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News - In the Classroom

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Kids Grades 4 to 6 Can Learn to Defend Their Data

Kids Grades 4 to 6 can learn to defend their data with a no-charge new privacy game from MediaSmarts. Data Defenders shows kids how ad brokers try to collect their personal information and offers strategies to keep that information private.

As Canadians learn more about how companies collect and use their data, from influencing voting choices to selling products, they are increasingly worried about their privacy. But it’s not just adults who are at risk – marketers also target children, who are least equipped to protect themselves. Data Defenders is a timely tool to help teach important lessons about online privacy to kids.  The online game is accompanied by parent and teacher guides and a lesson plan for grades 4 to 6 that further reinforces privacy learning. All materials, including the game, can be accessed free of charge on the MediaSmarts website.

Data Defenders was made possible by financial contributions from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

April 4, 2018
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Aboriginal Education Support – Taking Your Seat at the Fire

“Taking Your Seat at the Fire” continues the conversation around culturally responsive resources. Leona Prince, Professional Learning Team Member, shares with us ways in which we embed Aboriginal perspectives into all parts of the curriculum in a meaningful and authentic manner. Here is a quick tour of ERAC resources that can be used to support Aboriginal perspectives.

Watch the video now.

Find some examples of integrated units by clicking here.

February 7, 2018
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Explore the BC Digital Classroom Collection

Cari Wilson, a member of the Professional Learning Team, provides a quick “fly by” of the resources that are available to all ERAC members including the BCDC Core Collection, “a la carte” options and curriculum support material.

Watch the video now.

To access more BC Digital Classroom online resources and support, visit the BCDC website.

February 7, 2018
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A Curated List of Websites for Classroom Use to Save You Time

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The collection will include Canadian websites that add value for students and educators. Today’s learners engage with a variety of media, including games, videos, web casts and interactive online tools outside the classroom. Using similar tools in the classroom will increase student engagement with the BC Curriculum and the intended learning outcomes.

As online resources expand, teachers have the daunting job of choosing resources that fit the criteria that makes them suited for classroom use. This new collection of online resources meets a baseline set of criteria that ensures each online resource is suitable for classroom use:

  • Free to access
  • Free of advertising
  • Accessible without authentication
  • More than edu-tainment
  • Curriculum support

Resources that pass the preliminary criteria then go through a deep evaluation by teams of trained evaluators who are practicing BC teachers to ensure that they are relevant to students, accurate, timely, and appropriate as well as meet core and curricular competencies based on the BC Curriculum.

Fast Track Students to Quality Content

For example, the resource A Journey into Time Immemorial is from the SFU Virtual Museum and offers “an in-depth look at the culture and customs of the Sto:lo people” according to the ERAC review. The content supports grades 4 through 12 in a variety of subject areas and “is a rich source of non-fiction texts.”

The number of websites from a Google search, many of which have commercial interests, make finding suitable and safe digital learning experiences and resources challenging for teachers. Even within one site, such as NASA, finding the materials suitable for your students can be overwhelming. Having a curated collection of pre-selected sites – with specific URLs to the exact resources you are looking for – saves time and ensures that students can access digital resources that will engage and educate them.

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Many interactive sites exist in a variety of subject areas including science, coding, space and language arts. Consider Storyline Online, which has celebrated actors reading to students in an engaging manner with images and illustrations included. Many students will recognize Elijah Wood from the Lord of the Rings reading Me and My Cat by Satoshi Kitamura. Each book comes with an Activity Guide that suggests ways of working with the book in the classroom including information regarding both the author and the reader.

This collection will include virtual tours, videos, web casts, demonstrations, games and more.

How To Access the New Collection

  • Go to the K12 Resource Collection website and apply the website search filter to see the collections’ newly added website titles.
    • To access the complete review, click into the resource and use your district or school email address to sign in to your ERAC account. If you do not have an account, please create one by visiting the ERAC homepage.
  • Access the collection using the K12 Resource Collection App
June 2, 2017
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BC Digital Classroom Supports the New Curriculum

Curriculum Connections Provide Starting Points

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This website provides over 100 examples of starting points connecting curriculum to the BC Digital Classroom (BCDC) collection resources. The starting points highlight the Big Idea, Learning Standards, lesson topic, and a seed activity idea. Each starting point is linked directly to the relevant website within the BCDC resource, allowing the teacher to spend less time browsing and searching. In addition, the team has created some starting points which highlight First Peoples Principles in Learning and Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives.

These starting points are just that – a place to support teachers as they explore the connection between these digital resources and the curriculum, and a way to spark the creation of new lesson connections using the BCDC collection.

F2F Professional Learning Events Provide Deeper Exploration of Resources

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ERAC’s Professional Learning Team has provided in-district workshops and professional opportunities to district teams around the province, and supported teacher librarians, consultants, and helping teachers in planning for professional learning in their own districts.

At these F2F sessions the Team presents an overview of ERAC services and resources, and offers an in-depth exploration of the resources and tools within the BC Digital Classroom Collection.

The Professional Learning Team also highlights the K-12 Resource Collection where members can access full information on evaluated resources, such as novels, videos, and websites. Download the BCERAC app for Apple and Android to have quick mobile access to search the database.

These on-site sessions allow districts to maximize the value of their membership in ERAC and are actually enabling ERAC to expand support to other districts by sharing the exciting work being done across the province.

One example is Maple Ridge School District 42, where, through the hard work of Irene Gibeault and their team, the district has developed an online resources page:  http://schools.sd42.ca/onlineresources/.  It is well-organized for primary, intermediate, and secondary teachers to access ERAC, the BCDC Collection, and other licensed databases.  A value-added aspect of this site is the identification and annotation of magazines available through EBSCO resources. See example of intermediate magazines here.

Providing Online Professional Learning Supports

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Because not every district or every ERAC member can attend a F2F session, the Team has created short video clips and PowerPoint templates that educators can use to further explore and customize presentations for your district or school.

The ERAC Beyond Databases – Presentation Format Slides includes an overview of the complete BCDC Collection and speaking points for the slides.   The PowerPoint templates have been separated into sections to focus on the attributes of specific resources such as World Book K-3, EBSCO 4-7, Gale 8-9, Global Issues in Context, and KnowBC. Watch for more updates to this page by September 2017.

District Contacts and PSA representatives – Please request and book your Professional Learning Team workshop by contacting Kevin Amboe.

ERAC’s approach is always to do the work once on behalf of the Consortium, and to share the results with everyone, saving time and effort.

April 6, 2017
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Why “Taking Your Seat at the Fire?”

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After a moment of silent reflection, Leona Prince states, “When thinking about the journey of Aboriginal Education in the province of BC, we are starting to understand the importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing. Aboriginal culture is polyphonic, meaning that it requires many voices to sustain it, and therefore so does Aboriginal Education. These voices need to be a network of diverse narratives if we are going to truly begin the work of reconciliation. ‘Taking our Seat at the Fire’ is a vision of all of us taking our seats together and being inspired by our similarities and differences. It is a call for all of us to take ownership of the responsibility of contributing equally to our future in education.”

