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Sun West Distance Learning Centre – Flexibility in Learning

The Sun West Distance Learning Centre (DLC) is an online school based out of Kenaston, Saskatchewan that offers K-12 courses to students within the Division and across the province. Our courses follow the Saskatchewan Ministry of Learning curriculum and are designed to ensure that students have access to high-quality education in a unique online learning environment. Students are able to access a number of different types of online courses including synchronous (or live broadcast), asynchronous (a flexible learning option where students determine their pace), and print-based courses.

Sun West Distance Learning Centre

Asynchronous course materials are available online 24 hours a day to students through Moodle, our online portal. In order to enhance learning and provide more interactivity, the courses at the DLC also feature instructional videos. These videos allow students in the online asynchronous courses to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to learn the content and be successful.

With the ever-expanding list of courses available to students, many high school students look to the DLC as a way to complete their graduation requirements through both core and elective options. The DLC offers unique courses such as 4th Class Power Engineering, Equine, Astronomy, and Paleontology courses to name a few. Students can also expand their Practical and Applied Arts (PAA) options by enrolling in courses like Construction, Mechanics, Computer Assisted Drafting, Graphic Arts and Interior Design. For those interested in earning dual credit options, the DLC offers opportunities to earn high school and post-secondary credits in partnership with the University of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

The DLC is also a great option for students who home school. The focus on Saskatchewan curriculum ensures that students receive a high quality education in elementary, middle level, and high school grades.

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For adults, the DLC allows individuals to earn credits that may have been missed in high school or to earn a high school diploma, including Adult 12 programming. The flexible learning environment allows working adults to schedule learning when it is convenient.

A dedicated and enthusiastic staff of teachers and support personnel are committed to providing online learners with a successful experience. For more information, please explore the DLC website or call them at 1-306-252-1000.

Using Pre-Assessment in a Blended Learning Math Classroom

John Jamieson in Kenaston School has introduced a unique approach to the use of pre-assessments to direct learning in his blended classroom.

In his face-to-face classroom, John uses the instructional videos from the Distance Learning Math Moodle course that he created. And while John feels there is much value in teachers creating their own classroom videos, he suggests that for teachers who use the DLC courses in their blended learning classroom that “it is very important to be very familiar with the examples and content from each lesson so that you can help support what the students have learned in the videos.”

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The following outlines the process he used in his Math classroom:

  1. Pre-Assessments
    1. John makes his own pre-assessments from the Math Makes Sense disk. (He creates 6-8 questions per lesson/skill.)
    2. Students work through the pre-assessment and show John when they are done to verify the work has been completed.
  2. Instructional Videos
    1. Students watch the instructional videos individually to confirm that they have completed the Math skill introduced in this lesson correctly or students look for places where they may have not done something correctly. This is an important step because students have a specific purpose for viewing the videos.

  3. Students Review
    1. Based on what they learned during the videos, students make corrections on their pre-assessments. John suggests that students make correction as they watch rather than doing it at the end.
    2. The pre-assessments are handed in and John gives students feedback and returns them to students. The pre-assessments are considered formative assessment.
    3. Students go through and redo any questions in pen and hand in again for feedback.
    4. This process continues until the pre-assessment questions are correct.
  4. Practice
    1. While students wait for their pre-assessments to be corrected, they move to the practice questions in the textbook. These are also formative and are self-checked by the students using the answer key in the text.
  5. Summative Assessments
    1. Students are assessed on their understanding for reporting purposes through the mid-unit quiz and the chapter exam.

In his first attempt with this model, John has seen an improvement in problem-solving skills and students taking ownership of their learning as a result of this shift in approach. Using this method, all students scored either a 4 or 5 on the summative assessment (Sun West School Division uses a 5 point rubric for Grades 1-9), marking an improvement in comprehension of content.

To balance the individualized, independent approach to learning with opportunities for students to continue to collaborate in math, John is exploring ways for his students to participate in group projects and hopes to introduce a genius hour project into his classroom.

” I am finding that this blended learning approach is an evolving process and I am continually tweaking how this looks.”

Real World Math Problems – Google Earth

As part of the 21st Century Educator role in Sun West, teachers have been exploring videos and articles that illustrate ways in which small changes in teaching practices can lead to increased student engagement, motivation and learning. These educators then post comments and participate in online discussions through a Sun West Google + community.*

After watching Dan Meyer’s inspirational TED talk, Math Class Needs a Makeover, Westberry teacher, Emily Knowles, continued her search into ways to bring authentic, real world experiences in her classroom. Here is what she shared with the group in the Google community:

“In connection with Dan Meyer’s : Math class needs a makeover, I found an article on how to use Google Earth to engage students in Real World Math problems. The article was written by a math teacher, Thomas Petra, who helped to co-create the Real World Math problems website. This website ” is a collection of free math activities for Google Earth designed for students and educators (Grades 5-10). Mathematics is much more than a set  of problems in a textbook.  In the virtual world of Google Earth, concepts and challenges can be presented in a meaningful way that portray the usefulness of the ideas.”

