In this installment of TeachOntario Talks we are profiling and celebrating "Success for all Students: 21st Century Teaching/Learning using Chromebooks & A Blended Learning Model " from Grade 2 teacher Rolland Chidiac and 21st Century Learning & IT Consultant Ferdinand Krauss at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.
Rolland Chidiac is an elementary teacher who is consistently looking for new ways to use technology to enhance his students’ learning. From using iPads to help students with autism, to using Chromebooks to provide enrichment and remediation for student learning, to becoming a Google Certified Teacher, Rolland is willing to change and adapt to determine where technology can be used to better achieve learning goals.
The Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) has provided many technological tools for teachers to use in their classrooms. For instance, every classroom is equipped with a Brightlink projector and interactive whiteboard. This allows for access and use of digital resources (e.g. You Tube, interactive websites) for the benefit of all teachers and students. Teachers have also been provided with training opportunities and access to software that allows for the creation of interactive lessons to be used via the projectors in the classrooms. On top of the investment in the classroom, all WCDSB schools have wireless Internet hot spots that allow staff, students, and visitors to bring their own device to support learning in all school buildings.
Using these tools as a backdrop, Rolland and WCDSB 21st Century Learning & IT Consultant Ferdinand Krauss, developed their TLLP project with the idea of using technology in innovative ways to prepare students and teachers for the ever changing world they live in. They also wanted to build their understanding of the effective use of differentiating instruction for a variety of learning styles.
The Teachers' Goals Were To:
- Use blended learning to address a specific area of student need.
- Determine what areas of instruction and blended learning model need to change based on assessment and feedback from students.
- Use evidence of student achievement to better understand the extent to which blended learning has been successful in improving student learning.
- Educate and empower teaching staff in the WCDSB system to embrace and model 21st century learning.
Initially the plan was to use tablets as the primary device for use in Rolland’s Grade 2 classroom, but after extensive research and experimentation, Rolland and Ferdinand realized the Chromebook would be the best choice to meet their goals. Students would also be able to make use of the BYOD (bring your own device) policy adopted by the WCDSB.
Rolland and Ferdinand wanted primary students and teachers to be able to view and experience online interactive sites, particularly Flash-based learning activities created by the Ministry of Education, without having to change or configure any settings, so the focus would be on the learning and teaching and not the technology.
At the beginning of the school year, with Ferdinand’s help, Rolland’s Grade 2 class embraced the new technology and Rolland could use it easily to spot problems early. For example, when Rolland's class was working on Number Sense and Numeration, Rolland found an activity called "Order Numbers 1-100.” It was a great way to engage the students in trying something relatively fun and provided Rolland with a quick assessment of who may be struggling with number order.
Rolland used the technology to upgrade some of the teaching strategies he had used in the past. For example, each year, around the middle November, he taught his students how to write a friendly letter. Around this time, lots of his students would be writing their letters to Santa so he took advantage of their focus, motivation, and excitement by connecting their lives to the curriculum. But this year there was a twist. He had them create their letters using Google Docs.
Ordinarily, students would line up with their paper letters and Rolland would spend time with each student. This process was time-consuming and students today are looking for immediate feedback. Google Docs changed that. “The ability for me to make comments in their documents and assist with revision in real time while they were working on their letters was truly transformational,” Rolland says.
With the integration of the Chromebook and Google Docs students became less interested in waiting in lines and Rolland became more proactive in his ongoing check-ins with students and their work.
As the year progressed, students started using Google Apps for Education accounts and mastering apps like Google Drawing and Google Presentation. They used Google Maps in Social Studies and learned about communities around the world during hangouts via Connected Classrooms with classrooms in places like Brazil. Much of the time, Rolland was able to ensure students took ownership of their learning and experimented together. The students were empowered, motivated and having fun while learning.
Students also completed blended learning units in Mathematics. They created bar graphs using Google Forms and Spreadsheets for the Data Management unit. The Measurement unit involved a combination of the Ministry's Mathematics curriculum (Grade 2), Pearson's "Math Makes Sense" (MMS) Unit 3: Time, Temperature, and Money" Teacher Guide, and the Ministry's Ontario Educational Resource Bank (OERB). Students were able to work at their own pace and could do activities several times if they wished. OERB activities became a valuable tool for other units, like 3D Geometry.
Over the course of the year, Ferdinand and Rolland shared their learning via their blogs and social media.
They also facilitated workshops throughout the District, gave presentations at conferences, and mentored and coached other teachers in their classroom to spend and scale effective blended learning practices.
Rolland saw the change in his students firsthand, and he and Ferdinand became firm believers that sound pedagogy combined with technological tools has a beneficial impact on teaching and learning.
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