In this October 2012 photo, a trio of friends use iPads in their classroom at King George School. The Brandon School Division will continue rolling out its personalized learning with a focus on technology plan at four schools, including Alexander and Valleyview, this fall.
A tablet or laptop may not be on their school supplies list this year, but that doesn’t mean students won’t be using technology in the classroom.
With today marking the start of a new school year, Brandon School Division will once again set its sights on technology in the classroom with a focus on personalized learning.
"We are being careful about the fact that there is some learning that needs to happen before people are comfortable with bringing whatever it is to the classroom," Kelli Boklaschuk, BSD’s communication and technology specialist, said in a recent interview with the Sun. "If you don’t have a good understanding of what you’re getting yourself into, using technology can be a scary thing."
This year, BSD will continue rolling out its personalized learning with a focus on technology and learning plan at Alexander, Meadows and Valleyview schools, and Vincent Massey High School, with five more schools joining in early 2015. Personalized learning, the primary focus of the implementation plan, gives students a chance to choose and use the best piece of technology for what they want to achieve.
"It’s important to think about and teach ... what’s the best tool," Boklaschuk said, adding it’s also about teaching students what it means to be a good digital citizen. "Without being informed, you could just by accident cause something to be unsafe."
Keeping students safe online also ties into the division’s recently approved social media policy.
"We don’t want kids to get themselves into trouble with social media, whether it’s at school or otherwise," school board chair Mark Sefton said.
The social media policy recognizes the ways in which social media sites, when used correctly, "provide an efficient means of communicating with students and parents and may have a supportive role within the curriculum."
With approximately 3,500 Windows devices and roughly 400 Apple devices already spread out across the division, providing students with their own personal device would be a "big budget item," Sefton said.
"We’ve got other needs to address before we start providing students with their own devices," he said. "We’re working towards a situation where students can bring their own device."
Supt. Donna Michaels describes BSD’s approach to technology as "the next revolutionary step."
Michaels added implementation of a division-wide scent-free-schools policy will now be dealt with by the incoming board of trustees once they are elected on Oct. 22. Although current trustees voted unanimously in favour of the policy in September 2013, they have yet to iron out all of the details.
In the meantime, last month the department of Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning released smudging protocol and guidelines for school divisions, which suggest schools designate areas where smudging is allowed as well as make smudging part of a learning experience, either in a classroom or during an event.
"The most important thing is that when a smudge is lit, it is done with respect of those who choose not to be involved, as well as those who choose to be involved," the provincial document states. "The school community should remember that at one time, First Nations cultural traditions were illegal and smudging was a practice that had to be done in secret."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 3, 2014