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Teacher transforms classroom with 21st century tools


Published: 07/22/2015

by David Ferrer

“It's much better if you teach these new learning skills right from the beginning and build on them each year,” she points out. “We're now moving out of pilot mode in our school and trying to make a full paradigm shift.”

Today's students have grown up being able to master the latest devices as if it's second nature. How these students receive information is vastly different than students even a decade ago.

At schools across Canada, educators have recognized how technology can create an accessible and inclusive learning environment that reflects today's world.

Connie Davis, a teacher librarian and educational technology catalyst at St. Mark's Community School in Saskatoon, has led the charge at her school, which launched a pilot program with one class three years ago. The students in this class receive lessons adjusted to focus on 21st century learning techniques, such as digital literacy and collaboration.

Now in Grade 5, the students have been taught in this style from Grade 2 onward and since the new type of learning was introduced, Davis has watched it transform the students, increasing their confidence and desire to learn.

“It's been amazing to see how it's changed their learning and engagement level,” says Davis. “These students are frequently using technology to learn something new through a personalized process.”

This past year, one of the school's Grade 8 classrooms was equipped one-to-one with Surface Pro 2 devices. The accessible technology allowed students with learning disabilities to engage, integrate, and learn 21st-century skills using apps like Book Creator to tell stories and Windows Live Movie Maker to create Stop Animation movies.

“The use of Windows technology, like the Surface Pro 2, really engages kids,” says Davis. “It gives them the opportunity do their best learning, giving them the confidence to try something new.”

In a school with a high immigrant population, having access to devices with built-in apps, like Bing Translator, allows students who speak minimal English to do grade-level work and actively participate in class projects.

Davis has witnessed how the new approach to technology in the classroom has led to improved research skills, heightened critical thinking, cultural awareness and creativity. Still, she feels early adoption is beneficial.

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