Part of Thames Valley’s system-widegoals include equitable access to a range of programs, services, and resources to support diverse learning needs and pathways. The learning commons is invaluable in providing resources and teaching information literacy skills to support our school writing goal. This also includes creating equitable technology for each and every student.
In our quest to increase student achievement in literacy and numeracy, we need to look at the resources we provide to our school community. Print and electronic resources that are current and embrace the vast diversity of our demographics is absolutely necessary for equitable and inclusive education. We also need to embrace learning through technology. Analyzing technological media forms gives our students a broader knowledge base, and helps them to better evaluate what they are reading. Technology allows us to differentiate instruction for every student. We can use it as an assistive tool, for inquiry and research, for creation of a variety of written products, and as a communication tool. We can use it to collaborate with peers in our own school, and globally as well. Technology is the great equalizer. There are three steps we as a school need to follow in order to make the changes necessary to move toward student-centred learning.
First, we need to provide equitable access for all of our community. This is a provincial mandate that we must follow from the Equity and Inclusive Education Act. Therefore, as a school we cannot ignore the areas that we need to improve in order to meet the recommendations. This year, the library has been more accessible at recesses and lunch when possible. More clubs have been offered to encourage the love of reading and to support technology learning. Slight floor plan changes have made the space more user-friendly, and new resources have been purchased both to support the work we do for learning cycles, and to augment our equity collection. The teacher-librarian would naturally take on many of the areas in the virtual space, and moving forward, teachers themselves, administration, and even community members could monitor and moderate usage of our virtual presence. We have staff members who have made web sites to use them as a communication tool with parents, and our school web site provides many opportunities to share the great things we do as a school. The library space is beginning to include some networking spaces for students. Password protection will be used as we try to increase our virtual presence.
Inquiry innovations that use technology require sufficient time for teachers to master the tools and the pedagogy to the extent that they can structure the classroom so that inquiry emerges. (Rubin, 2004) This year we have started to address this issue by providing opportunities for teachers to explore new technologies as they come into the school. We have sessions before school, after school, and during lunch recess. Lead teachers for technology present workshops, and students also give one-on-one instruction with technology tools in which they are proficient. Sharing of learning increases others’ willingness to learn, and learning cycles often include some sort of technology connection to reading and writing. Staff have been using their self-directed PD funds to increase their comfort levels with using technology as well.
Once we make the resources more accessible, and the staff is comfortable delivering curriculum while embracing technology, we will begin to see technology incorporated into all areas of the curriculum seamlessly. The biggest challenge to getting there will be the costs associated with it. Providing equitable technology across the entire board is an extremely expensive undertaking, and the needs far outweigh the provisions. By embracing web 2.0 tools we should be able to use technology in a variety of ways without needing so much infrastructure to support a multitude of software. It will become a preferred method of incorporating technology, whether using a collaborative wikispace for writing, or presenting findings in an inquiry task. Allowing students to use their own technology, for instance i-pods, for podcasting or researching will also alleviate the need for more equipment. We are exploring using S.O.L.E. Stations in one classroom. This student-organized-learning-environment allows for collaboration while focusing on an inquiry model for learning. It may be applied to all areas of the curriculum. We will be monitoring the success level of students as they use this model to see if this is a way we want to use technology in the future. It will require less in the way of machines. As staff and students explore the technology available to them, it is my hope that they practice with it to make it part of their daily practice, embedding it into all areas of the curriculum.
Everyone is a stakeholder in student learning. We need to model the learning process as we do everything else. We also need to give students a variety of choice in their learning. If they take ownership and are engaged in what they do, their chances of success will be higher. Technology is a vehicle within which we can build the engagement. For instance, students want to write more when they can choose the delivery method. Writing doesn’t have to be just an assignment on paper, but can be for many purposes. Engagement is important. Through technology, we can follow the path to more student-centred learning that is encouraged in the Together for Learning document.
Learning commons vision
A Vision for Tomorrow
TVDSB students will have equitableaccess to a range of programs,services and resources to supportdiverse learning needs and pathways.
“In a diverse classroom, no single method can reach all learners. Multiple pathways to achieving goals are needed.”(Hitchcock, Meyer, Rose, & Jackson, 2002, p. 18)
Equitable access for all – creating a physical and virtual presence for students, staff, and community members. Challenges access to the learning commons monitoring of the virtual space privacy issues space Solutions The learning commons could be opened during recesses and over lunch administration of the virtual space could be a shared responsibility Placement of more wi-fi hubs throughout the school will make technology more widely accessible with the purchase of netbooks privacy controls could be put in place, and password accessible
Provide professional development for staff to become more adept at the technologies that are available, and how they may be applied to assist in curriculum delivery. Challenges Time Willingness Speed at which technology changes Solutions Offer PD in-house, at a variety of times to meet needs of many Make PD practical, with new learning that can be applied immediately to enhance curriculum, not add to it Just-in-time technology, and focus on how many tools are the same
Embed Technology into inquiry-based learning Challenges Costs of technology often surpass school budgets Making it a daily practice Solutions Web 2.0 tools Allowing student-owned tech tools into classroom
“Teachers, teacher-librarians, principals, technical staff, students… all can collaborate in learning partnerships. And all can switch the emphasis from teaching to learning. With everyone modeling how to learn, the learning process will become a natural part of a student’s being.”(OSLA, 2010, p. 7)
Diekema, A. R., Holliday, W., & Leary, H. (2011). Re-framinginformation literacy: Problem-based learning as informedlearning. Library & Information Science Research (07408188),33(4), 261-268. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2011.02.002Thames Valley District School Board. Equity and InclusiveEducation Action Plan. March 2011.Ontario School Library Association. Together for Learning: SchoolLibraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons.developed with the support of the LNS, 2010.Rubin, Andee. Educational Technology, Support for Inquiry-Basedlearning. On MSPNET, posted 05/21/2004 from "TechnologyInfusion and School Change," TERC.