Creating Flexible Learning Paths through the Use of Digital Tools

Around the world, education has undergone a technological revolution. Across Canada, school districts are using new technology platforms to expand learning opportunities for students from diverse communities and backgrounds. Throughout Thames Valley, the use of Chromebooks and other tools has soared.

Thames Valley has over 78,000 students, and though most students report they have access to a computer at home, there are still a number who don’t. According to Sheila Builder, Superintendent of Student Achievement, ensuring equity of access to technology is important.

Studies show that technology is a key factor to student success in terms of engagement and access to current, relevant information online. Technology also can support instruction, inquiry, assessment, and evaluation practices in the classroom. “We want to add tools to our classrooms that make the biggest difference for our teachers and our students,” says Sheila, “and we believe access to Chromebooks is that tool.”

In 2017, a two-year pilot program at seven secondary schools was launched where every student in a grade 9 course and every teacher teaching a grade 9 course received a Chromebook to support their learning. Sir Frederick Banting S.S. was one of the schools selected for the pilot program. So far, the results have been very positive.

To ensure success all grade 9 teachers involved in the pilot received training on how to effectively use technology to enhance student learning. At Banting, teachers encouraged students to access curriculum and engage in collaboration and creation through the use of GSuite (applications specific to education) in both English and French through their Immersion Program. 

“Bringing technology into the classroom clearly has multiple benefits for our students and teachers, especially when they’re learning a second language,” says Sheila. “Students learn new vocabulary and develop skills necessary to thrive in the technology-rich 21st century, preparing them for success both in and beyond the classroom.

Thames Valley students seem to agree. Research and Assessment studies indicate that students reported high levels of engagement and more independence and ownership over their learning as a result of access to Chromebooks.

As with other areas of Thames Valley, Banting has an increasing number of English Language Learners attending the school. Some of the most positive feedback from the first year of the pilot was from English as a Second Language teachers and students. Specifically, increased access to digital tools for oral communication, including translation features (text to speech, speech to text) allowed students a greater ability to communicate, read, and write in English.

Furthermore, English Language Learners enjoy the translation applications and the speech to text and the text to speech features offered by these tools.

According to the Rethink Secondary report, 7 percent of Thames Valley students reported that they do not have a computer at home. In a school with a very diverse socio-economic population, the provision of Chromebooks for every student has gone a long way to level the playing field, providing equity of access for all learners.

 

Learn how F.D Roosevelt Public School’s EdTech Summit inspired students to embrace technology in the classroom. 

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