPads or
Chromebooks or how they can be used in the class to create rich content, it’s the teacher and student learning together. In some cases, students are more comfortable with the technology and are able to assist the teacher. They obviously still need the teacher’s
support but it is very much an accompanied journey. Over the years my teaching practice has changed by, not so much a teacher-directed lesson, but more student-directed, where they can be involved in the learning and we learn together. And when we find out what we were looking for, then they can use technologies to show in a variety of ways what they’ve learned. I think using the laptop has really
helped with creating a 21st Century learner, in the sense that a lot of these
kids are going to have jobs that don’t exist right now. So, teaching them a specific item may benefit them in the future and it may not. So, I think teaching them more general, like working with each other, problem solving is huge and problem solving, whether independently or working with someone else is going to help them in the future, whether they’re a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or a job we don’t know yet. And so, I think that the whole idea of working and becoming familiar with this whole collaboration, with the working in partnership with other teachers, other students, allows them then to be more comfortable in the future working in that sense. The funds we’ve receive from CODE has allowed us to scale up technology in teaching practices that support student learning and achievement. These investments will benefit our
students right now and in the years to come.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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