The new BC curriculum reflects the broader societal growing awareness of the rich history, traditions and cultural practices of Aboriginal people and their role in the country. Classroom and students are a way to bring broader awareness and understanding to the future. “Through the process of reviewing the Ministry of Education document Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives and staying true to the framework of the FNESC guidelines for the First Peoples’ Principles of Learning, we were able to find a way to contribute to BC Educators in a meaningful way” states Prince.

As part of the Professional Learning Team, Monica Berra and Leona Prince, presented at the IT4K12 2016 “Taking Your Seat at the Fire – Continuing the Conversation Around Culturally Responsible Resources”.

“We began this work 3 years ago, as colleagues in School District No. 57 and ERAC supported our work around culturally authentic and relevant resources,” states Berra. This was first defined by FNESC in their 2008 publication English 12 First Peoples. ERAC redefined how resources were evaluated with these added criteria in 2014 and restructured the process by which Aboriginal Resources are evaluated. At IT4K12 2015, Prince and Berra presented on Culturally Authentic and Relevant Resources, which highlighted the work done to date. As momentum grew within the organization around Aboriginal Education, it culminated in the creation of the ERAC ABED Support Site.

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“The site framework of the natural elements, although grounded in the ideals of the Medicine Wheel, was chosen because of the inclusive nature of fire, water, earth and air. We all have our own personal connections to each of these, especially in BC where we have these in abundance. It really emphasized the privileges as residents of BC to have such beautiful natural surroundings, but also the responsibility to the land,” Prince relays.

The idea for the presentation was rooted in both Monica and Leona’s connection to their personal histories, their families and the lands that they both grew up on. Every detail in the presentation speaks to the importance of connection and collaboration. The photos of Leona’s two daughters on the lake side home where Monica spent most of her life highlights the importance of shared knowledge and collaboration. It is also a nod to the cover of Bev Seller’s ‘They Called Me Number One’, a story of personal significance to Berra.

Both Monica and Leona are storytellers and they weave for us a journey and invite us to come along. “Speaking with the audience at our sessions truly gave me an understanding of the cross section of educators across BC and the challenges they face,” states Prince. “It was humbling. For us to change our practice, we need to change the way we think and confront our biases and I believe we are well on our way. It is important for us to give, all those that are interested, an entry point into imbedding Aboriginal ways of knowing and being.” The session includes culturally authentic and relevant resources, the BC digital classroom, Aboriginal Ways of Knowing and also highlights technology in the classroom from a cultural perspective.

To begin your journey in Aboriginal learning, Prince encourages educators to find someone that complements them so that they can learn from each other. Berra agrees, noting that her practice has been brought forward by talking with others and learning from them, especially from working with Prince. The mutual respect and camaraderie is palpable between Prince and Berra and this continually opens the door for more conversations.

“Our ERAC consortium is an invitation to the conversation,” encourages Berra. “Let’s keep those conversations going.”

Each of their sessions ends with this poignant question, “Who is sitting at your fire?” It is a call to action for each of us, as educators, to take ownership of your own learning journey and to find those that share common goals.

Check out more by taking a walk through ERAC’s Aboriginal Education Support Site or connect directly with Leona Prince at lprince@sd57.bc.ca or Monica Berra at MBerra@sd57.bc.ca for more information.  As part of ERAC’s professional learning team  you can schedule this professional learning session through info@bcerac.ca.

March 2, 2017
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Bring the World to Your Classroom Through Virtual Field Trips

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If you’ve always wanted to go to Space, then best start saving now as the price tag for commercial space travel will cost you around $75,000 to reserve your seat. A better option is to join Mark Hauk and Merle Ross on a virtual field trip! Besides experiencing the International Space Station via a live interview with the astronauts, you can also go on an archaeological dig with scientists or a deep-sea dive with professionals off the coast of Australia, or scale the peaks of Mount Everest alongside an explorer…just to name a few!

Mark Hauk is the Virtual Field Trip Coordinator with SD23 and has worked within Education for the last 22 years. His colleague, Merle Ross is a Video Specialist, working with equipment and education television over the last 10 years. With their combined expertise and enthusiasm, and while working on the development of a course, they built a strong infrastructure which they used for blended learning. They saw the potential for using it in different ways and worked on rolling out virtual field trips over the next few years.

“Access used to be a challenge, it was all about bandwidth” explains Hauk. “But now there are many cost-effective options like Zoom which allows up to 50 simultaneous connections. This allows more opportunities for teachers and schools to participate. Generally, now all that is needed is a webcam and a computer with Wi-Fi.”

Hauk and Ross started connecting with a variety of people, finding all the options for students including a database they discovered that provided the info needed to connect with museums, zoos and other educational facilities. Some could be accessed for free while others charged a small fee. They would then set up a schedule and class would start with students gaining world class experiences without even leaving the classroom.

“For students that are unable to travel, or can’t afford the cost, or maybe just have anxiety issues, this option is a great way to introduce the world to them,” notes Hauk.

Students were thoroughly engaged when they interviewed an astronaut, live on the International Space Station. But it truly hit home when they were done the close-up interview with the astronaut and he let go of the microphone. It started rotating in mid air on its own, eyes went huge and students were all reminded of zero gravity in space.

“Kids love it and consider it pretty cool to connect with someone so far away,” explains Hauk.

“We grab Google Earth and show the students where on the planet we’re connecting,” notes Ross. “For instance, the Australian live dive took us 11,800 kms away from home which is 17 hours by flight, and 25 feet down in the ocean.”

They also interviewed a survivor of Auschwitz which was eye opening for the students as they got to ask questions and interact, unlike the learning experience obtained when watching a video or reading about it.

“Our next goal is to create a virtual reality experience,” explains Ross. “If we could give students a headset, they could be live on a tour of the Pyramids or stand with the explorer on the peak of Mount Everest while interviewing them.”

“The great thing is that technology is constantly growing, providing more opportunities,” states Hauk. “We’ll be bringing our program to thousands of more students over the next few years.”

Hauk and Ross shared their virtual field trip experiences during a presentation at the last IT4K12 event. They are always happy to share more and help get others on board so feel free to contact them at: mark.hauk@sd23.bc.ca and merle.ross@sd23.bc.ca.

Maybe someday, through connecting with space satellites, students will be able to take a virtual tour of another planet! This exciting future for our students is truly beyond the limit of the sky.

January 13, 2017
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Building the Bridge of Communication Between IT & Education

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“Is it plugged in?” are the four most common heard words that often bring mortified embarrassment to many. Yet, for others like IT professionals, they are the four most common words asked. Although our IT support teams help us with the simplest of issues like making sure our devices are plugged in, they also help with complex solutions that directly impact the classroom and our students. For this reason, it is important to have a solid, strong working relationship with your IT professionals, at least, that’s the way Lisa Read sees it.

