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Turning students into creators with authentic learning, technology

Written on November 8th, 2012

Alex van Donkersgoed says his ultimate aim for a digital education enrichment program he’s piloting is to help students fulfill their God-given calling to be creators.

“I want to see them as creators, going out into the world and doing amazing things, … being a creator in the image of God,” van Donkersgoed tells OACS News.

Last year the Halton Hills Christian School Grade 7 teacher co-ordinated a digital education enrichment program over the Internet for interested Grades 7 and 8 students from across six OACS members.

Major projects included creating a radio podcast, biographical video and Wikipedia project.

This year, Van Donkersgoed is collaborating with teachers from two OACS members, Martha Muntz from Orangeville Christian School and Jennica Blydorp from Huron Christian School, to bring this digital learning to their entire classes.

The aim is to have the Grades 7 and/or 7/8 classes from the three schools work together on projects.

They are building digital communications skills to start.

Van Donkersgoed says the commitment to this initial activity stems from a learning he had last year, that children and youth are not necessarily the “digital natives” they’re so often described to be.

“They may know how to play (digital) games and download music,” he notes. “But they don’t know how to communicate effectively.”

Strengthening skills in this respect is taking place through some fun activities, such as a scavenger hunt between the schools that requires students communicating digitally to find what they’re looking for.

Going forward, van Donkersgoed will be keeping in mind another key learning he’s had, which is the importance of “authentic” learning or learning that has some application beyond a teacher’s eyes for the purposes of getting a good grade.

As an example of the power of this authentic learning, he recently had his class submit the traditional autobiography assignment, but with the intention of sharing it with the entire class in order to attract a partner for the digital enrichment program.

“The quality of work I got from that assignment was a lot higher,” he recalls, adding, when asked, that he’s convinced this insight needs to be applied across the board in education.

“How do we make more of this (school) work have more meaning, so students engage in it better,” is a question to consider in all aspects of education, van Donkersgoed suggests.

Technology, obviously, isn’t what creates authenticity in and of itself, but it can certainly be a tool that helps with that.

The initial weeks of the program at Huron, Orangeville and Halton Hills have been exciting for students and teachers, according to van Donkersgoed.

The long-term consideration for all three teachers is expanding this out to other schools.

“All of three of us are interested and willing to collaborate with additional schools, to explore what Year 3 of this program could look like,” says van Donkersgoed.

Interested in learning more? Contact Alex at info(at)ceiada.org or a.vandonkersgoed(at)haltonhillschristianschool.org.