Monterey middle school students Luke Wilson

GREAT TEACHERS: Technology playing a key role in today’s classrooms

Students at Monterey middle school in Oak Bay work with teacher using tools they're familiar with

The learning landscape is constantly evolving as technology advances. And teachers are embracing those technologies as new tools.

“You see technologies pervasive in our culture and because of that there’s carry over in our classroom,” said Josh Elsdon, who teaches the Monterey Institute of Technology (MIT), an inaugural Grade 7 class that utilizes technology as part of its routine curriculum.

MIT is based partly on what he’d already seen as a teacher, with students bringing in everyday technology – tablets, laptops, smartphones – and teachers struggling to figure out the place of that technology in the classroom.

“The emergences, like the phones, that’s been interesting watching that evolution take place,” Elsdon said. “They are a powerful tool and I think at first the reaction by most people was to say, ‘They don’t have a place in the classroom.’ I think as people recognize [phones] are not going anywhere – and if anything they’re getting more powerful and capable of handling bigger and better jobs – teachers are trying to find a way to harness them.”

Most educators are simply responding to advances in tablets and laptops and even phones as new tools to access information, presenting information and organizing thoughts.

It’s not really any different than when computers first came into the classroom and quickly became a necessity for any school to have.

“When our kids in middle school start wood shop, there are a lot of tools in there that have the ability to create things that are beautiful and functional. They also have the power to hurt and injure. Technology is the same way,” Elsdon said. “There are a lot of possible outcomes of having access to all of that information and some of them are scary, because it does allow an avenue for inappropriate information to come into school. In the end one of the jobs we have as educators is to show how to use the tools available to us.”

The Greater Victoria School District employs an educational technology co-ordinator, a resource for teachers. The co-ordinator connects with educators across the system to research technology tools and put them to best use.

“In our district we have access to a lot of really good professional development opportunities,” Elsdon said. “A lot of it is just personal exploration as well. The tools the kids are using are the same as those coming into the households of teachers. As we use them in our personal lives we see applications (for) the classroom.”

Reynolds secondary is one of those schools lucky enough to score big funding through a Staples program – Recycle for Education.

“They get a school lab worth $25,000,” explained Don Routliffe, general manager of the Tolmie Road store.

It blends the company’s passion for recycling, a passion shared by today’s youth, and engaging the community. “We are very engaged in trying to work with schools,” Routliffe said. “We get the opportunity to help build relationships with that program.”

Monterey recently used technology funding for 15 iPads that are used in multiple classrooms. Through shared-grant application, they’ve funded and purchased a 3-D printer.

“Our school has really invested in it … Monterey has made it a priority,” Elsdon said. “We have to maintain relevancy. It’s hard to keep up with changing technology, especially from a budgetary point of view. But when we give those opportunities to our students, it’s a sign we are interested in meeting them in their reality and not just trying to prepare them for a life in the older generation’s reality.”

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com

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