Tag Archives: WRDSB

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

Student Voice: Technology

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the WRDSB Student Trustee meeting at Cameron Heights Secondary School. The student trustee team is led by Sajdeep Soomal and Adrienne Fiander under the direction of WRDSB trustee  Kathi Smith and staff advisor  Kevin Donkers (login to view this link).  As I have for the last four years of attending these sessions, I anticipated an engaging evening of discussion around a variety of issues.

Sajdeep and Adrienne had prepared a list of topics for discussion which included:

  • an update on the Board technology plan for the next year
  • use of mobile technology within schools
  • clarification of the WRDSB email policy
  • future directions with YouTube
  • ebooks (eTextbooks)
  • and ideas for Facebook for school related platform.

From my perspective, we had a fascinating discussion. As we covered the topics, the students asked insightful questions about the use of technology. Over the evening, our conversation touched on smart boards in secondary schools, digital citizenship, tablet use, business models,  network management (bandwidth capacity, security, virus protection, data integrity, freedom of information & privacy needs and legal requirements) and our collective responsibility for being  good role models for appropriate, ethical and safe online activity.

Thanks to all for a great evening. I look forward to continued conversations online and my next face to face meeting!

~Mark

Social Media Check

Thanks to a tweet from @trustsocmedia this week, I found out about the  The Doc Zone  feature titled Facebook Follies   . Although I was not able to view the CBC broadcast, the title did capture my interest. Today, I took the time watch the online version of  Facebook Follies .

In my view, the production was very well done.  The realities, cautions, benefits and highlights of using Facebook, and social media tools in general, are all explored through real situations. To me, this speaks to the reasons why students need to be educated through authentic experiences about the use of social media tools, digital citizenship and managing your online profile/digital footprint.

Your online actions live forever. I applaud educators who are making efforts to embrace social media tools, leverage their power , teach and model ethical and responsible use.

~Mark

Ryerson Public School

I recently had an opportunity to participate in a Grand Magazine interview with Peter Berndt, Principal at Ryerson Public School in the Waterloo Region District School Board. The article, linked below, captures the technology focus of the school and highlights the excellent work of the teachers in using technology to support student learning.

Congratulations to Peter and the Ryerson staff for their excellent work with technology and forward thinking about student learning.

This article is posted and linked for viewing purposes only with permission from the publisher. A special thank you to Nancy Silcox for preparing this article for publication.

Ryerson Public School

~Mark

iPads for JK/SK students

Earlier this month I had a chance to visit Central Public School (website) with Rebecca Rouse (@rebrouse) to have a first hand experience observing our JK/SK students using iPads. Central P. S. is one of 5 Waterloo Region District School Board sites participating in a focused study on the impact of the use of  iPads to support early reading and early literacy development in our students.

Upon arriving at the classroom, we initially stayed off to the side to observe without interupting the natural flow of the classroom. A kindergarten classroom is a busy space, and I was immediately struck by my initial observations. There was certainly an air of energy and excitement in the classroom. Students were checking with staff to see when it was their turn to move to the iPad station. Clearly, they were motivated and did not want to miss their turn.  I was very impressed with preparation and organization of teachers Brenda Fowler Mandy Serpa. They had really thought through the physical logistics of managing the iPads within this busy environment. iPads were numbered via the screen background for easy tracking. Cases were used for protection during storage and transportation from room to room. A picture book of app (application) icons was created to assist the students in locating the correct software. Screens were cleaned regularly to maintain the sharp image and reduce germs. I also noted how careful the students handled the technology – impressive!  With guidance from the staff, students used a variety of apps (applications) for word recognition, spelling, personal exploration and story creation.

Eventually we joined the student table and sat next to the students. I asked one student what he thought about using the iPads. Without a pause, he enthusiastically stated that iPads were ‘fun and creative’. All of the students were eager to share their work and successes with us.

Teacher Observations:  After watching the students in action with the iPads at the learning centre in the classroom, teachers shared their observations from the first month of the project.

  • lesson preparation time had become more streamlined (less paper based)
  • time spent on learning activities increased
  • students spent more time on task during guided reading sessions
  • there has been a significant increase in student engagement levels
  • reading skills are developing more rapidly compared to a more traditional approach
  • the built in audio support enhances student learning
  • a notable increase in student confidence
  • students are eager to demonstrate something new they have learned
  • 5 iPads is a good number of devices for managing the student group
  • students were keen to assist each other with problem solving
iPad Rules

Spelling words

Sample App Icon Card

iPad Centre

This project has certainly had a positive start. Thank you to Principal Jennifer Crits and teachers Brenda Fowler and Mandy Serpa for sharing their experiences to date.
If the results of this proof of concept project  show a strong correlation to improved early reading and early literacy then we revise how we allocate technology for all JK/SK programs.
~Mark

WRDSB Futures Forum Project Goes Live

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!!!

Background:

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).

Technology Components

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.

~ Mark

Note: Some of the above content is from an internal report and is used with permission.