Students are keeping busy this summer at SCDSB STEAM Camp

From July 31 to August 18, almost 700 students from across the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) have been participating in summer STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Camp, which focuses on strengthening students’ literacy and math skills. Programs are taking place in Alliston, Barrie, Collingwood, Innisfil, Midland and Orillia, as well as at the Education Centre in Midhurst.

This year, summer learning programs are available for:

  • Grade 3 and 4 students
  • Grade 7, 8 and 9 students
  • Special Equipment Amount (SEA) – for students with special needs using assistive devices

Each program (other than SEA) consists of a half day focus on math/numeracy and a half day focus on STEAM or mindfulness activities. SEA is a full-day program that includes training for students on how to use special equipment, and academic activities that they can complete using the new equipment.

Principal of Special Education, Stephen McClelland, has been involved in the summer learning programs for seven years and has witnessed the growth of the program as well as the students.

“The STEAM Camp is meant to support those students who may be struggling with math or literacy. We want to make sure that they receive an opportunity to grow and gain confidence in their skills before entering a new grade level at the start of the school year,” he says.

The benefits of the program aren’t just for students, but for the schools and staff as well.

“With the STEAM camps and SEA programs, we are well connected to parents and families, as they come in to the school to bring their child, sign the child in and there is a daily interaction between the parent and teacher. Also, host schools get to keep the equipment that is ordered for summer learning programs for use year-round for all students, which is a huge benefit to them,” he adds.

At the end of the day, students are able to see their successes more clearly and regularly, as they are only focusing on two to three subjects a day, versus five or six throughout the school year. Class sizes are smaller as well, allowing students more interaction with the teacher.

“Our students have a lot of fun in our summer learning programs,” says McClelland. “Everyone is much more relaxed and the teachers get very creative with the programming and activities that students take part in.”

Activities include working with robots, drones, computer programming/coding, field trips and outdoor learning opportunities.

Each school hosting the summer learning programs has a childcare facility on site, so parents are able to enrol their children in care after hours and fees will apply (summer learning programs run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Summer learning programs are free for all families.

Are you interested in enrolling your child in summer STEAM Camp next year? Be sure to contact your child’s teacher or school principal to inquire. Specific programs for grade levels will be available, along with applications in June 2018.

Social media and education – how to reach the world while maintaining privacy

The Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) hosted an informative professional development session about social media with an amazing lawyer, Nadya Tymochenko, and Superintendent Chris Samis. We learned about some of the legal issues regarding how schools and school boards use social media.

As educators, we need to consider some important points when using various social media platforms in our lessons. Social media is a new phenomenon that can have many benefits for education, but we need to continue to think about ensuring the anonymity of our students.

When do we need for informed consent from parents?

When you reflect upon this question, you can see many areas of concern that may be relevant. There are three main points to consider:

  1. We need to let parents know how their children will be engaged in social media. This could be by sending a letter home or including information in newsletters. You should include how and why you are using social media so parents are fully informed.
  2. Parents need to know that they can withdraw their consent at any time. Educators need to ensure there is an easy process in place for parents to withdraw consent. This should be included in all communication home about the project.
  3. Students need to understand what privacy means. Educators cannot take this piece for granted. What privacy means to us may not be the same as what privacy means to our students. This is also a great opportunity to discuss digital citizenship with our students.

Continue reading “Social media and education – how to reach the world while maintaining privacy”

How students and teachers are using iPad apps to accelerate math learning – Part three

By Scott Dowling – Numeracy Resource Teacher, and Tyler Cave – Student Work Study Teacher

This is the last post of a three-part series about iPad apps that encourage students to assess their own learning and capture real-time thinking in order to adapt learning to the needs in the classroom. Part one explored self-assessment with the Educreations app and part two looked at collaborative inquiries.

Student Voice and Visible Thinking: Using to Reach and Value Everyone

Collaborative Inquiry facilitated by: Jen Viherjoki, Teacher, Grade 6/7

The vast majority of us have sat in a classroom and have held on to a very important question that is going to help us “get it”. For whatever reason, we are too timid or scared to halt the instruction to have that one pivotal piece of information clarified or answered so that we can continue to learn. Timing alone makes addressing all the questions in a typical classroom next to impossible. The teacher is engaged in the instruction of the lesson and yet the very question that could help unlock the learning lays dormant and is often forgotten or not addressed by the end of the lesson, when it would be most beneficial to the learner. Most likely, there are several students in the room who could at any given moment help to answer that question or any other question that might deepen the learning.

