Engaging staff and students in school or system wide change is a challenging endeavour. Change can start from the bottom up or top down. It often requires resources in the way of time, money, and people. Any new initiative needs support for training and capacity building to ensure that staff and students feel capable of implementing and navigating a new reality. Change requires an understanding of the why, how, when, where, and who. Within any organization, we know that there are people who are mavericks, early adopters, and risk takers. They are comfortable with the messiness that is often involved in implementing something new. In fact, some people thrive on this and see it as an opportunity to create, play, and problem solve. Others are more cautious. They want to understand the implications behind a new initiative and see that it has some merits before jumping on board. This next group of implementors prefer the fine tuning process of an initiative. They adopt late, but implement with further depth and analysis. While sometimes critical or even skeptical, these later adopters help us get closer to successfully implementing a change that was at one point simply an idea. They remind us that we cannot make assumptions about our process for implementation or that everyone is comfortably embracing the new change. I always appreciate how these individuals get us to think deeply about why we are doing something new or how it will make a difference.
Riverside started a digital 1:1 initiative this year in which all grade nine students brought a tablet or laptop to school. This was initiated by our staff in the fall of 2012 as we explored the skills that we believe are necessary for our students to thrive in this 21st century. This dedicated group of educators has been working as a team; meeting every Wednesday morning to problem solve, share ideas, and plan for up-scaling this initiative to include grade tens next year. They continue to refine their practice and understanding of how to use technology as a tool for teaching and learning. I am inspired by their level of commitment, desire to learn new skills, and willingness to work through every obstacle they encounter. These teachers are incredible lead learners.
Next year, we will add 30 students to our team to help us deepen our understanding of how technology can enhance the learning experiences for our learners. This Riverside Tech Squad will explore new ways for using technology in the classroom, support students, and assist our learners in using the technology to build more coherence between our digital and physical worlds. This learning process is a partnership between children and adults. Our staff have been learning from students and students have been learning from our staff. As many of our teachers have indicated, in order to teach in this type of environment, we need to be comfortable letting go of our belief that we are the experts in everything that occurs in our classrooms. Students will come in with strengths in areas, such as using a piece of software or an app, learning a shortcut on their device, or creating media presentations that surpass the knowledge base of our teachers. This provides an opportunity for empowering our students to showcase their skills, share their knowledge, and get recognized for their strengths and passions.
This year, we decided to create a short documentary on our first year of 1:1 implementation as a way to hear what staff and students have experienced in this learning environment. With the help of two remarkable grade 12 students, Matthew Young and Kyle Murdoch, we were able to interview and capture some of the thoughts and reflections of those directly involved in this digital environment. Matthew and Kyle spent countless hours interviewing, filming, editing, and consulting with several staff and students. They didn’t do this for money or anything extrinsic, other than the love and enjoyment of creating films. Matthew and Kyle are a perfect example of students who have blended some coursework in art and photography with their own self-taught experiences so that they can produce remarkable pieces of work, such as the one you are about to view. In fact, they even spent a day shadowing a company that was doing some filming here for a Staples conference, just so that they could learn more from experts in the field. These two young men are passionate, determined, and dedicated. Enjoy their work!