Tag Archives: WRDSB

TEDx Youth at HHSS

Last week I happened to come across this tweet.

AB-tweet

This sounded interesting, so  I took action, visited the website and reserved a ticket.

AB-ticket

I meet teacher Andrew Bieronski at the door.

AndrewB

The Program:

I was very impressed with the TEDx Youth event that Andrew and his class put together.   The program featured a number of speakers well balanced with male/female and a variety of ages.  In addition to the tradition voice based presentations, the speakers used different approaches to presenting including music, dance, video and poetry.  I particularly enjoyed the slam dunk poetry session with a good message about bullying and a personal presentation about dealing with diabetes.

I was struck by one common element over the evening.  All of the presenters were obviously passionate about what they were doing, and their topics of choice.  All of the presenters were awesome in their own way, and  had an important message to share out to a broader audience.

Congratulations to all presenters, and to the class who that took on the task of organizing the evening.  I understand that a similar event may in the works for next year, so I will be watching for details!

Thanks for a great evening at Huron Heights Secondary School.

~Mark

Ontario gafe summit day one

ONgafesummit

Today was an amazing day. After many months of preparation the ECOO sponsored, Waterloo Region District School Board hosted Google Apps For Educators (gafe) event launched at 8:30 this morning. Mark Wagner from the Google Ed Tech team provided a warm welcome and overview from the day. Linda Fabi, Director of Education for the Waterloo Region District School Board delivered greetings to the 525  attendees.

Jim Sill delivered an outstanding keynote address challenging attendees to define the type of world we live in. Jim used effective examples to portray a world of will and reckless creativity, cleverly referencing twitter, sub tweets, selfies, personal branding and digital footprints. I am glad I livescribed this session so I can enjoy listening to it again!

Most of the balance of the day provided a wide variety of  workshop  strands addressing a variety of skill levels. A closing session provided an opportunity to  showcase some awesome tips and clever uses of Google Apps in a 3 minute window. Each presenter concluded with a resounding expression of “SLAM” !

On a personal note, I enjoyed connecting and sharing this experience with so many dedicated educators I know across the province, and of course, meeting new people too.  I learned more about using google maps more effectively, leveraging extensions to Google Drive and tucked away a variety of nifty tips and tricks.

I am looking forward to GAFE day 2 tomorrow!!!

~Mark

 

 

Technology Enabled Learning at Millen Woods PS

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).

iPad syncing trays and Mac Mini (side mount) for syncing
iPadtrays

Hallway TV displaying student work
HallTV

Laptop controlling hallway TV
TVsetup

Thank you for sharing your learning journey!

~Mark

WRDSB Futures Forum Program Wins Award

Celebrating an Amazing Journey

Five years ago, a small group of WRDSB staff (Mary Lou Mackie, Mark Harper, Kim Keena,  Jim Woolley and I )  began meeting with local community business leaders who were members of Communitech to discuss the classroom of the future.  Although no specific classroom design was agreed upon, general conclusions centred around what is now thought of as the key C’s: communication, collaboration, creativity  and critical thinking.

Discussions continued with students, and then the WRDSB team enrolled as team in a Powerful Learning Practice cohort to continue our learning and thinking about the possibilities. Bill Lemon, Harry Niezen and Ken Whytock served as the lead implementation to look at needs in the areas of  curriculum, assessment, technology, staff training etc.  The results of the implementation team are captured in this blog post.

Since the Futures Forum program has gone live, there have been continued successes and gradual expansion of this program. Now, in 2013, the program is running in all secondary schools, with multiple classes timetabled in each school.  The approach has had spin off benefits such as the Innovate program at Forest Heights C.I.  Research gathered to date has shown that this approach to learning is producing results that are statistically  significant.

The Futures Forum project was recently recognized  for innovation by Solution Tree.  I wanted to publicly congratulate all the central staff, school administrators and teachers that have been a part of bringing this vision to life.

Additional Information

Solution Tree Photo

Futures Forum video

Official WRDSB announcement

~Mark

Student Voice: social media in the classroom

My daughter Charlotte just completed a grade 11 online secondary school course (HNC3OE) on fashion & creative expression here in the Waterloo Region District School Board.  She was recently sharing with me,  her work completed for the summative project on the topic of creative expression. There were 4 components to the work in addition to a personal reflection on the course.

The first component of the summative was a research assignment that reports on sweat shops in the apparel industry. The report is called  The Ugly Side of Fashion . Another component was to review wardrobes used in a high profile event such as a fashion show, new collection, red carpet event or video. Charlotte chose a  Costume Review.  One of the aspects of the summative that Charlotte really enjoyed was designing new clothing.  Her Fashion Design (graphic) was prepared using a drawing tablet and multi layer capable software called Art Rage 3.

The last component of the project really captured my interest. The idea was to research and explore, in a real life manner,  how personal  perceptions of attractiveness relate to how others see you.  The research methodology included comparing the subjects opinions of themselves, Charlotte’s perceptions  based on knowing the subject and input gathered from others who did not know the subjects.

Charlotte has an active online component to her life as a fan fiction writer and co-administrator of 3 blogs.  The one blog, administered with 2 online friends from Malaysia, is  kpop fans can relate, and has over 15,000 followers. This blog was used to gather anonymous input from people for the research.  I thought this was a great use of social media and crowd sourcing some feedback to provide an authentic context to research.  This also demonstrates an example of why students should have access to social media and web 2.0 tools to support their learning. The topic, research and findings are presented in this Fashion Video (12 min.) which was planned, filmed and edited by Charlotte.

Note: All noting and final documents were prepared using Google Drive. The video was produced in iMovie and uploaded to Google Drive.

I enjoyed learning how social media added a key component to this learning opportunity.

~Mark (& proud Dad!)

WRDSB BackPack

WRDSB has recently introduced the ‘BackPack’ option for secondary school students. This web site provides a mechanism for students to access their Board computer file storage from home.  The login process is active directory compliant.

Login Screen

User Interface

The user interface is simple to use, providing icons for file the typical management functions: uploads, downloads, rename, add folder etc.

The solution is based on java based open source code.  Future plans will add functionality for all students. Many thanks to the WRDSB ITS staff who worked on this project to support student learning.

~Mark

Great CATC conversation

I attended a technology planning meeting tonight with Rebecca RouseCarolyn Graham and the Smithson Public School CATC (computers across the curriculum) team. Reflecting on the meeting, a few thoughts stayed with me:

  • good energy on the team
  • positive outlook towards change
  • technology change is messy right now, and shifting quickly.  Time is needed in the sandbox to play!
  • static vs dynamic use of technology (static = fixed labs etc., dynamic = technology in the student learning space)
  • technology to enable and enhance learning,  not new technology for technology’s sake
  • discussion focused beyond now and short team –> what does the next 3 years look like at the school?
  • increasing access
  • advantages of mobile technology
  • highlighting new learnings at staff meetings

I hope some of the discussion points listed here, might provide guidance to other sites in their planning process.  We look forward to working with the Smithson staff to develop their plan and support them moving forward with their agenda.

~Mark