Advanced partner Sir Adam Beck Junior School featured in Today’s Parent Magazine for technology initiative

Excerpts taken from article from Today’s Parent

The digital classroom

Here’s what happens when teaching goes high-tech

Teacher Edita Tahirovic wears a high-powered microphone around her neck shaped like a Cleopatra-style collar, complete with a light that blinks red and green. “Grab a SMART response pad and sit on the carpet,” she tells her students. “Key in your responses. There’s nothing to be scared about. Try your best!”

The interactive whiteboard (commonly referred to as a SMART Board) has a place of honour at the front of the room. It’s connected to Tahirovic’s laptop and she’s projecting pages on it, touching the SMART Board to make it respond. But it does far more than that. As Tahirovic navigates through multiple-choice questions about Kenneth Oppel’s novel Silverwing, the kids click their answers on their response clickers (which look like TV remotes). The SMART board can tell who has answered, who has not, and who’s answered what. It marks the answers and instantaneously delivers graphs that tell Tahirovic what the children need more instruction on. Over the course of the year, the kids will learn how to make their own interactive projects to share with the class.

This is the grade four and five classroom at École Sir Adam Beck Junior School in Toronto, one of the most highly digitized classrooms in Canada. Most of the 28 pupils also have a Netbook — a small, lightweight laptop — that connects wirelessly to the Toronto District School Board’s private server. The Netbooks are in bright, kid-friendly hues of blue, green, yellow and red. The classroom also has a handful of traditional wired computers off to the side.

The changes that technologies bring to the learning process have a great potential to allow every student to learn in his own individual and unique way, says Howard Goodman, a trustee with the Toronto District School Board who has made the study of learning technology his specialty. In Goodman’s view, getting classroom technology right is key to helping to foster students’ critical thinking skills, critical to the future of society. Without it, he says, we’re putting the future at risk. So how do schools get it right? Here’s what they’ve learned so far.

Teachers need to be on board

New technologies won’t work if educators aren’t on board and well trained. Sir Adam Beck principal Nardaya Dipchand is a big supporter of using technology to help kids learn. For two years running, she was the Canadian winner of the Award for Techno-logy and Reading from the International Reading Association. Many teachers at Sir Adam Beck are eager to learn about the new technology and are willing to push aside old ideas of teaching: Last year, they had biweekly lunch meetings to teach each other how to use the SMART boards. It’s another requirement of the digital school where boundaries between who leads and who follows get blurry. As well, teachers in this type of classroom have to be on their own voyage of discovery with technology that won’t always work just the way it’s meant to.

Substance over flash

Edita Tahirovic loves the technology now, but it took her awhile. She understands why some teachers resist digitizing and others are skeptical about the benefits of the connected classroom. And they’re not alone. There’s a body of literature critical of the growing reliance on computers. US English professor Mark Bauerlein, who in 2008 wrote The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30), says that today’s students are losing their ability to read literature. Yet others fear that school will become akin to a video game — all flash, no content. The trick is to find a middle ground: Research is showing that students benefit from computerized games that involve risk. Taking some risk heightens the joy-releasing chemical dopamine in their brains in a way that encourages them to keep learning.

For more information on SMART Boards or other classroom technology, you can contact Advanced Education at 1-800-436-6239 or info@advanced-education.com

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