The Globe & Mail recently ran a series (one example here) on teachers across Canada who are leading the charge with innovative teaching infused with technology. As part of the story, parents, teachers, administrators and others were encouraged to submit their stories about how and in what ways teachers were doing this. I can’t be sure of just how many West Vancouver teachers were nominated, but four applications were shared with me, as well as submitted to the paper, and I want to share their stories because they are such key learning leaders in our district:
Cari Wilson, Teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School and Digital Literacy Resource Teacher for West Vancouver School District.
Cari has been leveraging technology with her students for the past decade, finding ways to make content engaging and empowering students to own their own learning through various web applications. In her current role, Cari has spent time in every Grade 4 – 7 classroom teaching the power of “creating a learning network.” Learning networks are made possible through technology previously unimaginable; students can connect with other students, teachers, and digital content to help improve their learning understanding and opportunities. Cari’s tireless and enthusiastic approach has provided a glimpse for our whole district about what is possible when we tap into the “collective wisdom” of our learning network. It is work that is shifting our understanding of teaching and learning, and what can truly be possible with innovative practice and digital access.
Martin Andrews, Teacher at Caulfeild Elementary School
Martin has taught at Caulfeild Elementary School for the past 20 years, and currently teaches a Grade 6/7 class. Martin has always been a leader in the use of technology in the classroom, so it was natural for him to jump at the chance to become involved with a new program called iDEC (Inquiry-Based Digitally Enhanced Community). In his role as a lead teacher, Martin helped create an environment which employs Smartboards at the Kindergarten/Grade 1 level, iPads at the Grade 2/3 level and student-owned laptops at the Grade 4 – 7 level. Each classroom was fitted with a wall-mounted, short throw wireless projector and teachers were provided with technology appropriate to their level. Martin works tirelessly to train teachers, encourage students, and assure parents that what we are doing is making a dramatic and positive difference in student engagement and achievement. The program uses the Understanding by Design model to deliver curriculum enhanced by the latest digital tools, and also teaches the soft skills necessary for a well-rounded 21st Century Learner. We call these skills our S.U.C.C.E.E.D. Skills (Self-regulation, Understanding, Creative and Critical thinking, Cooperation and Collaboration, Empathy, Enthusiasm and Determination). Martin helps his students use the technology as an ethical tool to communicate. They also represent their learning with various types of technology under his tutelage. The iDEC program would still be a dream without Martin’s leadership.
Arlene Anderson, Teacher-Librarian at Rockridge Secondary School
Arlene Anderson is the teacher librarian at Rockridge Secondary School and the recent recipient of the 2010-11 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. The press release around her award describes her well, as the ”techno-wiz teacher–librarian [who] inspires students and…reinvents [the] school library. If the school is an atom, the library is its nucleus where energy and enthusiasm fuel ideas.”
Arlene is always learning; she has made efforts to be familiar with and lead the use of noodle bib to help students create annotated bibliographies, wikis and voice threads. She has led staff in the development of scope and sequence for technology, and in understanding the importance of crediting the correct source, finding the original source of information, as well as understanding how to determine if the source is accurate or not.
She is also a side-by-side teacher with her colleagues, as in working with a science teacher to teach students how to create a wiki, find correct information on the Internet and check sources. In this project there were five classes: the first group of students wrote out their research on the wiki, the next group checked the sources/accuracy then added information, the third group also checked and added…etc., and when all five classes had spent time working on these wikis, they had created a powerful document on body systems. Each class had a group of students working on each topic.
Arlene models the way for teacher librarians, at the heart of our schools, embracing technology to support students and their learning.
Christine Winger, James Topp, Mike Richardson, Alex Kozak, Stew Baker and Keith Rispin, Teachers at West Vancouver Secondary School
Six teachers from West Vancouver Secondary School have undertaken an exploration into how technology can improve both instruction and learning. Specifically, these teachers have agreed to spearhead a 1:1 iPad initiative with a cohort of 28, Grade 10 students working in the subject applications for Mathematics, English, Physical Education, Social Studies, Planning, and Science.
The teachers are exploring applications for the iPad in an attempt to find meaningful ways to collaborate, present content, reduce paper and communicate efficiently with students. Students use their iPad to explore, from a learning perspective, which elements allow for deeper and broader understanding, as well as creating a platform for personalization of learning. To date, many aspects of the initiative have been positive. As with any initiative, there have been minor stumbling blocks as all participants strive to find that balance between efficiency and expediency.
What is so impressive about this group of teachers, and students, is their ongoing willingness to take a risk, try something new, and go back to the drawing board when all else fails.
These are four wonderful examples from four different schools about how teachers are leading the way to improve student learning and engage young people with technology. Of course, a challenge of highlighting some of these achievements is recognizing there are similar stories in all our schools. We are exceptionally fortunate to have an amazing group of teaching professionals taking the best of what they know about pedagogy and marrying it with the tools of today for tomorrow.
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