Lisa Read is the IT Coordinator for SD79, Cowichan Valley, and is a member of ERAC’s Professional Learning Team. Most recently she presented at IT4K12 on the “Feed & Care of Your Nerdlings”.  

“I’ve always said that pedagogy is the driver but I like to add that technology is the accelerator,” explains Read, “And when we meld those two worlds together, we’re going to have a strong educational impact.”

That impact is only as strong as the entire team and the efficiency of their communication. If the educational group can’t clearly identify the needs, then the IT team can’t properly address the issue or find a timely solution. Clear communication can help speed things along.

“Our situation is quite unique” notes Read. “In most school districts, you rarely have educators involved in running the technology department, but we do. It assists us in having an education lens or perspective when making and guiding decisions.”

To help get those conversations started, Read’s team holds a 10-15-minute meeting every morning. Tech staff can then ask more specific questions to help source out the problems and offer precise solutions.

“The conversations are much richer and make it easier to come to a resolution than just answering a ‘ticket’”, explains Read. “For instance, a teacher may be having a problem with a printer but when the technician understands it’s 30 elementary students using that printer at the same time, they get the bigger picture and realize the common solution won’t work in this instance.”

Ultimately, the end goal for our students is the same, but these groups can come at it from two different directions and that’s why it can be beneficial to find a better way to communicate. Increased empathy on both sides can go a long way.

“It’s important for IT professionals to understand the pressures educators have within the classroom,” advises Read. “Likewise, teachers should understand that there are multiple ways to address a problem and the technician needs to consider the best solution for the individual and the entire system—in other words, will it scale?”

Some of the ways that Read explains you can work with your IT team better is to: connect with the IT team through their preferred method of communication (they have created a system that works well for them, a combination of tickets, email and face to face check-ins); ask for help instead of trying to fix it yourself; try to differentiate the need for IT support ( is this a new problem, or an ongoing one that the team already knows about); give the team some time to work on the problem (double reporting can bog down the process); and (on the IT professionals’ wish list) it is also of great benefit if the people they support have a minimal level of technological understanding.

“I always encourage teachers to approach technology the way they ask their learners to,” explains Read. “Don’t be afraid to try a different approach if the first one doesn’t work and don’t be afraid to ask for support.”

There are also ways that IT professionals can help educators by understanding that teachers want what is best for their students, so if resistance is sensed it is most likely based in fear or uncertainty and they might not know how to properly ask for support. Read also encourages IT Professionals to go into the actual classrooms and see how teachers are using the technology so they can understand what is being asked of them.

Finally, the biggest challenge continues to be keeping up with classroom/staff support and keeping everything in place working well, while still pushing technology forward with new ideas and solutions.

“It’s the Tyranny of the Urgent,” notes Read. “Our techies are keen but time is our enemy. Technicians are naturally curious and find wonderful ideas and solutions but finding the time to implement them can be extremely challenging, as well as the potential lack of proficiency by users.”

If you have solutions that are working well within your school or district, feel free to contact Cathy Yeomans so she can share your story with others. She can be reached at cyeomans@bcerac.ca.

Lisa Read and all members of the Professional Learning Team provide support for the BC Digital Classroom resources. To arrange for a remote or face to face connection, please contact Kevin Amboe at kamboe@bcerac.ca.

December 7, 2016
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Cultivating the Joy of Coding

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The word “technology” or “coding” can drive fear into the hearts of some, especially if they are expected to teach it. Not so with Kara Dawson, Lead Information Technology Support Teacher of SD71, Comox.

“I’ve always dabbled in coding but am definitely not an expert,” explains Dawson. “During a project I was involved in over 13 years ago with Dreamweaver, we started a school district page and I found I loved working with code”.

That love for code has stayed with Dawson throughout her 20+ years of teaching, including the start of an Hour of Code that she has always promoted. Last year she noticed she was getting a lot of questions around coding so she created a workshop for her district. She was then invited to participate in ERAC’s coding project which she thoroughly enjoyed and came back to the district with more excitement and more focused coding goals.

“I started with Lego Minestorms which has lego pieces that include tiny sensors,” notes Dawson. “It takes a few days to put together and is challenging but was limited to the Lego code at the time.”

Wanting to expand on coding, Dawson integrated a different product, a Sphero. This ball robot was very durable and could be made to jump, move and change colours. Students were able to make light shows that worked in time with the movements and colours.

“As I was teaching myself to create a square and figuring out the calculations to do a 180 degree turn, I realized I didn’t need to know it,” explains Dawson. “The students were learning faster than me and were collaborating together.”

The children soon surpassed Dawson and they took pleasure in sharing their knowledge with others; students and teachers alike. And it wasn’t the kids you expected to excel, but rather some of the struggling students who shined when it came to coding and creating the robots. It ignited their enthusiasm and they enjoyed sharing their expertise with their peers.

“It’s always better to work in a group because different people bring different strengths to the table,” shared Dawson. “You have the mathematician that is able to think very linearly for the calculations, then you also have the creative student that is able to conceptualize the final product and take the lead in design, and so on. Doing coding can be frustrating if done by yourself.”

Controlling something on a screen is much different from controlling a 3D object through coding and students found it very empowering. Dawson recommends the Tickle app as a great option for teaching coding to primary students and Lightning Lab has been beneficial for older students as a hub to create, contribute and learn with Sphero robots.

Dawson will be sharing more insights at her IT4K12 sessionDemystifying Coding” on November 18th at 11:00 am.

“Some people have a fear of code,” notes Dawson. “I hope through this presentation that attendees will feel that it’s more doable and that they’re more comfortable with it overall. My main advice is to not be afraid and just go for it!”

In Dawson’s role, she teaches students and teachers how to use technology in a meaningful way. You can see what she’s up to with her SD71 teachers through her personal site at Kara’s Corner.

November 4, 2016
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Getting Students Engaged is as Easy as 1..2..3D

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3D printing has come a long way. We can make model replicas of almost anything including prosthetic limbs and now with the use of hydrogels mixed with living cells, even human organs for transplant. Your students won’t have to go that far though to get engaged in a 3D project

Chris Gauvin, who is a grade 4/5 classroom teacher at Ecole Martha Currie Elementary, got interested himself in 3D printing four years ago. While watching some helping teachers experiment with it, he showed interest and wondered aloud about using it with elementary students, and soon he had a borrowed 3D printer for use in his classroom for three weeks

“After getting involved with it, I saw the huge potential for learning opportunities,” notes Gauvin. “So I, along with several of our district helping teachers, started researching what would be the best suited product for what our district needs would be.”  That research paid off as Gauvin was soon provided a 3D printer for his class.

The students were excited and interested as none had seen or used a 3D printer before. The process in using a 3D printer is to take a digital 3D model and turn the digital file into a physical object. Tinkercad was the online computer automated drafting program used to create the three dimensional items. Two projects were soon identified; one a personalized keychain name tag, and the other, a project on symmetrical snowflakes to tie in with a lesson on symmetry and measurement.