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I found some really good ideas on how to incorporate Math into both the Social and Science curriculum in a meaningful way, and I am excited to try them out during our Math skills period!”

Thanks for sharing this resource with the Sun West team, Emily!

*All teachers are welcome to join the Sun West Google + Community and participate in online discussions about 21st Century Learning. This is the online discussion board where our 21CE teachers will be posting their responses to articles/videos as well as sharing their classroom experiences. It is going to be a great way to keep your toes in the 21st Century Education pool, so to speak 🙂

Getting Involved:
 
1. Create a Google Account – If you have a personal Google account, create a new one using your Sun West email address. I have two Google accounts – one personal and one professional – to keep my home and work accounts separated. Information for creating a Google account can be found at: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp
2. Request permission to join the Sun West 21st Century Educator Google Community – Once you have a Google account, you can request permission to join. by clicking on this link.
 
3. Post an introduction – Under the Welcome tab on the side navigation, please post your introduction. Tell the group about yourself and get to know others by reading through their posts. We have another great team and I am excited about the online discussions and sharing the Google+ community will allow us to have. Building collegiality in such a geographically large Division just got a little bit easier for us!

Cloning Yourself – The Power of Instructional Videos

While this headline might seem a little like something out of a science fiction novel, being able to clone yourself is really not so far out as it might seem! Well, in a sense that is …

How to Clone Yourself

Teachers have often dreamed of the day when they can be in more than one place at a time. By accessing instructional videos from courses at the Distance Learning Centre, Sun West School Division teachers can now work one-on-one with a group or grade level while another group watches a video that has been created on specific learning outcomes.

Let’s take a Grade 4/5 Math class for example. The DLC Math course contains instructional videos on each lesson from Math Makes Sense. A multi-grade teacher could set up the Grade 5 students to watch the DLC  Math 5 video on a projector, a Smartboard or in small groups on mobile devices. Each video is also supported by student handouts if the teacher wishes to use those to supplement his/her classroom materials. During this time, the multi-grade teacher could then be working separately with the Grade 4 students on the Explore section of the text or supporting the practice questions, etc.

It’s a small change that can lead to increased used of class time for learning. And students learn additional skills such as taking responsibility for their own learning, collaborative group skills and independence.

But this is not a strategy just for the multi-grade classroom! Read about one teacher’s journey in cloning herself using digital stations (from Scholastic.com) and how it helped her meet the diverse needs of students in her classroom.

And teachers are not restricted to using just DLC-created resources. There are numerous Open Education Resources available as listed in Edutopia’s September 10, 2014 post.

To learn more about creating a culture that supports blended learning, contact your Learning Coach or your Technology Coach. Sun West teachers can request access to the Distance Learning Centre’s courses at the following link: http://goo.gl/cHkato.

 

 

 

Mathletics in the Blended Classroom

The Sun West Teacher’s Convention was kicked off at the end of August with a message from Director, Dr. GuyTétrault, in which he invited teachers to embrace the concept of blended learning.

At its core, blended learning is more than enhancing education with the use of technology tools and instead offers students a “blend” of face-to-face classroom experiences and online learning opportunities.

“Blended learning involves leveraging the Internet to afford each student a more personalized learning experience, meaning increased student control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of his or her learning.”Clayton Christensen Institute

Teachers using Mathletics in their classrooms can use this online support to provide blended learning opportunities for the students in their classrooms. By offering students a chance to work through different content at their own pace, Mathletics helps teachers support learners where they are at.

The online program allows K-12 classroom teachers to group students by readiness and release specific content directly to certain students, thereby individualizing instruction in a new and exciting way. Teachers can conduct concept searches to make this an easy process.

There are a number of additional features that Mathletics offers teachers including:

  • printable workbooks for parents who are seeking additional home support or for colony teachers who do not have access to the online version
  • grading/marking that can be saved and exported as an Excel file
  • teacher videos that highlight the instructional practices that support blended learning and provide just-in-time PD for instructors
  • plus much, much more!

Mathletics is even available as an app for the iPad!

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As part of Sun West’s licencing package, schools can also take advantage of one-on-one training which is provided by our Mathletics support team member, Elizabeth. She is an engaging trainer with a Saskatchewan background!. For more information about using Mathletics in your classroom, contact your Learning Coach or Shari Martin, Superintendent of Education, Sun West School Division.

You can also follow Mathletics on Twitter .

 

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Using Technology to Enhance Teaching Strategies – Elrose School (Guest Post by Jeff Kingwell)

Technology Goal: Teachers will apply innovative uses of technology to enhance teaching strategies and improve student learning.

To begin our progress towards this goal, staff at ECS were surveyed to determine their current comfort level and experience with various forms of technology, and they also identified where they would like to improve in incorporating technology.

After analyzing the results of this survey, the staff at a school PD day came together and developed ideas or places where technology could be effectively incorporated. Some ideas we developed from this PD day were to use Audacity to do voice recording activities, Scratch to animate stories, Wikis for online reports and class websites, Blogs for sharing student thoughts, and Skype to connect to other classrooms or people outside of our small community.

