Posts Tagged ‘dashboards’


About five years ago we started discussions in our district about modernizing the classroom. At that point it was really a discussion about creating a level playing field with technology in our schools.

The First Wave

What emerged from the discussions was the view of a modern classroom starting with wireless access across all schools. At the classroom level all teachers were provided with digital devices. We took a different approach from the past and elsewhere when staff were given a choice about what devices they needed — some selected iPads, others MacBooks and still others chose PC netbooks or tablets. In addition, each classroom, from Grades 4 to 12, was also equipped with a projection device. These were not huge shifts, but they created some equity and it also built the groundwork for the student bring-your-own-device program. This program has taken hold throughout the district, in some schools as early as Grade 4, but largely implemented in Grades 6 to 12. Currently, most schools have a plan for students bringing devices and engaging them in the classroom.

The Next Wave

The next wave will continue to have a digital influence, but the modern classroom is far more than a ‘digital’ classroom. Of course, these are not things with clear start and stop timelines, so in some schools the final projectors are still being installed and student device programs are being finalized.  As schools have more students with devices, we will need to revisit our work and make further improvements to items like Wi-Fi access. So, for the next wave, I see four trends emerging:

1)   Rethinking the common spaces. Most notably, rethinking libraries as learning commons areas. Schools see these areas as places that can symbolize and epitomize some of the changes we are seeing with how we access information and organize learning.

2)  Refreshing the web environment.  The portal of 2010 has become clunky and dated.  We are looking to create secure spaces to make student publishing easier, and we are looking for ways to ensure the web tools our students and staff are working with outside the school day are available during the school day and part of our core systems.

3)  Self-regulation is influencing our classrooms.  I have written often about Stuart Shanker and the influence he is having, as well as the self-regulation work in our school district.  This can translate into fewer posters on the wall, different kinds of lighting, quiet areas in the classroom for some students and a variety of desks and chairs to improve  environments for learners — another important understanding about how young people learn.

4)  Outdoor learning spaces.  We now see many school and community gardens connected to curriculum, as well as schools interested in outdoor shelters or other structures to allow for more formal teaching out-of-doors. Combined with outdoor learning programs, these shifts are definitely altering how we view classrooms as strictly being an indoor activity.

The modernized classroom is a digitally rich classroom and as this first wave continues alongside the second wave, we will see more students with devices and more technology benefiting student learning.  As mentioned, the modern classroom is much more than kids with computers — from common spaces with less of a library look and more like Starbucks, to flexible classrooms with different furniture to ‘classrooms’ being outdoors, the modern learning environment is an evolving and dynamic place.

It will be exciting to be part of this shift.

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Two metaphors I often hear our Director of Instruction, Gary Kern, evoke while discussing our work with technology are the faucet and the pool.  They are ones I find myself repeating more, as we explain the work we are doing with digital literacy.

In a typical district, school or class, the adults control the supply of technology that students use to support their learning.  While the district may have invested millions to support all students with digital literacy, in some classes the technology faucet is turned off; in others it is a slow drip, while others have it open wide.  We are trying to allow all students some steady flow of technology to support their learning — regardless of a particular school or class.  And, while some will enhance the experience, all students will have basic access.

In K-3, all students in West Vancouver have access to Dreambox (I have written about this program before here).  In some classes it is part of the school day, but all students can access it from home, and all parents can access the analytics to see the areas where they can support their children.  In Grades 4-12, we are just beginning to explore what is possible with student dashboards. Gary Kern, recently wrote about them here.  All students have email, instant messaging, storage, and a series of other tools which allow them to collaborate in a safe environment.  All students can actually instant message the superintendent (and four have so far).  We are not turning the technology faucet on full, but we are creating a steady stream for all students.  Students can explore how they can ethically use digital tools to support their learning.

It is difficult to teach kids to swim without getting them into the pool.  And, this is also true of being good digital citizens — we can’t teach digital citizenship without giving students a safe digital space to experiment, learn and grow in. Again, the student dashboards are part of the latest effort to teach our students to swim in the digital world.  And better yet, we know that when we get into the water with  the kids, it is even easier. We also know we need to continue to support administrators, teachers and parents in the digital world to be more comfortable swimming in the water with their kids.  While some take the approach that the technology pool, although very inviting, is closed with large, raised fences around it — we are taking a different approach.  We want to be able to say that all our kids know how to swim safely.

Turning on the faucet for all children and jumping in the water with them does challenge the status quo.  Giving all students access to some technology and expecting all students will have some ability to navigate in a digital environment is not the norm.  If we believe what Coquitlam administrator, David Truss recently wrote, that education is going to be increasingly open and distributed, we need to support students for this world.

There are times when I wish this fall looked more like last fall — it would make life easier but, of course, it would not be the right thing to do.  It will continue to be exciting to see what happens as we open the faucet and jump in the pool with our students.

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