The level of engagement was high and students soon started to see their own designs coming to life and handling their tangible creations. “There was a great level of interest,” explains Gauvin. “The students got to see what worked and what didn’t and to figure out how to change it to get the result they wanted.”

It was challenging for the students to wrap their head around the multiple dimensions of the objects and they were reminded to look at it in all the different angles. Gauvin specifically picked the projects that weren’t going to work so they could analyze it and come up with new design processes. For instance, some of the letters would fall off the name tags, or they had to correct measurements for the proper snowflake symmetry once in 3D. This provided another level of problem solving and accomplishment as students revised and finalized their products’. Students were able to personalize their name tags even more by colouring the plastic once printed.

“Overall, it was quite easy and is still quite a novelty with the students,” explains Gauvin. “There was a bit of a learning curve but they supported and helped each other throughout the entire process.”

The learning curve for the teacher can be quite a bit more but Gauvin encourages you to initially start with a buddy or someone who knows the product. This will help get you up and running faster.

Generally, the printing doesn’t take too long, depending on the size of the project and how fast the printer can print. Gauvin’s name tags took about 30 minutes to one hour and the snow flakes about one to two hours, depending on the intricacy.

So when your school gets the opportunity to obtain a 3D printer, grab it and get your buddy to help you set it up. There’s lots of creating to get started on!

To find out more about everything 3D, register for IT4K12. The theme this year is “Learn & Work in 3D – Ideate, Innovate and Integrate”. Come to learn and share with your colleagues!

October 12, 2016
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Where is Technology Taking Us & Are You Ready?

Are you ready for an explosion of data, machine learning and artificial intelligence? Whether you are or not, it’s fast approaching, it will affect and impact all of us, and most likely we will not have the choice to opt out. How will this impact education? Nora Young, Keynote Speaker at IT4K12 plus CBC Host, Author and Journalist, provides some insight.

“Over the next two to five years, we’re going to see some key trends emerge,” explains Young. “On a micro level it will have an impact on the sphere of education and the broader context of the world students are headed into.” When it comes to students, privacy is always a concern and Young notes that it is definitely the number one issue across all industries where data is used and shared.

The potential with technology is great but the risks are also large. The impacts are real and can affect peoples’ lives and that’s why it’s important to understand the level of impact. Ultimately the potential value is in the creation of sustainable and smarter communities. Great empowerment comes with that, along with the roles we need to play.

“We need to position ourselves as leaders in the community and in our schools,” Young encourages. “It’s our job to prepare the next generation. The type of skills we are teaching our children will need to evolve to meet the new environment.”

That new environment includes AI (artificial intelligence) that will change the type of skills that will be needed and valued in future. Many task-specific jobs presently done by humans will no longer be necessary. That’s where the critical thinking skills will need to come into play to understand the technology and innovative uses.

“One of the most important roles in this transition will be the role of a teacher,” advises Young. “This is a technological revolution and we need people who are engaged to help in this new democratic arena and who have a collaborative approach.”

It’s an interesting and crucial lens to look through right now in understanding the digital world around us. Understanding how it works will help us moving forward and Nora Young promises to give a glimpse into this at the November 17-18 IT4K12 conference. Come find out for yourself and make sure to register!

Nora has also authored The Virtual Self which is about the growing phenomenon of ‘self-tracking’ and why we need a different approach to privacy. You can also listen to her CBC show “Spark” which is in its 10th year and explores technology, innovation and ideas. You can find out more in the Speakers’ Spotlight on Nora Young.

September 12, 2016
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IT4K12 Keynote Speakers Sure to Inspire

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The next IT4K12 promises to be informative, engaging and experiential. We’re already receiving many presentations, sponsors are signing up and our keynote speakers have been secured. Below is a snapshot of our Keynote Speakers, Lee Watanabe Crockett and Nora Young. If you missed the article on Crockett, you can find his inspiring story here. Make sure to register for IT4K!2 on the super early bird rate and if you’d like to join us presenting, make sure to complete a presentation proposal. See you soon!

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Lee has a curiosity about life and the shared human experience. This curiosity is infectious, as anyone who has heard Lee speak can tell you. Joyful curiosity is the foundation of his approach to creating vital learning and corporate environments for groups around the world. He is the creative force behind the Solution Fluency Activity Planner-a social network which has created a culture of collaboration as educators around the world share and source unit plans aligning to the structure of a modern learning environment as outlined in his writing.

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Nora Young is an informed and ideal guide for anyone looking to examine—and plan for—the ever-changing high-tech landscape. She helps audiences understand trends in social media, big data, wearable tech and more while showing them how to better protect their privacy in our increasingly digital world. The host and creator of Spark on CBC Radio, and the author of The Virtual Self, she demystifies technology and explains how it is shaping our lives and the larger world in which we live.

June 22, 2016
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Turn Your Professional Learning into a Transformation

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Having trained over 20,000 teachers in more than a dozen countries, and with an innate ability to sense trends and technological changes, our IT4K12 Keynote Speaker, Lee Watanabe Crockett, will be sure to inspire, engage and potentially ignite transformation with our conference delegates

“There is an exciting transformation happening worldwide where technology has an incredible implication on learning,” explains Crockett. “To reinforce these new ways of thinking and learning, we must also transform our pedagogy.”

Crockett believes a shift in education is gaining momentum and is taking us away from teacher-centered learning to a more innovative learning environment that is learner-centered. Ultimately it’s about taking work that is project based, inquiry or self-directed and blending these together. This then moves the responsibility from the teacher, where it has always been in the past, to the learner where it should be.

“This shift can be challenging for educators as the majority of us have been in a classroom for the last 15 to 20 years and only know that model,” notes Crockett. “It’s a deep and personal transformation that teachers go through which requires a great amount of compassion and understanding.”

When it comes to technology, Crockett also sees trends taking place where there is a convergence or a combo of technology and most of these have to do with communication. As he points out, there have not been any ground shaking new technology in the last 3 to 5 years and what’s mostly happening is we’re becoming more capable but in complex ways. Technology offers us multiple connections through linking, sharing, 140 characters, texting and more but it remains inauthentic and many of us are no longer satisfied.

When asked about the role of technology in education today, Crockett explains, “Technology definitely has a place in education but it is not the focus. It’s not the processes of the hardware, but rather the heart-ware and head-ware processes that are important. It’s the critical thinking, the problem solving and not about using an iPad.”

The role of technology can be very inclusive to students by presenting an understanding of the curriculum in any way that speaks to them personally.  Technically the tool itself is irrelevant because it will always be changing. For instance, it’s not about teaching how to use PowerPoint but rather teaching how to communicate in different ways.

“Students are far more capable then we perhaps give them credit,” states Crockett. “If we want to create independent, fully functioning, life-long learners then we need to move away from compartmentalization so that students stop expecting the teacher to do the thinking for them.”

Crockett believes that as we move to self-directed learning we will begin to see students doing extraordinary things and admits that we can sometimes be the biggest limiting factor to the success of our students.

“Control in our classrooms is an illusion,” explains Crockett. “It’s time to break out of the illusion and try things differently.”

