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The world today is connected through smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, desktops. The internet makes a worldwide web of information, knowledge and content easily accessible. Internet is reinventing teaching and learning in many ways, students are now able to access the resources using their smart devices based on their interests, convenience and pace.
WSD promotes digital literacy and supports students and staff in bringing their own devices to school. Through WSD's Bring your own device (BYOD), students and teachers are able to use their own devices to access web-based portal, educational software and secure learning management systems. The infrastructure created and filters applied by the WSD IT team ensures students and staff are accessing safe and secure websites, apps and resources in the school environment. WSD guidelines and policies help teachers engage in conversations with students about the responsible use of technology.
"As Winnipeg School Division students, we are glad that our schools provide Wi-Fi and internet access for free," says Karla Atanacio, Sisler High School student. "We have heard stories about students not being able to do their homework on time because they don't have internet access at home. Now they can work on their projects on school computers and print them out at no cost. We use our smartphones to visit websites and watch video tutorials to help with our learning. Learning has also become more exciting because teachers don't limit themselves to textbooks. They show us videos, photos, and other online tools."
Grade 3 student of Brock Corydon Isabel says "We can keep everything on the computer and explain our thinking about our work. We can also share our work with our class and our parents." Using Google classroom and Google docs, teacher's send students assignments and their work is secure in an application called Seesaw.
WSD technology consultant Richard Roberts says WSD students are using technology to enhance their connected learning and teachers are helping them remain focused.
"Technology is being used to transform how we communicate. We text and tweet to connect with others, we Skype and have Google Hangouts with people around the world. We are able to communicate with people across distance easier than we ever have before," said Roberts.
"When we are looking at the use of technology in schools, we look at technology as a tool. Effective integration or infusion of technology in a classroom helps to foster really important 21st century skills (creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving). If we are looking at the use of technology in school through this lens, then it changes the conversation of how it can be used by students."
Roberts says technology outside of the classroom demonstrates how it can transform how we create, communicate, collaborate etc. Creativity with technology is seen in the creations of animators, coders and game designers, of video content creators on YouTube, or makers who are sharing their learning with the world. These are just a few examples of how people use technology in creative ways.
Collaboration often happens in classrooms during group work and partner work, but using technology effectively allows for collaboration with others around the world. Using tools such as Google Docs/Slides or Word Online, we are able to work collaboratively in real time. With the ability to share, collaborate and comment effortlessly it is easy to see the way technology tools can impact collaboration.
Critical thinking is perhaps more important now than ever before. With the ease at which one can access and share information it is important to think critically about what one is reading and sharing. It is important to have these conversations with students daily when infusing digital tools. Using technology needs to happen with proper modelling and conversations about digital citizenship. This needs to be accompanied by giving students opportunities to practice what it means to be a productive, responsible digital citizen.
Ultimately it is important for all stakeholders to be involved in how technology can best be utilized in the classroom. Principals and Vice Principals should be aware of the tools being used, teachers should be looking at how learning activities can be supported by the capabilities of the tools available, and students should begin to shift their perspective of how they can best use their devices as creative and collaborative tools. Roberts suggest that instead of having students put the devices away, teachers should encourage them to keep them on their desks and look at them as tools rather than distractions.
"We often think about what could go wrong, instead let's think of the possibilities."