It is hard to believe that after almost 2 years of planning, the WRDSB Futures Forum Project will go live. This has been a real journey involving:
- ongoing discussions with the Communitech organization in Waterloo to look at a view of a future classroom
- PLP experience for a centrally based team (including me)
- The formulation of a new innovative approach to learning within secondary schools with staff from Learning Services and IT Services working collaboratively on the planning
- 7 of our secondary schools commit to this project
- PLP experience for teachers and administrators from each school site involved in this project and a library resource team for project support
- course design, technology components (wireless, netbooks, iPads, web 2.0 tools, Adobe Connect etc.)
- planning, planning, resource development
- and we are ready to go live!!!
The project emerged out of the recognition that although educators and others were striving to engage students in a variety of approaches and learning activities to better prepare for the changing world, these efforts often occurred in isolation without a systemic approach or support. The project strives to integrate promising practices and learning across schools to meet the needs of all students in a more effective, sustainable and progressive manner.
The Futures Forum Project is an inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented approach integrating the teaching and learning of grade 10 Academic English, Civics, and Careers expectations (see Appendix A) into a morning block of 220 minutes (2 periods) during semester 2 of the 2010-11 year.
The overall curriculum expectations are addressed through the following components:
1. Guided Inquiries – These involve opportunities for students across participating schools to use technology to interact and work together.
2. Independent Inquiries – These self directed tasks provide students with opportunities to meet course expectations independently and tailor learning based upon their interests and readiness.
3. Portfolios – Portfolios allow students to engage in learning of interest to them and supports sharing with “authentic” audiences.
4. Summative Project – Students demonstrate mastery of Civics, Careers, and English expectations; independent inquiry, personally relevant learning and the of use technology as an effective collaborative and communication tool.
The summative project is focused around a “big question”…“What is my digital footprint?” It addresses the separate course expectations by requiring students to demonstrate, in a variety of ways, responses to the following specific questions:
- How am I an informed, participating citizen in a democratic and technological society? (Civics)
- How can I develop and achieve personal goals for future learning, work, and community involvement in a technology rich society? (Careers)
- How can I demonstrate I have a range of oral communication, reading, writing, and media literacy skills needed for success in school and life in a technology rich society? (English)
As part of the approach to the project each teacher will work with a network of teachers focused on this same inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented, and technology mediated approach to learning. OT Coverage and professional learning are provided to plan and facilitate the use of effective instructional strategies and technology related resources (e.g., PDAs, notebooks, online tools) to develop and deliver the interdisciplinary class addressing expectations of the English, Civics and Careers grade 10 curriculum.
The Futures Forum project is focused on addressing the system success plan goal of improving the ability of students to communicate their thinking in writing by providing job-embedded professional learning opportunities, and access to some technological resources, as part of an inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented, technology mediated approach to learning. The project’s focus is on:
- achieving the system success plan goal of improving the ability of students to communicate their thinking in writing
- promoting job-embedded professional learning opportunities for administrators, teachers and central staff,
- increasing access to technological resources, exploring an inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented, technology mediated approach
- addressing grade 10 Academic English or History, Civics, and Careers expectations during semester 2 of the 2010-11 year
- identifying and consolidating effective instructional strategies (i.e., instruction, assessment and reporting), tools and techniques mediated with technology related resources (e.g., PDAs, notebooks, online/internet networking tools, specifically Facebook, wireless access, etc.)
- monitoring and reporting on project progress and system learning (e.g., resource requirements, professional learning requirements, promising instructional practices, scalability, sustainability, etc.).
The Project metrics (indicators for assessing the project) include:
- increased student success rates in grade 10 credit accumulation, specifically for boys.
- increased student engagement in learning (i.e., more choice, opportunities for inquiry, topics of interest to students, etc.)
- increased school administrator, teacher, and central staff knowledge and expertise in using technology to engage students and promote learning;
- increased familiarity and effectiveness in the use of WRDSB research-based strategies, tools and techniques for improving written communication (e.g., student exemplars, anchor charts, non-fiction writing, graphic organizers/frameworks, open-ended critical questions), professional learning networks and professional learning cycles
Futures Forum Participants
School participants include a teacher and vice Principal lead. Grades 10 teachers teaching academic type English, open type Civics and Careers courses in semester 2 of 2010-11 are participating in the project. Participation includes a commitment to professional learning sessions, co-planning, networking, implementing, reflecting on lessons and assessment tasks, and a willingness to use technology to effectively implement system identified instructional tools and techniques in an inquiry based, multi-disciplinary, project oriented approach to teaching and learning.
Futures Forum teachers maintain a daybook, collect teacher reflections on learning, complete reports requested by central staff, and attend regular meetings with Learning Services staff. In addition, expectations include:
- Participation in co-learning with other Futures Forum teachers.
- Completion of data collection (e.g., survey teachers on what strategies they found most effective) for assessment purposes by central staff.
- Work with the administration to implement the project.
- Consider and contribute suggestions to support the project’s focus as determined with Learning Services staff.
Learning Services and Information Technology Services (ITS) staff provide leadership and support in the coordination of the project. They are involved in facilitating professional learning, monitoring project progress, allocating resources as required, supporting access to technology (e.g., students using both board and their own technology) through a wireless classroom environment, collaborating with the vice-principals and assisting in the completion of reports (e.g., status reports, final reports, data analysis).
A Variety of devices including Netbooks, laptops, smartphones, etc. along with wireless access and the use of specific internet based applications (e.g., Facebook, Desire to Learn – Learning Management System, Ontario Educational Resource Bank, Moodle, Ning) are among the technological tools and vehicle utilized to facilitate learning in the project
Professional Learning and Resource Support
A variety of technologies, regular professional learning sessions and facilitated professional learning network (i.e., PLP – 2 full day face to face and 4 adobe connect mediated by External experts) is used to support staff (teachers, administrator and central staff) involved in the project and promote collaborative learning and networking. This work in learning teams involves:
- collaborative planning of instruction including a common assessment task with rubric, and
- moderated assessment of student work
- effective instruction/assessment;
- use of instructional tools and techniques;
- use of technology mediated applications
- reporting on and assessing the project.
It is very exciting be at the ‘go live’ point, and I look forward to seeing this project in action.
Note: Some of the above content is from an internal report and is used with permission.