Elrose Taxedo

Identifying Challenge
As a staff we identified some of the challenges that came up as a result of incorporating more technology into our lessons. One of the biggest and most obvious challenges was many staff had limited knowledge about what the various uses of technology were and would have to learn the programs themselves before being able to use them with their students.

Elrose Book Covers

This was solved through our Lead Teacher and also through the Supporting Technology Wiki. Staff was also encouraged to attend Live! Technology Tutorials when they came up, and they were also directed to the Supporting Technology Wiki to view tutorials and videos related to the different technology areas which was very helpful (thanks to the curriculum team and others who put the Wiki together)!

Elrose using Scratch

Reflections
As we approach the end of the year, it has been recognized that many teachers were able to successfully incorporate some innovative technology uses into their classrooms. Some specific examples of technology integration were teachers using Tagxedo, Scratch, Audacity, Prezi, Music Shake, Mathletics, and Blogger.

Overall, I would say we were successful in meeting our school technology goal!

    
Jeff Kingwell
teaches in at Elrose Composite School in Elrose, Saskatchewan and has served as the Lead technology teacher for a number of years/.

Connecting Classrooms through Virtual Presentations

Kylie Lorenzen, a Lead technology teacher in Eston, has always been interested in doing more with technology in her classroom. So when she contacted me to be part of her brainstorming for more ideas, I was excited by her enthusiastic response to using Bridgit to connect her classroom virtually!

Her students had been working on an inquiry project in the Mystery Unit, developing online research skills throughout the process. To showcase their learning, students were given the choice of using either PowerPoint or Prezi as the tool for creating visual representations to supplement their oral presentations. Through the Learning Coaches, Kylie was connected with Joell Tiffin and Colette Charpentier in Outlook High School, and Jeremy Murphy in Davidson School, middle level teachers who were eager to have their students participate as online audience members.

Then, prior to the actual presentations, Kylie and I worked through some of the planning details to ensure that the experience would be as smooth as possible.

1. Equipment Preparation:

  • In order for Kylie’s Grade 7 students in Eston to present virtually, they needed to be able to share their desktop with their online audience. In Sun West, we use an presentation software called Bridgit. All participating teachers were relatively new to the software, so they watched a short screencast on how to use the tool prior to the actual presentation day.
  • Webcams were also installed in all locations which permitted classrooms to see each other during the opening welcome. The webcams were then turned off during the actual presentations.
  • Of course it was essential that the students could be heard during the presentations, so each classroom located a set of speakers and a mic and did a test run on the equipment.
  • Visibility was also important for the audience classroom so SmartBoards were used in each classroom.
2. The Importance of the “Test Run” – Problem Solving
In order for the presentation day to run as smoothly as possible, Kylie and I decided to do a “test run” of the software and work out any kinks. It turns out that this was a great idea! We had a number of little details arise that needed some problem-solving:
  • During our first attempt, the computers were lagging so much that we stopped the test run. A quick email to the tech department revealed that Eston’s bandwidth was maxed out. There was a Skype conversation going on in another part of the school which had caused the problem. So, we rebooked another time to try again and Kylie informed the staff about the presentation to ensure lack of bandwidth would not be a problem.
  • Our second run through revealed that certain animations and transitions on the Power Point presentations caused the slides to freeze up when using Bridgit. To address that problem, students removed all animations from their online versions of their presentations and saved a new copy with a different file name.
  • We also discovered that Prezis with embedded videos showed quite slowly on the receiving end. To accommodate this, student presenters  learned that they would need to take into consideration the extra time it took to load the video into consideration when moving ahead.
  • Finally, we learned that the software ran much smoother when Kylie hosted the meeting and the audience joined rather than the other way around.
 The test run also proved to be good practice for the students developing the skills of presenting to an online audience. They had to wait for the slide to load in the receiving end and couldn’t rush their speaking! 
3. Audience Preparation
Success in any presentation is in the preparation. Kylie prepared her students to share their learning in a virtual environment through the test run, but equally important was preparing the audience. Teachers in the audience did an equipment check prior to the presentation, but the role of the audience members was also considered, including:
  • How will introductions be handled?
  • What is expected of the listening audience?
  • Will the audience give feedback to the presenters? If so, how?
  • Will the audience ask questions? If so, how will students do that (one at a time? prepared in advance? spur of the moment?)
  • Will students have a chance to practice with the mics and webcams?
  • Since this is a both a speaking and listening activity, will students be assessed or self-assess their skills? If so, how?
  • If the webcam is used, will it be on throughout the presentation, or just at the beginning during introductions?

There is always a degree of uncertainty the first time anyone uses online technology to connect classrooms. “Will the equipment work? Will bandwidth be an issue? How will w we problem solve technical difficulties?” 

OHS students listen to Eston presentations

In this case, Kylie’s preparation helped make this experience enjoyable for both presenters and audience members. I peeked into the Grade 6 classroom at Outlook High during the presentation. Students there were extremely engaged and I overheard one Grade 6 student at Outlook High remark to a classmate, “This is really cool!”