Thursday, May 24, 2012

St. Gabriel Elementary (GUEST POST)

I like buying the latest and greatest gadgets and can wield a T.V. remote with the best of them, but I'm not tech savvy by any means. My two-year old knows how to unlock my iPad and play Angry Birds, while I struggle to properly use the microwave without burning the house down. I'm a simple man.

Two years ago, Doug Sadler and Joe Sisco took on the arduous task of introducing me to Tools2Go - the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board's version of Google Apps. Keeping in mind that I forget my First Class password on a weekly basis and yell at my laptop when IT makes a mistake, it's easy to say that they had a long road ahead of them. I consider these men the Patron Saints of Software and under their tutelage, I was able to navigate Tools2Go (document creation and collaboration, website development, etc.) and model it for my students within days.
  • Doug Sadler is the Vice-Principal of St. Joseph's Catholic High School and Online Learning
  • Joe Sisco is the e-Learning Contact for the WECDSB
  • Learn more about Tools2Go 
With the tremendous amount of time and resources currently allocated to Literacy, the benefits of educating students on Tools2Go is priceless, especially when leading our students through the Writing Process (prewriting, drafting, revising, proofreading, and publishing). Tools2Go allows students to create and share in real-time, comment and edit from various locations, and model great writing and work habits for their peers. Being based online, Tools2Go has eliminated many of the obstacles students face in regards to submitting work (ex. broken printers, temperamental USB keys, full moons, etc.) and drastically reduced the number of excuses we, as educators, have to endure when students fail to do so.

Over the past 9 months, my Grade 6 students have experimented and worked with Tools2Go to create things like Electronic Portfolios, as well as informational websites for their peers. Honestly, I was hesitant to undertake something new like this, but I was pleasantly surprised in the end. These 11 and 12-year olds floored me with their careful planning, execution and proficient use of technology to not only meet, but exceed the Learning Goals set out for each project. The guidelines and parameters for each task were constantly evolving, as students would brainstorm and add elements I hadn't previously considered. It was a subtle (but important) reminder that I needed to let students "drive the bus" and assume the role of "tour guide".

Here's are two samples of what some of our Grade 6's created:

Each student created an Electronic Portfolio (personal website) to showcase selected pieces of work throughout the year. These were instrumental in our Student-Led conferences, as they allowed parents to see exactly what their son or daughter had been working on at school.

Connecting it to our faith and religion curriculum, we explored the 30 basic human rights and how they came about. As a summative project, students had the choice of creating a PSA, website, song, or children's book to highlight the importance of the human right they selected.

We're constantly inundated with the message that technology is chipping away at the foundation of "community", turning our children into obese online zombies, and single-handedly ruining English as a written language (the latter makes me L.O.L.!). If used incorrectly and without supervision, technology is quite capable of all the above. Should we as educators recognize its importance within the social realm of our student's lives, understand it's allure, and use its "power of captivation" in the learning process... we have the opportunity to create meaningful and relevant experiences for our students.

Jeff Hackett is an educator with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board,
a Scorpio, and is afraid of Chuck Norris.

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