What Makes Squamish Special?
This past school year, grade 2 teacher Beth Smith and her class at Brackendale Elementary School participated in the SET-BC Synergy Project: Supporting the Communication Competency with Technology. The main goals of the project were to increase student engagement through voice and choice, and increase students’ ability to read and interpret information through the use of digital supports. The students used technologies such as an iPad Pro with Padcaster as well as apps such as Padlet, Book Creator, and DoInk to create connections with others and share their knowledge of the local community. The students also learned how to use the accessibility features of the iPad such as text-to-speech and speech-to-text. The following is Beth’s reflection of the project.
“Learning about the technology available to us was a learning journey for everyone.”
As we worked through the project I used Apple TV and a Smartboard to screen mirror my iPad in order to show the apps we were learning about to the class. Students were given time to explore each app when it was introduced and then guided through how the technology was going to be used to gather information and share knowledge learned. When looking at an app or technology tool for the first time we worked in pairs so the students could discuss and learn from each other. This worked well and students who felt confident were able to take the lead with their partner. Whenever technology was used we worked hard to create access to our work though bulletin board displays, blogging, hard copies (printed out posters and books) and electronic copies of our work in iBooks.
“Throughout this project there were both challenges and successes.”
It can be difficult to teach new tech to a whole class with only one adult in the room. There can be problems with WiFi, keeping the iPads updated, solving problems as they arrive so that students don’t become frustrated and many other things. The biggest problem I faced was supporting all students when teaching as a whole class – fortunately our students gained confidence quickly with technology and were able to support each other. We implemented the three before me rule – check in with three students for support before the teacher. This was the biggest help with our learning. Our second challenge was how we were going to get our work off the iPads. We used Dropbox and AirDrop to move our work from one iPad to another and print out our work from a computer when it was finished. I also had to learn about QR codes for sharing videos made by students.
The biggest success for us during this project was the growth in the students’ learning. This learning crossed many boundaries. The number of subjects that were brought in to this project was great as it linked together all our daily learning from Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math and Art. Students also grew in the core competencies especially creative thinking, critical thinking and communication. Students have grown in their ability to share with each other, communicate, create and collaborate. Another great success was the engagement of students that usually find reading and writing difficult. The use of technology provided access to the curriculum and learning that can be frustrating and create disengagement from the class. I am so proud of all my students.
Final words of wisdom – for anyone thinking of taking on a project like this try to remember the following things. Our students come with a lot of technology knowledge but need to be shown that tech is a tool and not always for play. When choosing the apps you want to use pick a few and use them often in different subject areas so that students have time to get confident with them. And finally remember that it is OK to learn alongside your students, it is OK to tell them you don’t know how to do something yet. A growth mindset is key.
Student samples and lesson plans can be found on the project blog at the following URL: mrssmithbrackendale.weebly.com/set-bc-project. It is a terrific record of their year-long journey with technology.
Thanks to Ms. Smith and her terrific students for showing us how just a few apps can be used creatively to support student communication. Just one of the many ways Squamish is so special!