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Technology-Enabled Learning and Teaching

Fostering 21st Century Learning Skills

All students need to be familiar with 21st-century learning tools, have equal access to devices and an internet connection to support their learning in classrooms today. To support students’ acquisition of 21st-century learning skills, they must have access to digital tools. Superior North Catholic District School Board (SNCDSB) purchases Chromebooks to ensure that all SNCDSB students from Grades 1 - 8 and all kindergarten students have an iPad. This provides 1 to 1 device ratio access to support their learning and foster equity among all learners. Students and staff use Google software applications known as Google Workspace for Education. These tools facilitate 21st-century learning activities including collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, character and citizenship.

Chromebooks

Student working on chromebook.Chromebooks are lightweight laptops that run on a Google Chrome Operating System. They look like regular laptops, but unlike regular laptops, they run completely on the Internet making them ideal for cloud computing. Cloud-based software means that each time SNCSDB students access a Google application, they are using the most up-to-date software. SNCDSB's goal is to maintain the connected learning environment by identifying and maintaining only the best software products that support our students, staff and families that are aligned with the school board’s core values in the faith-based learning environment.

SNCDSB is a progressive school board that is adopting technology tools and digital software to create a modern and functional digital learning environment. Each classroom is equipped with an interactive whiteboard with a microphone and camera. This has allowed 21st-century learning partners from across the globe to collaborate with students and staff at SNCDSB. Technology tools remove geographic barriers and improve access to world-class learning opportunities. The board's new strategic plan highlights the priority of focus on the future. Through modern synchronous student workshops, students have had many opportunities to learn from experts outside of their school building.

Google Workspace

SNCDSB's strategic priority of focus on the future is facilitated through Google Workspace. The tools support student learning through a consistent digital learning environment and also create efficiencies. The software allows for collaboration and effective communication between students and educators. The tools naturally embed digital literacy and fluency skills into students' learning environments. Google Workspace creates efficiencies across the board fiscally. The Information Technology team is able to maintain the board's technology infrastructure through the streamlining of tools. The following applications are the tools students use to learn synchronously and asynchronously. Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Forms, Google Jamboard, Google Classroom, Google Meet are some of the many applications that facilitate student learning. Students use digital tools daily in their classrooms, this creates a digital learning environment. The digital learning environment develops transferable skills that will benefit student learning now and into their future.  

Student Hands-on Digital Workshops

Grade 3 - 8 students had the opportunity during Spring 2020 to participate in the first-ever Virtual Student Summit. Students were encouraged to learn alongside their peers and share new knowledge with teachers. It is important for students to be life-long learners, as this is one of the seven Catholic Graduate Expectations. This strategic priority is modeled by making learning visible through 21st-century teaching practices. SNCDSB educators demonstrate co-learning, co-planning and sharing their practices across the system.

SNCDSB values community partners and how they can support students learning. Cobblestone Collective, one of SNCDSB many learning partners, worked with TELTC to promote a Digital Literacy Awareness week at SNCDSB. During the Digital Literacy event during Spring 2021 parents and guardians were invited to participate in a Youtube Live session. The event kicked off the many learning activities that took place May 25 - 28th. SNCDSB is committed to engaging parents, students and educators in interactive - flipped learning opportunities. The event promoted students to become teachers and create a tutorial video on how to complete their favourite task using Google tools. Flipping the classroom and acknowledging the skills students have and asking them to teach is a deep way of engaging students in sharing their knowledge.

Creating Equity in Education

The technology tools at SNCDSB make learning accessible to all students and extend learning opportunities beyond traditional learning methods. Reducing barriers to education is at the core of effective technology integration, this is why students at SNCDSB have their own devices. Technology devices and digital software allows students to access assistive technology. Some of these features include: speech to text, audio and video creation tools and hyperlinking documents allow students to cognitive load to be creative and think critically.

SNCDSB's decision to use Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education provides students with a personal school Google account. Google accounts grant students access to cloud-based applications. All accounts within the SNCDSB domain connect students and educators across the school board in a secure and protected digital learning environment. These tools allow students to begin developing their digital citizenship skills as they personally care for their own devices and engage using their school board issued Google Account.

SNCDSB has a technology-rich environment equipped with tools that create equity and accessibility to learning. Each classroom has an interactive whiteboard with video conferencing capabilities. Learning commons in each SNCDSB school is equipped with robotics including Sphero, LEGO EV3 Mindstorm, LEGO WeDo 2.0, Beebots, Dash and Dots, Ozobots and OSMO. The school board also has a set of 10 VR Headsets to provide students with virtual field trips. The VR Headsets provide students with a real world experience without physically leaving the school building. These learning tools support students' 21st-century skills and promote engagement in learning.

