Monday, September 29, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes! (Bring IT Guest Post)



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Today we have a guest post from Karen Pedersen-Bayus, Learning Services at Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools (GSACRD).  GSACRD is an ongoing participant in 2Learn.ca’s Bring It project, the goal of which is to support and implement BYOD in the project schools.


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Karen Pedersen-Bayus writes: 

“How do my students join my Class?”  “Can my students collaborate on an assignment?” “Is it possible to provide voice comments?”   

It’s the third week of September.  The staff at the Junior High School are setting up their “classes”.  The school’s technology and pedagogy lead teachers are facilitating the professional learning, reviewing Google Docs and Drive and introducing Google Classroom. There is enthusiasm in the room as Classes are created and Docs uploaded.   

I reflect back to last September. This was my first meeting following a secondment at Alberta Education’s School Technology Branch.  For two years I participated in cutting edge professional learning around the use of technology in schools.  In early September 2013, I was in the same school as Daryl and Janice from 2Learn.ca.  We joined the school’s  “Bring It!” team for a meeting. The “Bring It’ project is a collaborative initiative designed by 2Learn.ca to support participating jurisdictions in developing a shared vision and practices for student learning with personally owned devices.

The 2Learn.ca team helped identify some of the challenges the district was facing in terms of technology readiness, including unreliable wireless, highly blocked Networks and lack of student e-mail, usernames, passwords, lack of a ‘container’ for sharing  and a file transfer mechanism between students and teachers.  We needed to address these in order to move forward!  A meeting was set up with Catherine, 2Learn.ca’s Team Leader.  This spearheaded our division’s close relationship with 2Learn.ca and  a year of challenged thinking and openness to new possibilities.

We have come a long way!  Coincidentally the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF) was released early last year which provided us with a roadmap to shore up our infrastructure and leverage our excellent division leadership (policy directions #5 and #4).  Over the year, changes included building robust infrastructure in every school, opening up Networks in Junior High and High Schools, developing lessons on Christian Citizenship in a Digital World (etiquette, privacy, identity and communication), revising the “Acceptable Use” of technology policy to “Responsible Use” and building awareness around Google Apps for Education.    

Catherine, Daryl and Janice joined division teachers and leaders many times during the year to help change our thinking around content, lesson design, assessment, transformational pedagogies and changing roles for teachers and learners. Of note they supported us in making the following shifts to lay the foundation for learning and teaching in the 21st Century:

  1. A solid pedagogical rationale for BYOD:

Parents and teachers readily embark on initiatives designed to improve student learning. Task first, device second.

  1. Transformative learning and teaching:

Reflecting on the difference between ‘traditional’ pedagogical practices (teacher-centred, ‘delivered’ knowledge) and ‘transformative’ pedagogical practices (learner-centred, created and shared knowledge) that foster deep understanding.  

  1. Seamless technology integration:

At its lowest level technology is used in a ‘substitutive’ manner merely replacing pencil and paper.  When students are engaged collaboratively and connect with others regardless of time or space, learning becomes ‘transformative’.  Technology use, at the highest level enhances learning, targets higher order thinking skills (HOTS) and allows students to accomplish tasks that are not possible without the use of technology.

  1. Digital content:

When lessons are designed with content that is digital, technology’s inherent flexibility can be leveraged to personalize and differentiate learning to support the diverse learners in a class.

  1. Robust devices

Non-robust devices such as iPhones and iPods may be suitable for finding information but are not necessarily designed for more robust creative endeavours.

  1. Multiple pathways to learning

Choice in multimedia tools allows learners to reach clearly defined learning outcomes in multiple ways.

  1. Learners as producers, creators, collaborators and sharers

  1. Infused digital citizenship

  1. Assessment rubrics to evaluate depth of understanding

With this support we are now well on our way! We are focusing on the  LTPF’s  policy directions #3 (Building Capacity) and #1 (Student-Centred Learning).  A pedagogy lead teacher has been identified in every school and half-day meetings will be held monthly to explore transformative learning and teaching. New understandings will be shared with staff at each school. With this systemic approach we are embarking on an exciting year!

Submitted by:  Karen Pedersen-Bayus
   Learning Services

                      Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools