Leveraging Technology at Ajax High School

One of the great things about being a teacher is seeing one’s students grow in confidence and develop their learning over the course of a semester. Usually this is accompanied by the ever-sought-after “light-bulb moment” where a student really “gets” an idea or concept. This can usually be seen by a broad smile or an “oh I get it now”.

In my new role as an Educational Technology Coach, I am still lucky enough to experience this when I work with classes. During roll-outs in April at Brock High School, Chris Taylor and I showed a student the “voice to text” feature in Google Docs. We saw the smile and he turned around in his seat to show his friend what he had just learned. That friend turned around to show his friend. Within a few moments that one student’s “aha” moment had turned in a whole classroom experiencing similar “light-bulb” moments as they learned how to use their new digital tool (Chromebook) to help them get their ideas “down on paper”. This far-reaching impact as a coach makes me feel very gratified as I can see the long-term positive effects of shifting digitally.

In the role of coach, I am now doubly lucky. I am also able to experience this through the journeys of the staff and students with whom I work. I get to coach teachers who often end up helping other teachers. These teachers then work with their students, who help other students. Teachers and students building capacity among their peers is certainly great to see! A great example of this started this past September when I was working at Ajax High School. One of the Automotive teachers (Phil Mazzocchi) was willing to come to me (the brand new tech coach) to learn how to use Google G-Suite with the new Chromebooks that were given to all Grade 10 students at the Durham District School Board. Phil told me that he was using technology, and in the past had set up a Learning Management System on D2L Brightspace. However, he was unsure about using another learning management system (LMS) because his students really hadn’t “bought in” to D2L. I told him that if he wanted to give it a try, I would work with him to see if the students had a different, and more positive, reaction to Google Classroom.

We decided to meet on a regular basis and, over the course of the semester, worked on many G-Suite apps that could be used with the Chromebooks. As the weeks went by, I could see Phil become more and more happy with this new technology. One day at the end of our session, he gave me that big, sought-after smile and I knew that the Google tools were working well for him and his classes.

Flash forward to the end of the semester. Phil had been using Chromebooks with his Grade 10 students all semester and they were comfortable with the digital workflow of the various G-Suite apps. We decided to put the Knowledge and Understanding strand of his final exam completely online using Google Forms! Students enjoyed having the assistive tools on their Chromebooks available to them to help them succeed. The students “wrote” their exam on their Chromebooks and the questions were instantly graded by the program. At the DDSB Connect Conference this year, the keynote speaker Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) talked about using technology, which she affectionately referred to as “the robot”, to do the knowledge and understanding marking wherever possible, freeing the teacher up to work on more productive things like offering rich and timely formative feedback for other strands like Thinking and Inquiry or Application. In this case, freeing Phil from the tedium of marking these exams allowed him to invest more time in offering feedback for other summative assessments in his auto class.

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Seeing Phil use technology to shift his professional practice over the course of the semester was great to see and was a real “win-win-win” situation! It was a win for Phil because using an LMS allowed him to have his course available to all his students all of the time. Using the technology as a tool allowed for a more productive workflow and allowed him more time to continue to work with his students, building relationships, and helping them succeed. It was a win for the students as they were able to take advantage of all of the assistive technologies that Google offers for the Chromebooks. It also allowed them 24/7 access to the course materials and assignments. Finally, it was a win for me, as I could see the impact that Coaches and Teachers can have when building relationships and working together as a team.

Everyone wins by leveraging technology!

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