Due to some available and targeted funding, the Superior-Greenstone District School Board will be able to focus on providing more opportunities for students and families to connect through virtual means beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. Several projects are currently being undertaken, including installing video conference equipment in every school, purchasing laptop computers for every student in grades 5 and 9, deepening the use of their main communication platform, Edsby, and providing a new method of instantly communicating with the families via text messaging. Funding for the projects is that which is specified for these purposes.
“We are pleased to announce these projects as they help to operationalize several aspects of our Strategic Plan,” stated Nicole Morden Cormier, Director of Education, “including our vision for students collaborating between schools and with the outside world.”
The Board has identified Stewardship as a Strategic Priority to ensure that the organization continually develops and adjusts to an ever-changing world. “As staff, we are working to increasingly offer learning approaches that recognize the need for opportunities within and beyond the classroom and the school to support student interests, pathways and learning. This is vitally important as our enrollment declines as we know that learning is a social construct and students need to be able to collaborate with other learners. These new video conference classrooms will allow us to provide this learning environment to small classes in our schools, which will help us to support all learners within SGDSB and within our communities,” explained Morden Cormier.
There are three types of digital learning available to our students. For several years now, the school board has implemented blended learning opportunities in our elementary classrooms to develop digital competencies in our students using safe, secure, online learning environments. Starting in grade 6, students in Superior-Greenstone District School Board begin to be exposed to blended learning in order to leverage technology to collaborate. This form of learning uses online teaching platforms to teach and support learning in a face-to-face class. Students benefit from the support of their classroom teacher in their learning space. E-Learning is a program of study delivered completely online. The student accesses courses based on his/her schedule and is supported by the e-teacher via online tools. The teacher may be from SGDSB or another school board in the province. As well, the school board will be providing some course options via “video conference”, a form of learning that has a teacher at one site delivering materials to students at other sites.
“This video-conference project will support student learning and pathways as we move forward. We also recognize that this is a common method of learning that we need to have our students engage in so that they can confidently thrive in the increasingly digital world, and while it may present new challenges, we will continue to support students in how to learn in this manner. These classroom learning experiences will prepare our students to be flexible, digital learners in 21st century classrooms.” This is a vital project for the school board, as this learning platform will allow them to maximize learning while supporting students and staff in continuing the innovative learning journey.
Each high school will have three classrooms equipped with the video conference capacity, while each elementary school will have either one unit or two. These rooms will also be used to provide professional development and to host meetings, reducing costs associated with travel in the district.
In addition to the video conference project, beginning in September and each year moving forward, students in grades five and nine will be assigned a laptop for their use at home and school. The school board has been helping students to use more collaborative learning spaces, and over time the laptop project will allow for all students from grades 5 and beyond, equitable access to technology to support their learning.
Superior-Greenstone District School Board is committed to ensuring that students, staff and families feel physically and emotionally safe in the learning environment, as this contributes to positive well-being. Communication in a timely, available and direct manner is a key component to this commitment. Thus, beginning in October 2019, they will be introducing a platform called “School Messenger”. This platform will allow schools to engage in one-way communication via text, email and voice messaging to families who are registered. Important school messages (e.g. bus cancellations, lock downs, etc.) that must reach families immediately can be sent directly and quickly. The Board plans to continue with the use of EDSBY, the online platform that allows families to communicate with the school regarding attendance and student learning.
Director of Education Nicole Morden Cormier explained “we know that continual change, in response to the rapid changes in our world, is vital for our school board to allow us to serve students and families to the best of our ability. These various projects respond to this commitment, and we are excited to see the potential that our technology investment has on our staff, families and most importantly, our students as we navigate these new learning and communication opportunities.”