Spectrum community school teacher Erin Porter teaches algebra to students using a Smart board.

Spectrum community school teacher Erin Porter teaches algebra to students using a Smart board.

FEATURE: Educators use technology to reach new generation of students

It’s pop quiz day in Erin Porter’s math class. How well do her Grade 10 students know linear algebraic equations?

No pencils are sharpened, no papers are turned in. Instead, Porter hands out a class set of digital clickers that connect to the Smart board at the front of the room.

The first multiple choice question – on deducing the formula for the perimeter of a rectangle – appears on the large interactive monitor. Instantly Porter can see who’s still thinking, who answered incorrect and that 80 per cent of the class got the question right.

“I’ve seen the positive effects when you change up what they’re learning with some of the kinds of technologies they’re using on a daily basis,” Porter says. “If the engagement is up, they tend to be more focused.”

That’s why she’s devoted a significant chunk of her time as a teacher to mastering the Smart board and translating the usual lesson plans – typically taught on a chalk board, overhead projector or straight from the textbook – to an interactive, digital format.

The Spectrum community school teacher is one of hundreds of local teachers incorporating technology via computers and Smart boards as a way of promoting a new type of learning.

“Students are more interested if there’s a cool factor, and it definitely is cool,” says Grade 10 student Zach Gibson of the Smart board. “It’s a lot easier to stay focused in math this year … I never want to fall asleep.”

The 15 year old, one of Porter’s students, says he and his classmates appreciate when teachers acknowledge the changing times and integrate technology into the lesson.

“We’re so used to having phones, iPods, computers around. When we have the Smart board it’s a lot easier for us because it’s in that same category,” Gibson says.

It’s a sentiment echoed by teachers and administrators supportive of using these electronics as an educational tool.

“I think it’s a complement to existing learning … In education, we have to be careful that we don’t toss out what has been working well,” says Spectrum’s vice-principal Sharoyne Gaiptman.

Computers have acted as a bridge between traditional learning and what many schools are calling “21st-century learning,” or digital learning, says Torquay elementary principal Treacy Roberts-Johnson.

By the time students leave the K-5 school they’re well versed in how to use computers to research, word process and create visual presentations.

“We want them to use the technology to communicate, express themselves,” Roberts-Johnson says. “For us, it was about: how do we integrate technology with what we’re doing? instead of using technology for the sake of technology.”

Porter agrees. She doesn’t use the Smart board simply because there’s a novelty to it. Rather, she sees how it can benefit her and her students.

“This is a lot easier for me. I can be more focused and organized,” she says. “They’re not zoning out. They’re not falling asleep.

“There are so many opportunities with technology, but we’re also fighting the fact that (gadgets can be a distraction) if not used properly.”

For students like Gibson, who says his iPhone is never out of eyeshot, there’s a sense of respect gained for teachers who have the desire to change the format of classroom learning, even if what exists works for them.

“A lot of teachers teach a lot of different ways – that’s fine. But when you get someone like Ms. Porter who brings in something that we’re so used to using anyway, you get the feeling she really wants you to succeed because it’s like she’s reaching out to us,” he says. “She’s showing us that she understands times have changed and you can use technology in class to enhance the lesson.”

Math isn’t Gibson’s favourite subject, but he says he’s made huge strides this semester, which he attributes to being more engaged in class.

“We’re more motivated because we’re so used to being in that sort of environment. We go home and we’re on the computer, we go to math class and we’re pretty much on the computer,” Gibson says. “We’re all so dependent on electronics – the whole world is so surrounded by technology. It just makes sense to allow it to play a role in schools.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

A dying art?

The need to know cursive – the quick form of handwriting in which letters of a word are connected – continues to dwindle. The blame is most often attributed to technology as, more and more, written communication is being done electronically.

To try and keep up handwriting skills, many elementary schools are teaching cursive as a personalized art form rather than as just a way to communicate.

For example, Nicole Grant teaches fourth graders at Torquay elementary school that they can change the letter ‘m’ – an arm first, then two bumps – once they’ve honed their skills.

“Eventually you’ll be able to put your own style into it,” she says.

Cursive is still on the curriculum for students beginning in Grade 3, but it doesn’t get the same attention it once required.

“It isn’t pushed as much today as it was when I was in school because of their use of computers – that’s what they’re using to write,” Grant says.

James Hansen, principal of Doncaster elementary, says the last 10 to 20 years have been the most challenging for teachers trying to stress the importance of cursive to students. The reality is it’s a skill that’s not as vital now as it was for past generations.

“In 1980 it might’ve been a huge part of your success in Grade 3, but not anymore,” he says. “It hasn’t been abandoned here. I hope it doesn’t get abandoned. It’s still very useful for them to know.”

PART 1 of a 3 part feature

Just Posted

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read