Here is the PowerPoint and handout materials used during the presentation at Connect 2016.
After several months of planning, our Edsby rollout began at pilot sites in our secondary schools in December and our elementary schools in January. Yesterday saw our first media coverage of this exciting development!
Over the past three years, my board has been working as part of the Ministry of Education/CODE 21st Century Teaching and Learning Projects. I have shared details of several facets of this work before here and here, as well as in several presentations across the province and beyond.
We recently learned that, as part of the $150m “Technology and Learning Fund”, we would be able to continue and expand the work we have been doing through this year and the next two. This past weekend, the Windsor Star did a nice job of outlining what our plan for the remainder of this school year will be, and this work will inform where we are going for the following two years.
We are obviously very excited about this opportunity to deepen our work, and there are a few pieces of information that we are keen to share and explore as widely as possible in the coming months.
- Microsoft Office for All Students
Every student in our board will have access to an Office 365 account. This comes with the option to download the full version of Microsoft Office 2013 on up to 5 desktop, laptop, or Windows Tablet devices (as new versions and updates come out, these will be applied for free, too). It will also enable full use of all Microsoft apps on iOS and Android. All of this comes with unlimited cloud storage for students and staff.
This is obviously a great resource for all staff and students, allowing us to expand our working definition of collaboration, revolutionize how we access and share information, and provide our students and their families access to high quality software and tools.
- Digital Citizenship and Character Development
The world our children are growing up in is different to the one we knew. The digital age, for all of its obvious advantages, has given us as a society problems in terms of how people behave online. We have been firm in the conviction that cyberbullying, for example, is not a technology problem per se, but a behavioural issue. The solution to cyberbullying is not revoking access to technology, but addressing the underlying issues that make a person believe they can act that way toward another person.
This project will allow us to spend 1/2 day in every single classroom and with every single student, exploring these topics and beginning a conversation that shares the rules, expectations, and consequences of engaging in the digital word. Clearly this in itself will not eradicate inappropriate behaviours, but having a system-wide approach to this conversation, putting it front and centre in our classrooms and communities, can only be a positive as we raise awareness and raise the bar of expectations for our students.
- Changing Pedagogy
Perhaps the most important distinction that we want to make in this work is that we are not engaging in a technology project. Our work with teachers is about changing pedagogy and evolving practice. As many people have commented, using 21st century tools with 19th century practices will not make any difference to student learning. With that said the focus of our work with teachers this year and into the next two will be on the tasks we are asking students to do. Founded in Elmore’s work on the “Instructional Core” and using Ruben Puentedura’s “SAMR” framework, we will explore the role that technology has on student learning not by replacing the paper and pencil, but by designing tasks that expand the cognitive demands on the student to reach deeper understanding and proficiency. We are not trying to simply create paperless schools, rather schools where students engage in rich learning tasks that require inquiry and creativity, where they can exhibit their multimedia skills and develop a voice in a connected, digital world. Very simply, our students are growing up in a world that looks different to when we were young, and school should be a reflection of that, not the one place they go that looks different or is stuck in the past.
- Engage and Empower
Our board improvement plan is based on the notion that improvement happens when stakeholders are engaged and empowered. We believe that this project will achieve this aim. Follow @14DLT, @kellmoor and @BrunoPallotto to track our progress!
A common area of focus for schools right now is “problem solving in math”. Math has been identified as a problem in the province, as even though our PISA scores and EQAO assessments are comparatively high, there is a trend of decline in recent years.
I had the pleasure of attending the Ontario Education Research Symposium last week and was present for two presentations by Francesco Avvisati of the OECD, the body who oversees PISA testing. In both presentations the issue of ‘problem solving’ came up. What was most interesting about this was that it was never framed as a math issue. As obvious as it sounds, problem solving is a skill unto itself, not merely something we engage in with math concepts. Many examples were shared of how higher performing jurisdictions focus on problem solving outside of math, and then look to transfer these skills to the math context, but they never look at problem solving just in the context of math. The OECD has also noted that there is no correlation between socio-economic status and the ability to problem solve, but strong correlation between socio-economics and math, another indicator that they are different skills. This all sounds very obvious, but served as a great reminder that in our work with schools who are focusing on problem solving in math, we really are having two very distinct yet related conversations.
These presentations reminded me of the thinking that went in to deciding which apps we would pay for centrally to go on the almost 1000 iPads we distributed to our elementary schools this past September. One of the apps that generated the most discussion was “Where’s my Water?”.
Our rationale for including this app was exactly the type of thinking presented by the Dr. Avvisati during his presentation. Students who use this app must solve a problem (the crocodile needs water) by guiding water through a series of obstacles to the shower plumbing. Engaging in this requires students to plan a course of action, respond to the lessons they learn along the way and learn from their mistakes, and, more than anything, persist to reach a solution. They need to come up with often creative and imaginative solutions, to follow a course of action to its conclusion, and to reflect on the efficiency of their choices.
Linking back to the work we are doing in schools, it left me to reflect that when we say “problem solving in math” is an issue, are we saying the main issue is problem solving or is it math? How are the students at solving problems outside the context of math? Is their ability to problem solve holding back their ability to show their mathematical understanding, or vice versa?
Dr. Avvasati shared a story about one of the highest scoring countries they work with. They have developed a period of time every week they call “integrated learning”. During this time students are required to work on projects based on improving their local communities. The conclusion was that this was a major factor in supporting students’ ability to problem solve. They are seeing great success and correlation between the students’ ability to problem solve and their success throughout their learning.
How are you looking at developing problem solving skills with your students? How do you do this both inside and outside the context of mathematics?