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2015

Chromebook work 600x450.jpgIn 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.

 

Nexus Tablet Math2.jpgUsing 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.

 

 

 

The Implementation:

 

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.

 

Chromebook team work.JPGRolland 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.

 

Chromebook work 3.jpgStudents 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.

 

 

To read more about this project, visit Rolland's and Ferdinand's blogs.

 

Questions? Ideas? Comments? Ontario educators can register on TeachOntario and join in more in-depth conversation about this school in Share under:

 

TeachOntario Talks Discussions: Enriching Learning and Teaching with Chromebooks

JPCI_main_photo.jpgIn this installment of TeachOntario Talks we are profiling and celebrating the Integrative Thinking I-Think Leadership Program at John Polanyi Collegiate Institute in Toronto.

 

Teaching the young to think like successful leaders is the goal of an ongoing curriculum and professional learning partnership between the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the Toronto District School Board.

 

In a unique transfer of concepts from the world of business education to the public school system, the Integrative Thinking I-Think Leadership Program launched at John Polanyi Collegiate Institute (JPCI) in 2011 in the form of a Grade 12 Business Leadership class.

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The curriculum for this course, developed jointly by the I-Think Leadership Program and teachers at the secondary school, is based on the theory of Integrative Thinking outlined in Roger Martin's book  The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win through Integrative Thinking. It holds that successful leaders, when faced with unacceptable trade-offs, see it as their job to create a new and better answer.

 

Transferring this knowledge to the young is critical, Martin says, “as success in the global economy depends on the ability to wade through ambiguous challenges, managing difficult trade-offs with flexibility and creativity."

 

The class at JPCI focuses on the development of leadership skills used in today’s innovative world, says JPCI teacher Rahim Essabhai, who is currently in his third year teaching the class. “Students analyze the role of a leader with a focus on decision making, problem solving, management of group dynamics, and thinking at deeper levels,” he says.

 

Roger Martin says the I-Think initiative gives students tools “to observe and evaluate their thinking processes when faced with opposition or difficult, ‘either-or’ choices.” This approach is also explored in Rotman’s MBA programs.

 

Reflection, bias recognition, social experiments, critical thinking, and problem solving skill acquisition are core to the class, says Essabhai. Using authentic, complex problems supports the development of critical thinking as reflected in today's 6 Cs and problem-solving as assessed by PISA.

 

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Another key pillar of the class is the real world application of the Integrative Thinking model through the students’ work as consultants for a variety of clients. So far, students have consulted for non-profit organizations, including the North York Harvest Food Bank, neighbouring elementary and secondary schools and the administrative leadership team of the Toronto District School Board.

 

“The students’ efforts and insights have altered the manner in which these organizations tackle various issues and their recommendations have been implemented by the various clients they have consulted to,” Essabhai says.

 

One student group advised the North York Harvest Food Bank on how to improve the client experience using the food bank’s neighbourhood location on JPCI property. The students recommended improved and more visible signs and a mini outdoor waiting area to address some logistical challenges faced by clients, volunteers and food bank management.

 

After the analysis was presented, some of the recommendations were implemented, which helped alleviate some of these stressors,” Essabhai says.

 

JPCI_farm.jpgStudents in the class also advised managers of the JPCI-based urban farm (a partnership with non-profit PACT Grow To Learn). The 2/3-acre farm creates upward of 6,000 pounds of organic produce in one season, offering healthier alternatives to the community, yet management didn’t always collect accurate documentation of what was gathered from the farm.

 

At times, this caused some issues gathering accurate harvesting numbers and data for statistic purposes," says Essabhai, who stresses the manner in which some of the produce was taken was actually harming the crops' chances for future growth.

 

Students recommended the launch of a campaign to build more community involvement and ownership in the farm while teaching proper harvest techniques. A small, non-intrusive fence around the garden and a scale at the entrance were also recommended to create structure around harvesting. These recommendations were adopted by the farm.

 

Finally, students advised a neighbouring school on how to improve literacy in Grade 1 and 2 classrooms. That team created a video sharing their experience and recommendations which you can view below to the right of this page.

 

Some of the I-Think learning tools the students used to make these recommendations include The Ladder of Inference (analysis of how conclusions are drawn), System Mapping (analysis of connections between stakeholders, solutions, strategies and activities), Causal Modeling (analysis of causal relationships between variables) and creating Pro/Pro Charts (as opposed to Pro/Con charts).

 

“By acting as real consultants on today’s issues, students are able to gain valuable experience managing goals, teams, stress, conflict and motivation while gaining effective business communication skills through strategic use of technology, ethics and social responsibility,” Essabhai says.

 

The entire I-Think team deserves credit for the program's success, Essabhai says. "The team is amazing and are spearheading the curriculum and facilitation," he says. Members of the I-Think team at Rotman include Ellie Avishai, Jennifer Riel, Josie Fung, Nogah Kornberg, Darren Karn and Erin Carmody.

 

The Grade 12 course is just one way Integrative Thinking is being used at the school. So far, 16 teachers have been trained in the approach at Rotman, and have informally integrated the strategies into curriculum and lesson plans, principal Aiman Flahat says.

 

JPCI is a semestered school offering a full range of university, college and apprenticeship programs.

 

Questions? Ideas? Comments? Ontario educators can register on TeachOntario and join in more in-depth conversation about this school in Share under:

TeachOntario Talks Discussion: Rotman I-Think Program Teaches Students to Think Like Leaders