A QR Code helps students efficiently access Today's Meet
A QR Code helps students efficiently access Today’s Meet

Continue reading “How students and teachers are using iPad apps to accelerate math learning – Part three”

How students and teachers are using iPad apps to accelerate math learning – Part two

By Scott Dowling – Numeracy Resource Teacher, and Tyler Cave – Student Work Study Teacher

This is part two in a three-part series about iPad apps that encourage students to assess their own learning and capture real-time thinking in order to adapt learning to the needs in the classroom. Part one explored self-assessment with the Educreations app.

Part two: Building Comprehensive Learner Profiles with Google Forms

Collaborative inquiry facilitated by: Amy Strong, Teacher, Grade 7

One of the driving themes in education today is how much our ability to learn is shaped by our attitudes or mindsets towards learning. Simply put, if you don’t think you are capable of learning it, most likely you won’t. But, if you think you can learn it, you have a much better chance of doing so.

This notion has made educators recognize the importance of establishing positive or growth mindsets in our students and taking the time to teach not only the “what” in learning but also the “how” we learn to students. This might seem straight forward, but from a teaching perspective, gauging and tracking growth and changes in attitudes and mindsets is challenging.

With this in mind, teachers and students at Coldwater are using Google Forms to build attitude and interest surveys that allow both the teacher and students to address their mindsets towards learning. This will help them develop a learning program that is relevant to student interest. With the release of iPads into our schools, the ability to collect and analyze student attitude data is being realized in new and powerful ways.

Continue reading “How students and teachers are using iPad apps to accelerate math learning – Part two”

The classroom may be virtual, but the learning is real

Guest post by Julia Fleming, SCDSB eLearning teacher

elearningToday, Ontario colleges and universities offer over 10,000 courses online.  Employers are turning to online education for their training programs as well.  Online learning has arrived, and it is here to stay!

The SCDSB has embraced online learning and the integration of technology into the classroom.  Students are now blogging, using iPads, and tweeting all as part of their school work.  Teaching our students to be good digital citizens is a common thread through many courses, and blended learning – the incorporation of eLearning into the traditional learning environment – is becoming a regular part of the classroom.  Further, students can now take high school credits exclusively online in a virtual classroom that is fully created and supported by a certified teacher. Continue reading “The classroom may be virtual, but the learning is real”

From ‘newbie’ to connected—how I learned to navigate the world of technology

I have a confession.

I have never used a SMARTboard. I didn’t use email, or even a computer until university. I’m still a bit taken aback when people refer to me as being “good with technology” because it doesn’t fit the image I had of myself for most of my life.

As a school administrator with a strong belief in not asking staff to do things that you aren’t comfortable doing yourself, I began to explore different digital tools that I hoped would support student learning, as well as my own professional growth. During the beginning of this phase I definitely lived the motto, “fake it till you make it”.  However, the more I dabbled, the more I discovered that with technology, there is something newer and “better” around every corner. The fact that it’s impossible to keep up with the rate of change is a deterrent for so many educators who are beginning this journey.

After struggling with this for a while, I decided that I needed to be more specific in choosing a focus, and then go deeper into exploring how I could use it to improve my practice. That leads me to about a year ago when joined Twitter.

I had no idea how to use it at the time, but I knew that I wanted to be purposeful about using it to connect with and learn from other educators. It was at this point that I think I really began my journey into using technology as an accelerator to transform my own learning. It has challenged my thinking, caused me to become more reflective about my practice and it has connected me with people and opportunities that I never would have otherwise experienced.

agtwitterFast forward to today. I recently returned from Bring IT Together, my first “Ed Tech” conference, hosted by The Educational Computing Organization of Ontario.  Had you asked me five years ago, this is certainly not an event that I would have either been interested in or pictured myself attending. I am pleased to say that I’m leaving the conference with a renewed sense of possibility, passion and pride in my chosen field of education.

My next step is to challenge myself by leading an online book study via Twitter. I have led a number of successful book studies with school staff, but leading one online is new territory for me.

Continue reading “From ‘newbie’ to connected—how I learned to navigate the world of technology”

Eight apps that can increase connectivity in the classroom

8 great apps for the classroomOne of the best things about being an educator in the 21st century is the increased ability to be connected, share experiences and learn together. Sometimes we wonder about different technologies and have questions about what programs or apps to use in our classrooms. I learned about some apps this past year, and I wanted to share my learnings. The following are all in addition, of course, to the amazing free Google Apps for Education that are provided to our board, including Google Docs, Sheets, Drive, Chrome, Hangouts and more.

Here are the top apps that I will be using consistently this year on the iPads: Continue reading “Eight apps that can increase connectivity in the classroom”