What School could look like

Recently I attended a workshop on rethinking education,  the presenter was Nigel Barlow (http://www.nigelbarlow.com/)

His task for our table was to write a short article on what school would look like at a future time.  The article was to be from a certain point of view and our table chose a students viewpoint.  It was an interesting activity to go through and the discussion on how school would look was fascinating,

Nigel had previously removed the phrase YES, BUT from our vocabulary.  With no restrictions school took a radical new shape in our eyes, technology became just a tool for students and teachers (Advisers) to work with and students had more control over their day.
So imagine you are a young middle school student about to go to school

POV: Student

I wake up early to get to school; I’m so excited I rush through breakfast and can’t wait to see my friends again to talk about our summers.
The crossing guard greets me by name and we chat briefly as we wait for the lights to change.  She had a good summer too, with some camping trips and visiting family, and they got a new pet Aardvark named Steve.
Talking with my friends on the playground it’s great to catch up.  One friend has a new neighbour that we all meet, and we explore the interactive playground together, with its reactive slides and multi-touch collaborative play stations.
We all cheer and my heart swells as we hear the jaunty melody that signals the start of Options period.  A couple of my friends bolt for the school building right away, anxious to meet the new teacher, knowing that all of their learning materials would have been transferred to the class stations by the time they get there.  I know they like to do their direct instruction sessions first thing in the morning, but I don’t feel like that today.
Other friends of mine choose to head for the field house to start their day with the collaborative obstacle course, or maybe they’ll hit the pool.
I like to end my day with the pool, so I pick up a drink and a snack from one of the food stations in the yard, and I walk with my new friend to one of the Advisors spaces.  My new friend and I both still talking about our vacations to other countries when we sit down with the Advisor at a Sharing Station.  We start pulling out our photos and journals, vlogs and other artefacts from our trips, and the Advisor guides us through some discussions as we make connections between the two vacations, and compare some of the cultural learnings that we’ve learned.  It’s nice to see the our learnings from vacation increase the achievement bar on my yearly goals; hey, it’s the first day of school and I’m already on my way to the next badge!
It isn’t until we’re leaving the Advisor that I realize there’s a few years difference between my new friend and I, and I introduce him to another friend we run into who’s just now arriving.
We tell our new friend that the change in melody that we’re hearing indicates the Options period is ending, and we start to head to our project areas, but agree to meet up at the pool for the Options period at the end of the day.
It’s going to be a great year, I just know it.
Great thanks go to Paul Yipp, Sean Lamoureux, and Jarod Bell for the insight and conversation.
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What an Inquiry School is:

Bert Edwards Elementary school became a school of choice in 2007.  Parents initiated the process in westsyde in an effort to keep their elementary school open.  The proposal created by the parents went before the board of education  The board asked for a group of parents, teachers, and principals to meet and discuss what a science based school would look like.  The group met several times and visited a science school in Calgary as part of their study.  That group expanded on the parents proposal and made a public presentation to the board of education and interested parents.

Once the board approved the concept for the school the principal was hired and then teaching jobs were posted, with science backgrounds required for intermediate teachers.

Over the past five years the school has continued to grow in student population and parents are very happy with school and how we are changing the way we teach.

As a staff we have a focus on teaching through an inquiry approach.  That means creating more independent students that take an active role in their learning.  Students develop more questions and work through real world problems when possible. In the primary grades the main focus is on reading and ensuring that all students are meeting expectations by the end of grade three.