To hear Lee Watanabe Crockett live at IT4K12, make sure to register! You can also find out more about Crockett through his organization, Global Digital Citizen Foundation and also read his intriguing blogs on his personal page.

Crockett is very clearly driven to change the world at a classroom level, contributing to the greatness of all and doing what is best for our students and children. Let’s join him in making great things happen!

June 2, 2016
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Take a Walk through a World of Words

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When students at Aberdeen Elementary walk to their gym class or computer lab, they get the opportunity to walk through the very heart and centre of the school, the library. Unlike other school libraries that are located in a separate room, the Aberdeen Elementary Library is physically laid out in such a way that almost all the hallways leave from the library.

“Our library is in the middle of the school and we have just under 400 students navigating their way through the library on a daily basis, to get to other classes,” explains Rae Carter, the Teacher Librarian at Aberdeen Elementary. “The building was built in the 1980’s and it was specifically constructed to have the library as the hub of the school.”

Carter explains that the previous librarian had done a great job a creating a dynamic and interesting space for the students, especially considering the complications that can arise with that much traffic flowing through the space.

“We’ve designed it in such a way so that it’s very visual and uses perimeter shelving for easy accessibility. This creates a nice open flow with lots of room to move,” notes Carter. “It’s amazing how much the children notice when we create enticing display spaces with posters, book jackets and other visually engaging resources.”

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To make things simpler for the students, the easy picture books and all fiction are located on one side of the hall and the non-fiction books can be found on the other side. This simple design makes it much easier for younger children to understand the difference. The best part is that the design allows for more students to become interactive.

“Intermediate students regularly use the library as it gives them a place to gather rather than the hallways,” admits Carter. “We’ve also tried to create a fun and cozy place for primary students with comfortable chairs, easily movable furniture and interesting shaped tables. This helps to facilitate collaborative group work and draws them into the area.”

Besides all of these print learning resources, Aberdeen Elementary also has access to digital learning resources like World Book, EBSCO and other resources in the BC Digital Classroom suite. To help the students access these resources for studies and homework, both in class and remotely from home, district teacher-librarians came up with a great idea. Why not create a bookmark that easily identifies the resources for elementary students on one side and resources for secondary students on the other side?

Library Coordinator, Andrea Wallin and Graphic Technician, Carlo Sia, along with the help of print shop staff, jumped on the idea and put together the design:

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Now the design is tweaked slightly every year depending on what databases the district subscribes to. Best part is that every child gets a bookmark that provides remote access 24/7 to the resources they need and use and they can find their individual login and password written right on their bookmark. So why not learn from Aberdeen Elementary and try something different that works!

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May 4, 2016
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Sm’algyax – A Language Not Forgotten

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Most of us are very familiar with the native lands around our area and the various bands that live within the community. Often though, we know very little about this rich culture within our midst. That isn’t the case for Prince Rupert, BC.

Sm’algyax is the language of the Ts’msyen First Nation in Prince Rupert which has various dialects. These Sm’algyax dialects are all represented in the language program taught in all 6 elementary, one middle, one high school and one village school in SD52. It started with teaching K-4 in just 3 elementary schools, but soon the council, school and families wanted to know why it wasn’t offered in all of the schools. Teachers were on board as well as they noticed great uptake from the Grade 5 class if the students started learning the language from kindergarten. Soon all schools were included.

The language program has been offered in grades 5-12 for 17 years and even longer in the Aboriginal community in the surrounding villages. The language teachers are Sm’algyax certified classroom teachers and co-teach with Sm’algyax fluent teachers/elders.

“Our Sm’algyax language is the foundation of who we are. All students and Canadians should know the history of where they live,” explains Roberta Edzerza, District Principal for Aboriginal Education in School District 52 – Prince Rupert. “Our Aboriginal students take great pride in knowing their own language and it builds self-esteem as well as cognitive and literacy skills. It also creates a real sense of belonging.”

The language is taught for 45-90 minutes a week and includes play-based learning, songs and games and learning from the land. Students gain pride as they learn the language and the culture and often share their learning outside of school.

“As a parent I can say that both of my children, one in grade 6 and one in grade 11, are very pleased about correcting me on my language learning,” laughs Edzerza. “That’s where their pride comes in and they want to share their knowledge, even with their parents.”

A Sm’algyax committee was originally created to help revitalize, record and develop the language. One of the largest accomplishments was the creation of the Sm’algyax dictionary. With linguists on board and great support from the committee, the online dictionary was created, which also includes audio recordings to help with proper pronunciation. The Sm’algyax dictionary was just the beginning! After many years of hard work creating Sm’algyax resources, by the many trail blazers, the district now has a rich collection of resources that are shared with students, parents and the general community.

“We are now working on a Sm’algyax app,” explains Edzerza. “The main reason we’re able to create this is mostly due to the amazing support we get from the various departments both internally and government, plus support from the community, post-secondary schools and more.”

The app is expected to be released in the Fall in draft form, with the various dialects from other communities included. This can then be used by anyone, including the parents. With students now speaking the language at home, many adults were also interested in learning Sm’algyax. This opened the door for evening community classes.

“The uptake has been very good with two classes offered in different areas, once a week,” notes Edzerza. “The Sm’algyax Language Authority has really helped our team due to the knowledge and history they have around the language and culture. They guide with the bigger decisions and ensure that protocol is being followed and respected, and with programs like this within our community.”

The dedicated involvement from various groups truly allows the sacredness of this language to thrive.

“The program provides an opportunity to bring in culture and language together,” notes Edzerza. “Students truly get an understanding of who they are and how they fit in the puzzle. It provides identity which is the emotional part of the learning. The deeper connection to the language makes it more meaningful.”

To get a true feel for this beautiful language, check out the Sm’algyax dictionary and make sure to listen to the audio to hear the glottal stop and proper pronunciation.

May 4, 2016
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Creating New Ways to Share Your Districts Resources

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Looking for ways to help your teachers access their paid resources easily? Consider what Gordon Powell from SD38 has done. By creating a magazine cover page to feature PDF full-text magazines in EBSCO, Powell has made accessing EBSCO resources as easy as a click away. Icons were created for the different categories: Kids, Teens, General and Pro-D. By clicking on the icon, you visit the landing page which lists all the issues by year. Then just pick an issue, click on the article and read! Check it out here. We also list Powell’s resource set up in our sharing section of the BC Digital Classroom resource site.

If your district or school doesn’t have this type of set up, you may want to try our Access page on our new BC Digital Classroom site. By clicking the product icon’s, you should be able to IP authenticate and gain access to the resources you have licensed. However, if you have never accessed these before, you may find it overwhelming. But not to worry, that’s why we’ve put together your Professional Learning Team! They have a variety of presentations you can pick from and they can also provide you with your own training materials so you can continue to share with the rest of your peers as you explore your resources. Consider pre-booking these Pro-D days with ERAC and share your specific needs so we can properly support you. Book a session by contacting Kevin Amboe at kamboe@bcerac.ca directly. If you don’t jump on this opportunity, you may be one of those participants that said, “I wish we had this when I was doing a project last year!”. Don’t be that person, and take advantage of what our team can offer you! Our team is driven and focused and are often expanding their support services so check back on their page and you can also stay up to date by following their hashtag on Twitter at #erac247.

