Technology Moves to the Head of the Class

Technology Moves to the Head of the Class

Let us pause for a moment of fond reflection on the schoolroom of our youth, where the teacher's best tools were a pointer, a blackboard and a voice that could make the fuzz on the back of your neck stand straight to attention.

"One of the impediments is how long it takes for people to be able to absorb new methods and change how they do things. And with the number of schools we have, it just takes a while for that to percolate through," said Williams.

It would be natural to assume that it's the older teachers who are having the most problems, but according to Williams that's not the case. There are those who are comfortable with technology regardless of their age, and those who are not. It's the job of the coaches to help everyone adopt the new approach, regardless of age.

And because it's the coaching that takes the time, the Board is taking a multi-pronged approach to training.

"We have a media team at the Board and they're doing videos. We're video-recording teachers, showing how they teach a particular subject using Web sites and Web resources. And then we'll post those online so that other teachers can see them," said Williams.

"We also can communicate with all the schools in the system by means of a broadcast. If we want to show them a new resource we've got, for example, we might choose to do it that way."

Creating a class Web site

'Teaching with Technology' is only the most recent in a series of IT initiatives intended to help the Board meet its key strategic objective: student success. Another that's already in place is called MyClass, the project which won the Board its 2007 CIO 100 Award.

MyClass was an initiative enabled by the prior adoption of an integrated Microsoft Email and SharePoint environment. This was implemented with the support of Concept Interactive, a local Canadian company that specializes in SharePoint.

"We wanted to create tools that extend the classroom. That's why we introduced MyClass, which provides a set of easy-to-use integrated tools that enable teachers to create Web sites for their class," said Williams. "Not every teacher will find that such sites are helpful for their particular students or subjects, but for those who choose to have one, we wanted to move the technology out of the way. A teacher shouldn't have to be a Web guru to publish basic information on the Internet."

The MyClass application was developed by teachers and IT staff working in concert. The two groups talked conceptually about what the initiative was trying to achieve, and then the IT department created wireframes, or mock-ups of what screens would look like. The teachers then provided feedback on what was being built.

"It was a very collaborative model for development," said Williams. "Teachers were very much involved throughout the process. We were always surprised at how they wanted things to look and feel."

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