This past weekend, I took my kids to a museum in St. Jacobs, Ontario. They were fascinated by the antiques called typewriters – especially when the metal bar for each letter lifted to strike the inserted paper. Wow!
It is incredible how far along technology has progressed. Typewriters will always fascinate our children but there still was a learning curve with its use. The arrival of computers grabbed the world’s attention but there still is a learning curve with ‘mouse’ control. In the past few years, the arrival of personal, mobile touchscreen devices (iPads, Playbook, smartphones, etc.) garnered the widest audience.
Just last week, I attended the ECOO Conference (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) where hundreds of teachers from across Ontario convened to share ideas and experiences. During the many sessions over two days, there was a sea of tablets (iPad, Galaxy Tab2, etc.) being utilized to take notes, participate using the Twitter backchannel or download the presenter’s files. Educators of all ages were actively engaged with these touchscreen computers.
What is the learning curve with these mobile devices? Just ask a toddler. Children as young as 2 or 3 years easily manipulate these touchscreens as there are no longer ‘big keys’ to press down, no ‘mouse’ to control – just a screen where you can tap, swipe and even pinch.
How easy is that?
Director of IT, Curriculum
Kingsway College School
The notion shared in the title may not be obvious. Because the personal touch matters, it’s worth understanding and, for the benefit of students, acting upon.
Of course, technology isn’t a person. It won’t ever replace the power of a teacher who knows and cares for his or her students. It won’t bring the creativity and professional judgment the teacher applies daily in his or her class. So how could technology possibly increase the personal touch?
First, let’s take a hard look at the familiar. The traditional “sage-on-the-stage” approach to teaching unfolds at the pace decided by the teacher. It covers content decided by the teacher, and is delivered in a manner decided by the teacher. While appropriate at times, this approach is imperfect and, for many students, impersonal. These students require a different pace, be it faster or slower. They respond better to a different level of content, whether more simplified or complex, or would understand concepts better with different choices of content.
Technology personalizes school because it brings flexibility in pace, level and content like a teacher alone cannot. Here are some examples:
Instead of completing the same math fact sheet, students can use websites like www.thatquiz.org to practise the math facts they need to practise, at the right pace and level of challenge for them. Similar tools exist for all basic skill development.
Instead of learning through the lens of textbooks, students can use technology to roam the world for relevant content. Under teacher supervision, students can create their own multi-media “texts”, in the form of wikis, that they and their classmates can study from with pride.
Instead of sitting through a lesson that many students may not need (because they already know it) or not follow (because they’re lost), teachers are leveraging technology to personalise instruction. Technology can deliver introductory instruction at a pace controlled by each student (you can pause, rewind, rewatch at will). Students who need different levels of instruction can get that too. Watching instructional videos the night before class makes the in-class lesson more effective and efficient, and leaves more class time for real teacher-student interaction.
The personal touch matters and having a great teacher matters. Technology can help make the most of both.
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.
The KCS mission is “To be the defining force in developing lifelong learners by stewarding an environment that prepares us for the next challenge.”
At our first class meeting of the school year, the grade 7s looked at some pretty interesting and mindboggling questions. Was it algebra? Physics? No, they were questions about themselves, like the following:
Five years from now, your local paper does a story about you and they want to interview three people about you. What would you want them to say about you?
If you could spend an hour with any person who ever lived, who would it be? Why? What would you ask?
As a teacher, I was taking a responsible risk. I didn’t know if my students were ready to tackle these questions. They really impressed me with their thoughtful answers. Thanks to all the wonderful teachers they’ve had at KCS, they were prepared and they were able to take on the challenge.
After considering the questions, we came up with personal mission statements. I know, 12 year olds making mission statements sounds like a stretch! It turns out they have a wonderful grasp of what they would like to get out of life.
To make a difference in the world
To always be a good sport and to work hard
To be a leader and excel at my job and hobbies
Be positive and do not worry
Never give up no matter what tries to stop you
Live life to the fullest
To challenge myself to do new and harder things
Don’t give up. Keep trying
Have fun and work hard
Always strive for perfection
You can’t like it if you don’t try it
Always be happy and positive
Always try and never give up until you achieve your goals in life
To make a positive difference in the world
Don’t give up
You only live once
When you’re down, get back up
Be a good sport, it’s just a game
Your past decides your future
Be happy and positive
To be a leader in the world
The mission statements are displayed in our classroom for the year so that we remember our missions. We’ve chosen our missions. What’s yours?
Citizenship Coordinator, Grade 7 History & Geography
I couldn’t wish for more than what’s happening with our Habits.
We’re starting our third year since the official launch of our Habits of Mind, Body and Action. Anything new needs time to settle, time for all to adjust (or in KCS terms, time to exercise one’s flexible thinking), plus time for glitches to surface and tweaks to be made to make what’s new into a perfect fit.
Lots of such activity took place over the past two years while the Habits were still relatively new. This August, when teachers were asked about how they plan to integrate the Habits in their program for the upcoming year, it was eye-poppingly evident that the adjustment is behind us and we’re now going full speed ahead with our efforts to directly teach the habits that matter most for success in life. Collectively, faculty shared over one hundred ideas they have to teach and leverage the Habits in their classes. Here is a sample:
Leader of the Day with a special role to help the class
Class mission statements to support growth of the Habits
Student-made posters of the Habits
Student goal-setting on the Habits
Reference to the Habits in school assignments
Discussion of the Habits in class meetings and novel studies
Students teaching the Habits to other students
Students teaching the Habits to their parents and grandparents
Connecting the Habits with the study of heroes and leaders
One idea that is particularly out of this world came from grade 4. The students are identifying ‘Star Habits’ and ‘Wish Habits’. A ‘Star Habit’ is a habit they feel they have already established and of which they are proud. A ‘Wish Habit’ is a habit they want to focus on developing in first term. The students looked over all 26 Habits, reflected deeply, made their choices, and explained them in the context of home and school. Star Habit, Wish Habit as their ‘Star’ and ‘Wish’ Habits.
Like the spirit behind our Habits initiative, the students have wishes with a plan. And in the same way that our wishes to teach the Habits are coming true, I’ve no doubt our students’ ‘Wish Habits’ will also come true. What are your ‘Star’ and ‘Wish’ Habits? And what’s your plan to make your wishes come true? If you need some help, feel free to ask one of our grade fours.