For a complete, easy to view, list of your resources, go to this BC Digital Classroom agreement page. You can also download this helpful BC Digital Classroom brochure and then print and share it!

April 5, 2016
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ERAC’s Math Pilot Well Underway

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Congratulations to the 20 teachers involved in ERAC’s Math Pilot project!  All of the schools involved will be exploring the integration of Minecraft to support Mathematical learning.  Schools will also be using one of the ERAC evaluated and approved Digital Math Resources including Dreambox Learning, Mangahigh, or Math Help Services. All together we have 10 schools involved province wide, 20 very enthusiastic teachers and 9 quality products to use. Vendors are now working with the schools to get the accounts set up. Of the 10 schools, we have six from outside the lower mainland which include 3 in Quesnel, 1 in Kootenay Lakes, 1 in Kootenay Columbia and 1 in Mission. Students involved are from Grade 1 to 12 in this Math Pilot. When recently visiting one of the schools, the students there quickly showed their excitement and that they couldn’t wait to get started. Great news for the Mathematics teacher! We’ll be sure to update you as we progress on this new Math Pilot.  

March 1, 2016
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Automotive Class Taken to Another Level at FrankHurt Secondary

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FrankHurt Secondary has become well-known in the Surrey School District, winning a gold, five years in a row through the Skills Canada Regional Competition, and twice winning all three medals (gold, silver and bronze) with relation to their trade programs, specifically their automotive program. The ACE-IT program chooses 16 students from the Surrey School district and this last year, 4 students alone were chosen from FrankHurt. That’s pretty impressive considering there are 19 schools within the Surrey School District to choose from.

What’s really impressive though is how popular the automotive program is in FrankHurt and this is mostly due to the automotive technology teacher, Manpreet (Mani) Grewal, who is now in his ninth year of teaching Automotive at FrankHurt Secondary. “Originally my auto teacher got me involved in teaching. I used to take his class at Terry Fox School in Coquitlam and from there went on to be a licensed mechanic,” explains Grewal. “He came to my shop and asked if I’d be interested in teaching automotive. I obtained the additional education I needed, and then taught for a while at another school before coming to FrankHurt.”

In the beginning, Grewal thought he wouldn’t have much patience for teenagers, but what he found instead was that teaching and working with the students was some of the most rewarding work he’d ever done. “I love being hands on with the kids,” notes Grewal. “Because I’m very open and honest with them, the connections are easy to make and foster”.

Grewal also has high expectations for the students that enter his class and he’s always looking at ways to engage them more. To keep his students focused, Grewal stopped teaching from a book and instead started creating PowerPoints to assist with the lessons.

“It was frustrating trying to teach automotive from books, especially when wanting to show the internal parts of an engine working and other mechanical parts of a vehicle,” stresses Grewal. “I started to develop lesson plans using PowerPoint and found it to be an invaluable teaching tool. It has had a positive influence with the students learning and understanding of more difficult theories.”

The students then took it a step further and started to videotape various automotive related demos and posting them to YouTube, and soon the FrankHurtAuto YouTube channel was created, with access available to the public.

“When the students got involved with making the videos, they worked that much harder, wrote scripts and then decided if they wanted to post it online,” explains Grewal. “It was four times as much work doing it that way, but they mastered the skill and it was obvious that their understanding had improved exponentially.”

Besides the YouTube Channel, Grewal also set up a wikispace where you can find all the PowerPoints, Automotive course outlines and even some insight into their personal school drag racing team! What was most surprising was the reach these resources got.

“I started receiving messages from people and other teachers from all over the world, who were accessing our resources and finding it extremely helpful,” notes Grewal. “People contacted me from the US, Australia and India, all with the same note of thanks for providing such a valuable resource to help them.”

The modern equipment and school support also helped to take Grewal’s automotive class to another level, allowing them to run a ‘light’ shop, bringing in local cars for work.

“This real world experience helps my students to apply their knowledge and skills in a more impactful way,” states Grewal. “They learn to deal with customers, resolve problems, provide potential solutions, all while creating other skill sets that will help them after school.”

With only 24 students allowed per class, this automotive program is in high demand and has a waiting period. On average, out of that 24, 8 to 10 students go into a trade either in automotive, heavy duty or commercial transport. That’s a great success rate!

Whether you’re a student wanting to get ready for that automotive test, or if you’re just an average person wanted to learn some basic automotive care, Mani Grewal’s educational resources will come in handy!

February 3, 2016
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YOUR Stories Shared Across the Province

It’s easy to get weighed down, focusing on the challenges within our schools and districts, while we try to search for new solutions. The good news is that other districts face similar problems and are finding innovative and exciting new ways of overcoming obstacles and this is the perfect space to share them! ERAC’s Update newsletter goes out to over 2500 people every month which means you can share your story with thousands of others, and possibly help them along the way! Here are a few stories from the past that you might enjoy:

Minecraft – Marvelous Educational Tool or Misguided Mania?

Time to Make Space for Makerspace!

A Day in the Life of an Oweekeno School Student

So if you’re excited about new things happening in your district or school, contact our Communications Manager, Cathy Yeomans, and she’ll talk to you about adding your story to our newsletter! She can be reached at cyeomans@bcerac.ca.

January 15, 2016
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“Ruler of the Forest” Creates Community Collaboration & Connection

The AHA! moment came for Dan Norman, now in the position of Curriculum Coordinator for Aboriginal Education, SD79, Cowichan, when he heard Florence James Cultural Teaching Assistant speaking Hul’q’umi’num. “I thought to myself, ‘How could I have grown up in this area and taught in our schools for 14 years and never heard this?'” explains Norman.

Although there are many dialects spoken in the Coast Salish territory, one of the main dialects is Hul’q’umi’num and historically it was an oral language only. Since it wasn’t a written language, there was an even greater need to preserve it and that’s where Dan Norman’s ten year journey began.

“Our goal as a district is to provide high quality, culturally relevant and authentic resources,” notes Norman. “But we found we were not able to meet this mandate without working closely with the nations we serve.”

To address this, the district first started to take English stories and convert them into Hul’q’umi’num. They soon found that because it had such a different structure, the translation didn’t work and the phrasing was never correct. This started a different process. Instead of converting from English to Hul’q’umi’num, they would do the opposite and take a Hul’q’umi’num story and convert it to English.

“This became a huge collaboration and we approached our local Elders about doing this project, asking them for guidance and help in selecting a story,” explains Norman. “The committee of Elders selected an excellent place-based story that showed the relationship between the language, the people and the land.”

The place-based book is called ” Ruler of the Forest” and is an ancient story of the land. It fits beautifully with the local settings in a forest in the Somenos Marsh by the Cowichan River and Bay, and is offered in hard copy as a Flipbook, reading in Hulq’umi’num’ language one way, and then flipped to read the English version.

The book was just published this summer and can also be found in SOLR (the Shareable Online Learning Resources) as well as on the SD79 Aboriginal Education site. The story is rich in information and values as it has traditional teachings of leadership, honesty and working together. But the book itself wasn’t the true accomplishment. The partnerships created in the community became the true achievement of the project.

“When we initially reached out to OPDF (Online Program Development Fund) for funding, we were required to build the community and we wrote the application as a collective,” notes Norman. “We met with Elders, our language authorities, various local Universities as well as other school districts, and that was just the beginning.”

The challenge was co-creating the vision and coming to a collective goal. However, the belief in the importance of preserving and sharing the language was so strong that it was easy to get deep commitment from all partners.

Funding was received and used to hire professionals and to create high quality audio recordings (which can be heard through the online version). It was also challenging to find a Coast Salish artist who could provide kids book illustrations since most of that art was not illustrative, although beautiful. There was a tremendous amount of translation work needed as well, and the written parts were done by Ruby Peter working in partnership with Donna Gerdts, Simon Fraser University linguists. Overall, there was assistance needed on many different levels and support was also provided by Denise Augustine, Principal for Aboriginal Education. She had a gift for bringing people together and the project quickly evolved.

“Shared ownership is an important principle in our Aboriginal community,” stresses Norman. “They’ve always had a deep understanding of that but we’ve had to learn it and apply it.”

Now, various community partners are ‘owning it’ and sharing this resource around the area. It is also being used in the schools as a language teaching tool.

“Ten years ago, you only heard Hul’q’umi’num in 3 or 4 schools,” notes Norman. “I doubt if there is any school now in our district that hasn’t heard this rich language.”

The relationships built within the community from this project, are by far the most powerful result. The richness, diversity and strength of the Aboriginal community should be celebrated and this helps to break down barriers that might exist within the area.

“I’m just one member of a diverse professional community,” explains Norman. “I’m like the mechanic, helping to make things work, but I definitely wasn’t the creative or driving force behind it all.”

The many partners, supporters and collaborators on this project can all be found on theAbEdSd79 site under the Ruler of the Forest resource.

One final bit of advice Norman shares is to remember it’s about building a community. Not coming with a solution, but creating one together.

“Don’t go to your community with pre-determined outcomes but instead work in partnership with the community to create your outcome together,” advises Norman. “Share what’s possible and then listen to your community members’ s feedback. The ideas generated and solutions initiated often create a more cohesive and high functioning partnership within your district. These relationships are powerful”.

If you have something interesting happening in your school or district, or want to share how you overcame challenges so that other districts can also benefit from your knowledge, then contact our Communications Manager, Cathy Yeomans at cyeomans@bcerac.ca to share your story!

November 15, 2015
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Welcome Your New Professional Learning Team at ERAC

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We know how very busy our educators are, and how overwhelming it can be trying to access and use all your resources. For that reason, we have expanded our Professional Learning Team! You were already introduced to Kevin Amboe most recently, and you may have seen him at some of the PSA’s, but now he also has two additional team members, Monica Berra, SD57 and Lisa Read, SD79. These two women bring a wealth of expertise, passion and energy to the table and will be helping Kevin to build on professional learning support for the BC Digital Classroom as well as other ERAC evaluated and licensed products. So consider pre-booking your Pro-D days with ERAC and share your specific needs so we can help support you. Just contact Kevin Amboe directly at kamboe@bcerac.ca.

November 15, 2015
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A Day in the Life of an Oweekeno School Student

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How does your average school day start? You might have your students check in on a SmartBoard when they arrive at class. Then they’re onto a small assignment, maybe writing or math and then snacks and recess and maybe some art and PE in the afternoon.  That’s where the similarities end for Oweekeno Elementary, SD49, Central Coast.

This robust, but small community village only have about 60 people and to access it, you’ll need to find a float plane or boat. With a total of 7 students (1 in grade 1, 1 in grade 2, 1 in grade 3, 1 in grade 4, 2 in grade 5 and 1 in grade 11) in various grade levels, the challenge exists of how to teach a multi-level grade class.

But educator, Kevin Gianakos relishes the challenge and thoroughly enjoys his job. “I love the relationships I get to build with the students and their families,” explains Gianakos. “It’s been quite amazing how welcomed my family and I have been.”

But don’t plan on enjoying your morning snack outside! Oweekeno students know well to eat inside so that the local animals don’t get into their food. These animals are not like our familiar racoons, instead they comprise of grizzly bears, cougars, wolves and more. Therefore the reason for the 7 foot tall fence around the outside recess area. But that doesn’t deter these students as they enjoy a lot of outdoor activity.

“I try to make classes active,” explains Gianakos. “We incorporate Math while doing obstacle courses and also walk around the community to check out what our static cameras have captured.

” With wildlife images to enjoy through the camera view, the fun doesn’t stop there for these students. Often Gianakos wife comes to visit class with their new baby and the students enjoy a short visit. Then after lunch at home, students get into their reading program through First Nations Literacy Program. Gianakos expands on the program, explaining the 26 levels they go through, with 10 books in each level. With SETBC providing 2 computers, it allowed access to digital books as well. But it doesn’t stop there. As students’ progress, they can choose a prize from the prize bin! Now that’s a school students can enjoy!

Although the district has purchased the BC Digital Classroom, they are still getting set up and Gianakos is looking forward to the access.

“Resources in this remote community are one of our biggest challenges,” notes Gianakos. “I tend to beg, borrow and scrounge, plus the district is quite accommodating, but they can only do so much when they are a 1 hour flight away.”

Another challenge is the lack of a peer group with such limited students. Now that this small community has internet access, Gianakos has taken it to another level.

“I am looking into incorporating virtual Skype Classrooms,” explains Gianakos. “We had a successful Christmas Play dress rehearsal that we did over Skype for the Board Office so we’re looking at ways to expand its use and benefit from our wifi connectivity.

” When first applying for the teacher job, Gianakos explains that during the interview process and selection, they continually checked in with him and asked “Are you still interested?”. The remote community had experienced high turn-over and wanted to confirm his commitment.

Interested he was! His wife and him quickly moved and with some bumps in the road, eventually found themselves to be a permanent fixture of the community. When asked about his greatest adventure since living there, Gianakos only response is “You want me to pick ONE?”

“Just boating down the river is so beautiful and you see so many eagles,” exclaims Gianakos. “The bottom of the river was literally alive and we even had seals following us.  There are also so many amazing cultural events that we feel privileged to be a part of. Overall, it’s just such an amazing place to live and work.”

The District Contact, John Breffitt, from Bella Coola (SD49) will be joining us for IT4K12 so be sure to welcome him as he is travelling quite the distance!  Consider connecting further with Kevin Gianakos and maybe your class could enjoy a Skype meeting and see what a true remote community might look like!

