I recently had a chance to spend some time at Millen Woods PS (link) with principal Gwen McCutcheon and her staff. The school had a very welcoming atmosphere. There was a definite energy for learning, and yet a calmness at the same time. Impressive!
The visit began with an opportunity to meet with Gwen in her office to discuss some background information and leadership philosophies. Gwen is very interested in how technology can support and enable learning. Gwen states emphatically that she is “NOT a techie”, but has worked hard to establish a culture to leverage the best uses within her school. One of the resources that is shaping Gwen’s thinking is the book Visible Learning. She has noted a few key quotes from the book that really resonated with her, and reads them often. Some of the key points include:
- teachers need to understand learning through the eyes of the student
- what works is not just the tool or the structure
- students learn best when they understand the learning process
- learning is an: explicit goal, appropriate challenge or measuring progress towards meeting a learning goal
- in this context, effective use of technology makes a difference to student learning
- technology can add a level of accountability
- when students explain their thinking, they become their own teachers
Millen Woods P. S. has 60 iPads at this point in time – some from their start up funds 3 years ago, some purchased by the school and 20 from our central allocation this year. Principal McCutcheon views iPads as the most versatile piece of equipment in the school. She has been impressed with how well staff have adapted to thinking in a technology enabled framework and using iPads to support small group instruction, rather than taking a 1:1 approach. She is proud of the way the staff have focused on using technology to enable, support and capture student learning – making student learning visible, exploring critical questions and sharing thinking. Students enjoy the hands on approach and many staff feel that this has increased accountability. One example of students capturing their work is by using the Explain Everything app.
I enjoyed meeting teacher Stephanie Ringwood and her French immersion class. I was very impressed with seeing how her students used the iPads to support their learning. Listen to Stephanie’s perspective (video) on the shift to using technology in her classroom.
At the time the school opened two years ago, one of the big changes for staff was having the computers dispersed in pods around the school. While it took some time for all staff to adjust, Gwen feels they have “mad the transformational journey” and see the value in this approach.
As we walked the school, I saw other groups of students working in classrooms, pods and in hallway groups using technology to capture their learning — making movie trailers regarding physical fitness. I could tell from the way the students interacted with Principal McCutcheon that they were used to seeing her out and about in the school. I noted that there were some interactive white boards in the school, perhaps in roughly 25% of the classroom. Gwen feels this number is quite appropriate for the school and that there is no need to have one in every classroom. I do concur with her views on this as many teachers find it challenging to move past the teacher centered instruction early phases of using them. I also took note of some students working at their literacy skills using electronic books.
As we returned to the office area, the large flat screen TV in the hallway captured my interest. It is used to display student work the Millen Woods way – students teaching other students and students capturing their learning — AWESOME!
One video example of a student demonstrating their work is evidenced in Roane’s Video (posted with permission).
Thank you for sharing your learning journey!