In the intermediate grades students work more on project based learning and I wonder questions. Some of the bigger projects students have worked on include, Lego robotics, marsville, Thompson River studies and a project were grade 6 students worked with respiratory therapy students from TRU on the circulatory and respiratory systems

Classes also do collaborative projects with their peers, schoolmates, and with students across Canada and the united states. We use videoconference equipment for students to speak with each other as a class and a Moodle website to chat and develop presentations in a variety of web 2.0 tools (prezi, glogster, and other tools that allow video images and text to be combined into a truly multimedia presentation)

This year we were pleased to announce a partnership with Apple Canada that has every student in grade 5 and 6 using an iPad.  Students are using a variety of apps and have replaced some textbooks and novels with the device.  In the last week we have been able to use the iPad to program our Lego robotics equipment. Students with written output issues use dragon dictation To record their thoughts. The dictation app converts their voice to text which students can then edit and submit.  With some students this has seen a dramatic increase in their writing and confidence levels.  Our grade 5 students took their iPads to McQueen lake and did a video project on the environment. When they returned to class the next day the edited the video and did a voice over to create a display for other classes.

Micheal Fullan wrote that there were three basic needs for a school; Literacy, numeracy, and well being.  Through our inquiry approach, literacy encompasses more than reading to include comprehension and a joy of being literate.  Numeracy involves reasoning, problem solving, and being good with numbers and figures. The well being of students is the inclusion of all learning to be healthy, to stay safe, and enjoy learning.

Our students have above average attendance, less homework, and describe their school day as fun and interesting.  I believe our students have become more independent and have learned how to learn, which will  increase their success in high school and beyond.

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Ipad’s invade BEST

The iPad is making its way to Bert Edwards Science & Technology School in the fall of 2011.  The project will see all students in grades 5 and 6 have a tablet device for classroom work.

The tablet device in my mind is a great tool for teaching.  With this tool teachers can teach the skills students require to be successful in school.  Our project is designed to promote collaboration, problem solving, independent learning, decision making, leadership, and goal setting.    The iPad itself is just a technological means to provide a more interesting interactive learning environment for students to excel in.

The iPad or other tablet devices are one manner to change the culture of today’s classrooms.  Education needs to grow and adapt to the ways in which learners learn.  The three R’s have been replaced with problem solving, collaboration, and communication.   The classrooms of the 21st century need to look and feel different than they did 20 years ago.  Gone is the time when the teacher knew the most and was the expert in all topics of the world.  Today’s students need to explore topics and be innovative in the manner that they present material back to their peers.

At the end of the day technology is still just a teaching tool that when used appropriately provides the skills in reading and numeracy that promotes student success.  Students can do amazing things when we collectively move out of the way and allow them the opportunity to impress us.

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Ipads, Tabs, Xooms, Playbooks, and whatever else they name the next tablet are the current technology buzz device.  A few years ago it was the netbook; which people enjoyed due to its portability and price.

With the tablet market many of the reasons for buying a netbook are similar to why you should purchase a tablet.  For myself I like the size of  the ipad and the practicality of the device.  It is great for meetings, viewing content, social media, and is entertaining.  In terms of which device is better only time will tell.  The Android marketplace is growing but can a non tech savvy teacher pick up a Galaxy Tab and find the apps and programs they are after in a reasonable amount of time.    I think the Tab is a great device and the android Honeycomb operating system is excellent but in my mind it is the familiarity with itunes that makes the difference with the ipad.

For many people the ipad is also a good choice as it is more of a locked down device (think of this as a good thing that prevents you from crashing the device).  The problem with viruses in the tablets is greatly reduced and apple is very picky in what apps it makes available for consumers, which means the app will run and do what it states it will.

I plan to use my device (when I get one) to view more content (flipboard, podcasts, e-books), keep better notes that I can actually read (evernote, notability) and be more productive (dropbox, google docs, twitter, mpage).

Tablet devices will be a good device in education if students are allowed to use them as more that a text book reader. The device can create content and as school move to a less paper driven environment it could be the catalyst for change.

Apps in education link

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Welcome to the Office

This site is for teaching professionals and administrators.  I will be reviewing and commenting on apps for the iphone and ipad as they relate to education.  I have found that there are a lot of smartphones out there that are under utilized and with a little prompting perhaps Principals, Vice Principals, and Teachers can appreciate the technology and find ways to make their devices more productive for them.

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