May 15, 2015
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Minecraft – Marvelous Educational Tool or Misguided Mania?

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If you haven’t yet heard of Minecraft then check the walls around you because you might be living under a rock. This huge gaming phenomenon took the gaming industry by storm with its initial release in 2009, selling more than 33 million copies and counting. Yet with today’s technological advances, the graphics and sound in this game are surprisingly poor, blurry, basic and simple, at best.

So what’s the attraction compared to all of the other games out there? Minecraft is what’s called a sandbox game where the player can create anything by exploring, mining materials, building and more. There are no characters or story or even specific steps or goals, so everyone playing gets a difference experience. Also, since it’s not a “winning” game, there is no chance of actually losing.

“Minecraft allows children to play together at the same level, no matter their age, culture or academic background,” explains Iram Khan, Principal for McLeod Road Traditional School, SD36. “Kids are naturally attracted to the game because it’s so free, there are no rules and they can be creative. They can even choose the role they want to play like an Explorer or Creator.”

Most games in the past tend to have more structure and place you into the mold of the character. Minecraft doesn’t do any of this. Since Minecraft is an open-ended game with a never-ending landscape and digitally rendered resources, the possibilities are infinite. Creativity is truly the secret behind the popularity of the game, and since kids are so passionate about Minecraft, it seems to be a natural transition into the classroom. Teachers were finding they could communicate effectively on notoriously challenging topics, leading to profound discussions, just by using the game innovatively within the classroom.

“Teaching about government can be challenging, but through the use of Minecraft, we were able to build a civilization based on different styles of government,” notes Khan. “As the students moved through the different styles of government, they were able to understand the intricacies of how it worked and how it would affect them.”

Another example Khan gave for younger students, was when they were asked to create an amusement park. Each student got to create their own game or ride and then include the teacher on a tour of how their ride worked, how much it cost, and more.  Engagement was high and it supported the learning lesson.

“The passion for Minecraft is what makes it so easy to bring into the classroom. All kids are engaged,” said Khan. “When played on a computer, the game allows you to work collaboratively with others. The accomplishments are regular and ongoing which make the students feel really good about themselves.”

At present, students at Khan’s school use iPads but they are transitioning to computers to open up more opportunities to work together and expand the learning. To do this, they will be using MinecraftEdu. MinecraftEdu is an expanded educational version used in schools (on computers), specifically designed to teach a wide range of subjects. This is the direction McLeod Road Traditional School is going.

But parents have some concerns and are worried that all the screen time will become a substitute for exploring the real world. Khan understands their concerns and believes there just needs to be more conversations around the subject to show the learning.

“My son plays Minecraft and was seven years old when he taught me,” explains Khan. “It was simply wonderful. He was appreciative and felt so empowered to teach me something. It was very bonding and we enjoyed seeing what each of us created.”

Minecraft is full of worthy challenges and educational opportunities. It helps kids work toward goals, problem solve, and use their imagination and creativity. It also can be a great way for students with high anxiety or special needs to express themselves confidently in the classroom. They tend to thrive online.

“AutCraft is a Minecraft server specifically for people who have autism, and their families,” notes Khan. “They actually have counsellors on their servers to provide assistance when needed. The autistic student learns to do virtual problem solving and build skills for real life.”

But Khan clarifies that you don’t actually need the game for learning, you can just incorporate it. For instance when learning about biomes, students can be asked how they would handle the hazards in that specific biome, or what they need to do to adapt and survive in that environment. Khan sums it up perfectly by saying, “You don’t need the game to engage learners, you just need to find out what kids are passionate about and creatively bring it into the classroom!”

For additional resources and tools that can be used in the classroom, check out the ERAC Agreements as well as search our ERAC Online Resource Collection. Happy gaming and learning!

April 15, 2015
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It’s Time to Make Space for MakerSpace!

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The Maker Movement is growing, and you’re probably already a part of it! While many educators are already engaging students in ways to participate, share and learn – MakerSpace provides a shift by empowering teachers with added tools for experimental play by building, creating and tinkering.

 

Kevin Amboe, former Elementary Information and Media Literacy Coordinator with SD36, Surrey, (presently Grade 6 Teacher at David Brankin Elementary), is a big supporter of MakerSpace and recently gave a MakerSpace presentation at IL4K12 which was well attended. Amboe explains that it’s all about “empowering play”.

 

“Equipment that was purchased at year end last year is being used by teachers who are exploring the kits and creating their own learning paths for themselves, and their students,” notes Amboe. “We need to think how to use the equipment and tools innovatively in a way that creates play-based learning. That is where kids learning is at.”

 

The great thing about MakerSpace is that students can feel success quickly as it builds on trial and error. Making isn’t just physical but the act of creating. MakerSpaces are not based on physical space but rather on sharing the ideals of making, tinkering, collaborative learning and invention.
Through huge support on a district level, Amboe was able to work with an Information and Literacy Media team and Elisa Carlson to move this project forward and actually make MakerSpaces come to life. Mini Maker kits were created for the districts use. The kits proved to be extremely successful in the classroom with great student involvement.

 

“One of the kits that we provided featured the ‘Makey Makey’ which is a tool that turns the whole world into a keyboard. You can use your wildest imagination to turn everyday objects into touch pads and combine them with the internet,” explains Amboe. “A perfect example is to hook up the Makey Makey to something fun, like bananas, and then instead of using the computer keyboard buttons to play a piano program, your bananas become the piano keys!”

Amboe also uses fantastic apps like Explain Everything, and is a huge believer in using a digital camera (or camera built into an iDevice) so that students can talk to the photos. For instance, a hesitant writer who writes 30 words in an hour, can now write it into a comic book, and add photos, making the 30 words more meaningful.

Another great benefit of MakerSpace is that it provides students with hands on options to explore, helping to alleviate language and cultural barriers. It keeps their thinking engaged and takes it to a deeper level.

“While I’m reading a story in MakerSpace, I’ll have the kids demonstrate their learning in a non-text way,” notes Amboe. “I’ll get everything from sculptures made with play dough to Paper Mache space shuttles with working lights and landing gear! It’s really quite amazing. It allows the inquiry mindset and empowers them. Just play, and they can learn along the way.”

Failure is also a large part of the learning and Amboe likes to view ‘FAIL’ as ‘First Attempt In Learning’.

 

“I want kids to stop worrying about making mistakes. I want them to struggle and figure it out on their own,” notes Amboe. “The frustration is part of it. They have to work through the obstacle to find a solution and the kits are designed to easily connect to new possibilities.”
While playing and creating, the students explain what they’ve done and the learning continues as they tweak and change things as they go. They find out what to do differently to get things working.  Video snippets are also taken of the individual students and uploaded into their personal portfolios. This allows for the parents to also see their progress and builds in oral fluency.
Amboe sums it up perfectly by adding, “You can do so many different things when you learn to think differently”.

 

Find out more about Kevin Amboe here, and click on this Maker Space link for more resources and information, including a Maker Space kit resource list from Surrey.
January 15, 2015
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