The school's learning commons is the hub of the school where students can learn collaboratively in a creative physical learning space. Many schools have active maker spaces to support student’s curiosity, embed prototyping and inventor’s mindsets into hands-on activities. Students are engaged to improve continually when learning tasks are real-world and authentic tasks. The school learning commons are equipped with 3D printers and greenscreens. Students have access to video editing software for creating interesting video productions. They also have access to CAD design software for using the 3 D printer. These tools allow students to be creators. Creating, constructing and designing are the highest of the learning domains and require students' metacognition knowledge. These digital tools provide students with a deep learning experience. Students no longer need to memorize facts that can be accessed through the internet.

Technology Enabled Learning

Technology Enabled Learning Teacher Contact supporting student learningSince the inception of the Technology Enabled Learning Teacher Contact (TELTC) role, the goal of the role has been to support educators to effectively integrate technology into the classroom. The current government has a focus to develop transferable skills in students. The framework for evaluation of effective technology integration into the elementary classroom was selected based on the Ontario Ministry of Education Document 21st Century Competencies: A Foundation Document for Discussion. The 6 Cs of 21st-century learning include critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, character and citizenship. Critical thinking is a key skill identified across many Ontario curriculum documents and it is considered a transferable skill.

The primary goal of the TELTC is to promote student achievement through the implementation and embedding of the provincial Virtual Learning Environment, D2L Brightspace. At SNCDSB the VLE is called “The Hub.” The Hub features curated resources that support students and educators learn and teach in the digital learning environment. The board ensures all the application and software platforms are vetted to be safe and secure for students and educators. The Hub is also where students document their learning in their digital portfolios. Students can document and reflect on their learning in their digital portfolio using D2L’s Brightspace program.

Classrooms today are very different from classrooms 20 years ago. The rapid pace of innovation is allowing students to have their own devices to use as a learning tool. The TELTC is responsible for supporting students and educators on how to use these tools effectively to construct knowledge and actively participate in a connected digital learning environment.

New Literacy Skills for Students

SNCDSB’s strategic priority of focus on the future highlights the importance of developing students' digital fluency skills. Digital fluency is achieved through knowledge of digital tools and knowing what tools to use to achieve the desired goal. SNCDSB nurtures students' curiosity and innovative thinking through enhanced physical and digital learning spaces. SNCDSB has access to technology and software to develop new literacy and fluency skills in the digital learning environment.

Information is quickly and easily accessible from digital devices, teachers and textbooks are no longer the sole sources of knowledge. With technology, students have the power to learn, explore and investigate their interests and answer their questions.

Digital literacy skills foster 21st-century skills such as inquiry-led and self-directed learners, collaborative in knowledge construction, multitasking and problem-solving. New literacy skills are developed as students use technology and digital tools to support their learning. The development of these literacy skills is called digital literacy skills. Digital literacy education will equip students to learn and be successful using the information environment - the internet, cloud-based computing, digital tools etc. Students will learn digital literacy skills through collaboration, communication, citizenship, creativity, character and critical thinking.

Students need to learn, know and practice digital citizenship while learning in the digital learning environment. Learning how to find and critique information, share new learning and collaborate with students or professionals will bring a new perspective to learning activities within the learning environment.

Effective Integration of Technology Benefits Student Learning

The benefits of technology-enabled learning and teaching are many. Embedding digital technologies fosters critical thinking skills, knowledge creation and connected learning. The classroom boundaries are expanded with technology. Students have the ability to collaborate with professionals, students in a different country and critique others' learning that has been shared on the internet. Online, web-based tools have enabled students to create and post videos, collaborate with a class across the country or the globe, post an assignment to receive peer feedback, create and share a 3D drawing on Tinkercad.

The benefits of effective technology integration include the following but aren’t limited to:

1. Increased student engagement

Student working on ChromebookStudents enjoy using technology. Technology-enabled learning increases student engagement, especially with children who may struggle to engage with traditional learning tools and methods. Students develop a love of learning, reading and knowledge.

With technology-based learning tools such as Chromebooks, iPads, Google Workspace and robotic devices for coding students are assured to acquire 21st-century learning skills while engaging in learning through technology in classrooms. Tech-enabled learning and teaching is a great way of harnessing the enthusiasm students have for technology.

The importance of stories and books has not changed, they provide an escape from reality or method of learning new information. Online reading platforms have provided the reader with a choice as they can interact directly in the reading experience. Reading apps accessible through the SNCDSB Hub support student engagement through animations and unpredictable multimedia features create an element of unpredictability. Interactive books also lend themselves to extending reader engagement beyond the covers. Online mediums facilitate online learning games that check student comprehension, extend the story and gamify literature.

Digital tools extend reading and writing skills through the functionality and features of digital text. The different types of digital literature often include huge easy to read fonts, beautiful graphics and illustrations, engaging narrators, word tagging, music and animation. Students are engaged with technology tools and the kinaesthetic opportunities of touch screens to read. All of these factors make it easier for students to engage themselves in learning.

2. Students as Creators

Digital storytelling is a great tool to engage students in literacy. Students learn how to use cameras, video editing equipment, green screen and photograph. These skills support students' development of transliteracy skills. All students have an opportunity to create a digital story to share their learning using technology tools. Students have control over what the audience sees and hears. Students are producers and actors in their learning environment while creating digital stories; this fosters a student-centred classroom culture.

Students are able to tap into their creative juices through the implementation of a maker space. Makerspace to be the activity of making something or being a maker. It can include physically making something such as woodwork, prototyping or cooking to technically coding using a web-based computer program or robotics. The TELTC has been working with schools since 2018 to develop a makerspace in the schools learning commons. The success of a makerspace is contingent on an open mindset and willingness to learn through trial and error, allowing students to explore and create based on their interests. Allowing space for students to explore within the context of the Ontario curriculum can provide a rich opportunity for student engagement and unleash creativity. Students are in charge of their learning, not the teachers in the maker movement. The responsibility for learning is on the student, students learn that it's ok to break things and intrinsically are motivated to learn.

3. Increased Collaboration

Communication and collaboration are foundational skills for educators and students to learn and teach in the 21st century. To prepare students for the future, students need learning opportunities that foster collaboration, active learning through participation, developing their online identity through networking, and digital citizenship.

Google Apps for Education boosts collaboration within and beyond the classroom. The apps make it possible for students to collaborate in large numbers across all grades and beyond the physical school building. This is helpful since the schools in our school board span hundreds of miles. When students are able to work independently, as well as collaboratively, they become better equipped for success in the workforce.

SNCDSB is grateful for all the learning partners that support students learning. Some of the partners that have supported student learning include:

  • Cobblestone Collective
  • EdTech Team Canada
  • Google Canada CS First
  • Superior Science
  • Lisa Ann Floyd
  • TVO Ontario
  • Magnus Theatre
  • Exploring by the Seat of your Pants
  • First Lego Inspires
  • Kids Invent
  • Fair Chance Learning
  • Let’s Talk Science/Let’s Talk Career

4. Learning is Accessible to All

Technology-enabled learning and teaching also make it possible for students to learn at their own pace, in their own way. Through effective technology integration, students can customize their learning. Students have the ability to work on different assignments as teachers offer one-on-one guidance and differentiate instruction.

For example, one group of students in a class can work on a reading assignment while the second group responds to questions and the third group engages in guided reading (with their teacher). Tools like Google Classroom allow students to submit their assignments individually and receive direct feedback from the teacher. Chromebooks also give students the liberty to learn from the environments they love the most.

With access to technology, students will do more reading on a screen than paper and ink. Technology affords a different experience over printed materials. Readers have the ability to store and read multiple books, stories and multimodal text quickly and easily on a single device with an internet connection. Digital literacy allows the reader to construct meaning from words in a non-linear format. Traditional books have a front and back cover and the content is generally read in order and page number sequence. Online reading allows the reader to search for keywords, click a hyperlink to find a definition or learn more about a specific idea.

5. Increased Parental Communication

Technology-enabled learning and teaching have also made it possible for parents to be easily involved in their children's educational experiences. For instance, Google Apps for Education gives parents access to their children’s progress on assignments because students can access school work from anywhere, including their home. The apps also allow educators to share valuable information on student progress with parents.

With the integration of The Hub, students are able to document their own learning. Through Brightspace for Parents, parents have a snapshot of students learning through the digital portfolio. Brightspace for Parents is a new platform for SNCDSB and the board looks forward to rolling this out during the 21/22 school year.

Finally, Digital literacy skills are embedded into the classroom throughout the school year through the Digital Literacy Learning series. Parent engagement is important and valued at SNCDSB. In May 2021, parents were invited to participate in a live learning event with learning partner Cobblestone Collective.

"Together We Educate Heart, Mind and Soul."

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