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Future of education series evokes technology questions

Written on December 13th, 2011

A recent Globe and Mail series on the future of education is serving as an important discussion tool, says John Knox Christian School principal Michael Meinema.

Starting Nov. 28, the newspaper series explored ideas such as a “flipped classroom” where students learn through YouTube videos at home and do assignments during school hours, as well as openly learning through using devices like Twitter.

“I applaud the Globe and Mail for addressing this because I think it’s going to start discussions,” Meinema tells the OACS News.

He says using an article at a staff meeting allows people to talk about what they like and dislike about the ideas, and express what they are willing to try.

“It’s amazing what professional growth you can get out of reading an article for five minutes,” he says.

Reflecting on the articles, Meinema says he likes the approach to be thinking about being inventive and trying things out, but cautions that trying something new has to be with the aim to engage children in learning.

He notes the Woodstock school is trying to engage students in learning through integrating technology more at the school and supporting staff opportunities to be creative.

The thing at the heart of this activity, he says, is looking at how it is going to impact students’ learning.

For example, flipped classrooms may not be something parents who are paying $10,000 or more in independent Christian school tuition would go for, notes Meinema. There’s also the practical question of what happens if the Internet goes down and a student can’t access a lesson.

“I want to ensure (technology is) one of the many tools that are impacting kids’ lives, it’s not the tool,” he says.

John Knox Christian School has committed to bringing in resources to integrate technology into teaching.

The Grade 2, 6, and 7 classrooms have portable interactive whiteboards called Mobi View that are like portable smart board.

The junior kindergarten classroom just got equipped with BlackBerry Playbooks, and the children will use apps to practise spelling and counting.

During a recent PD day every staff member created a Wiki Space to provide better communication with staff and students, says Meinema.

Other technology initiatives include using Flip Cameras, a smart board in the resource centre, mounted projectors in all classrooms and in the staff room, and a portable half lab wireless laptop cart with 12 computers that can be wheeled into classrooms.

Meinema has started creating podcasts, which are available on the school website and YouTube, to better inform families about the school

He notes children are comfortable with the technology, and many are using it at home as part of their life.

“It promotes the opportunity for kids to be creative, for them to own learning, and it gives them a chance to take responsibility for what they’re working on,” he says.