Education Minister Don Morgan, Sun West Director of Education, Guy Tetrault, members of the Sun West Board of Education, area MLA Greg Brkich, Kenaston Town Officials as well as several school-based administrators met and toured Kenaston School and the Distance Learning Centre (DLC) last month. The group had an opportunity to observe blended learning classrooms, the heart rate monitor project, as well as construction on the new Distance Learning Centre building.
The tour began in Rebecca Farrell’s combined Grade 1 and 2 blended learning classroom. At its core, blended learning combines the best of face-to-face instruction with the benefit of online learning, allowing the teacher to support students as they focus on their individual learning needs. Using a centres approach, students in this 1:1 classroom use iPads and licensed software such as Mathletics and Reading Eggs to have some input into the pace of their learning.
Next, the group spent time in the gym observing how middle level students in Jenna Fisher’s Phys. Ed class are able to monitor their own fitness levels with heart rate monitors. While use of the heart rate monitors in schools has been available for almost 20 years, the Sun West School Division started using this latest version of the technology two years ago, implementing approximately 500 devices in 19 of our schools during this time. These devices are connected via Bluetooth to an iPad, which allows each of the students’ heart rates to be visually projected on a screen in real time throughout the class period. As a result, students are able to individually control their intensity, finding the zone that is right for them. For every ten minutes students are in the Target Heart Zone, they receive a digital badge. The collection of badges is proving to be motivational for students as many will increase their intensity level during the class so that they can collect the badges. Miles Bennett is currently studying approximately 150 students to see if the collection of the digital badges does correlate to a higher increase in cardiorespiratory fitness.
A final classroom visit took place in a synchronous or “live” broadcast of a math class. Nathan Herrem is just one of the Distance Learning teachers who uses online meeting software to deliver a live broadcast of his lessons to other schools in the Sun West School Division, while teaching to a face-to-face class in Kenaston at the same time. Through his flipped classroom approach, another model of blended learning, Nathan is able to provide much of his instruction through videos to students in his class, freeing up his face-to-face and broadcast time with supporting students as they work through math problems. One of the benefits of having access to instructional videos is that students can re-watch the videos as many times as needed to understand the concept being taught. By making these videos available online through a Sun West Moodle course, parents can also support students in their learning at home.
Following the in-school classroom visits, guests went on a tour of Sun West’s newest school, the Distance Learning Centre. The model of online teaching at the Distance Learning Centre is very collaborative in nature and this new space reflects that approach. The online school is comprised of open teacher work areas, two green screen recording studios for the creation of instructional videos, smaller offices for additional screencast recordings, a printing room for the production of student workbooks and other course materials, as well as collaborative meeting spaces where teachers work in PLTs to design and develop the online courses. The project is slated to be completed before Christmas, giving teachers time to adjust to their new workspace well before the Semester 1 deadline. Now, and in the future, Kenaston School and the Distance Learning Centre will continue to work together to provide flexible learning opportunities for students in this community, across Sun West, and throughout the province.