Students and teachers of the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario [CDSBEO] have worked collaboratively using technology to personalize learning, increase productivity, and enhance student success. The 21st Century classroom continues to transform in response to the individual needs of learners. Teachers are better prepared to respond, and schools are finding new and exciting ways to incorporate emerging technologies to create purposeful and meaningful learning experiences.
Superintendent of School Effectiveness, Brent Bovaird, presented details of new and innovative ways that students are using technology to expand learning opportunities. Technology helps to engage, accelerate, and consolidate learning experiences for all students while creating opportunities for creative thinking, innovation, and problem solving. Four major categories for 21st century learning: blended learning, digital learning tools, Microsoft apps and STEM education.
“Currently, four categories are used to help distinguish what experiences are available to students and teachers,” explained Brent. “The Virtual Learning Environment, known in the classroom as Blended Learning, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematical Education, also known as STEM, Microsoft apps and learning tools, and also other digital learning resources.”
A starting point for teachers using technology is through a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The VLE is a suite of tools designed to help teachers and students take advantage of numerous digital resources. Teachers have access to both Brightspace (a Ministry of Education licensed program), as well as Microsoft Teams. Both products allow teachers to share information with students through an online platform. The tools provide opportunities for discussion, as well as the ability for students to access teacher created materials or submit assignments. Teachers can track student achievement, and also engage with parents through classroom announcements, samples of student work and feedback, and reminders about upcoming assignments and events.
“The VLE can also be used to connect to other digital learning resources, mostly provided by the Ministry of Education,” added Superintendent Bovaird. “These include video and book libraries, and hundreds of K-12 interactive resources designed and created by Ontario educators at no cost.”
Microsoft apps and learning tools provide access to experiences that bring learning to life. These apps and tools are used by professional educators and reflect the fundamental shift in the way students interact and share, allowing learning to be enhanced in a collaborative way.
“Minecraft is one Microsoft app which is available to students,” noted the Superintendent. “It is similar to Lego, where students place blocks consisting of items like wood, stone, bricks, dirt and other countless raw materials to create, but in a 3D world. Students can also visualize, deconstruct and reconstruct monuments, houses, villages, ecosystems, and working prototypes with switches, sensors, and electricity. This program drastically changes student engagement. Minecraft naturally promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving for students.”
STEM education is broken into four subsections: growth mindset, programming and coding, robotics and virtual reality.
“One of the most important aspects of STEM Education is embracing a growth mindset because things will not always work on the first, second or twentieth attempt. To fail is positive and we like to use it as an acronym that stands for First Attempt in Learning. There is a quote by Thomas Edison that is often used, I have not failed 10,000 times – I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
Coding, which is the same as computer programming, teaches students how computers and devices work, while Robotics involves the use of programming to control robotic devices. Students can build, code and test out their devices. Often, the code must be revised many times to attain a successful outcome.