Our Digital Learning Project 2015
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!