Small but Mighty, Superior North Educators supporting Northern Ontario Rural Students
Superior North Catholic District School Board (SNCDSB) is one of the smallest and most northern school boards in Ontario, located north of Lake Superior. The kindergarten to grade 8 school board spans over 14,000 square kilometres and requires 5 hours to drive from border to border. There are eight physical schools with approximately 650 in-class students, and 70 students learning remotely. The board employs approximately 81 OECTA members including two leads who support all schools and system initiatives. Technology has been vital in supporting equity in education within this large geographical area, yet small student-body school board.
Senior Administration at SNCDSB led staff and students through the most uncertain and ever-changing educational interruption. It was the philosophy of the Director of Education, Maria Vasanelli, to focus on the wellbeing of students, families and staff throughout the global pandemic. The three Superintendents of Education were an anchor for each Principal to provide support and guidance. Creating a network of collaboration, communication and gratitude for each staff member and their contributions to all student’s education has strengthened this small but mighty school board.
The progressive and forward-thinking school board ensured equity for students through the implementation of a one-to-one ratio of Chromebooks, including headsets with built-in microphones from grades 1 - 8. Kindergarten students are provided with an iPad to support their education. Having access to technology has afforded educators to connect their students with resources to support learning like never before. Students are able to customize their Chromebook settings to best suit their learning needs - changing the font size, the background colour, access assistive technology, and incorporating speech-to-text resources. Such access has allowed educators to differentiate instruction through the use of digital tools and resources.
The vast and extensive region of the school board’s geography could be seen as a barrier to providing students with access to rich and authentic learning. However, technology has enabled each classroom teacher to participate in board-wide presentations from Skills Ontario, coding lessons with Lisa Anne Floyd, CS First Coding lessons and a virtual tour of Google’s headquarters in Waterloo. Each classroom is equipped with an interactive whiteboard with a web camera and microphone. This has allowed educators to offer students learning experiences virtually and digitally from learning partners such as Exploring by the Seat of your Pants, National Geographic, Science North, TVO, Edwin by Nelson, virtual art lessons and coding workshops to name a few.
SNCDSB has a student-centred and team approach to educating the hearts, minds and souls of their students. Through developing personal relationships and connections with families, and by incorporating innovative solutions, despite challenging situations the board has faced, students have been empowered to reach their goals. During the pandemic, Educators worked with the IT department to facilitate the mobilization of technology, supported families to obtain internet connectivity and engaged students through Google Classroom and Meetings. SNCDSB educators are the key component to achieving a team approach and building equity in education. Teachers’ commitment to students, as well as their team approach, has promoted student success.
Through the use of technology, Technology Enabled Learning Teacher (TELT) Contact, Sarah Clowes, along with a board Math Learning Lead, Lena Stahl, both OECTA members, have supported classroom educators. Each OECTA member at SNCDSB has been provided with a device to support their work and connection to students and each other. Developing a network of support electronically through Google Hangouts, Professional Learning Communities, Google Meets and by being invited to share in classroom teachers’ Google Classrooms has facilitated the best possible education for students. A team approach to co-planing and co-learning has positioned classroom educators and leads for success, delivering programming virtually directly to students.
It was through relationship and collaboration that Sarah and Lena were successful applicants for an Ontario Teacher Federation (OTF) Coding Connections Grant. The project goal was to support educators to integrate coding into a balanced numeracy block. With guidance from Lisa Anne Floyd, a coding expert, eight classrooms from grades 5- 8 learned how to code in Lynx through virtual presentations. The student workshop model that supported the OTF grant project implementation was found to be truly successful, meeting the needs of educators and students,- supporting educators learning alongside students.
“It was wonderful to see students and educators from multiple schools and geographic locations, develop skills to support the new coding expectations in the Ontario math curriculum and to watch their confidence and competence with text-based programming increase along the way. The fact that every student in SNCDSB is provided access to the technology they require to be successful, contributes to an equitable approach, where all students can work to beyond their potential. The educators and leaders of SNCDSB have shown through creative and innovative approaches, ensuring access to technology, and working together, that students can be empowered and supported to learn, even when the most challenging situations arise.” - Lisa Anne Floyd, Educational Consultant.
SNCDSB worked with TVO to implement the TVO curriculum-based education tools and resources through virtual professional development. TVO was pleased to learn of the support SNCDSB provides students with one-to-one Chromebook devices for grades 1 - 8 students. Providing every student with the same device levels the playing field for students and educators. It allows for access to rich, digital resources that support students' education and differentiated instruction.
“TVO’s educational outreach team was proud to partner with the Superior North Catholic District School Board to reach every SNCDSB educator with a series of six outreach sessions. TVO appreciates this great opportunity with such a dedicated team of educators. The presentations focused on TVO Learn, TVO in the Classroom, TVO Kids, TVO mPower, TVO Mathify, TVO Outreach, and highlighted ways in which they support the new Math Curriculum, specifically in areas such as Coding in the Classroom, and Financial Literacy. The learning sessions helped SNCDSB educators to deepen their understanding of practical strategies by targeting grade-specific resources and hands-on exploration as well as examples for immediate use in online or face to face instruction.”
TVO welcomes educators to explore digital resources (https://outreach.tvolearn.com/ ) For further support, please contact email@example.com
"Together We Educate Heart, Mind and Soul."
Article submitted by Sarah Clowes, SNCDSB Technology Enabled Learning Teacher Contact