West Vancouver School District recently launched a new addition to its digital literacy vision. Every student in grades 4 to 12 was given access to their own digital space that was designed and created in-house. In short, our students now have their own internal instant messaging, access to district email, personal blog space, digital storage, calendar, announcements feed, and other tools. We call it the Student Dashboard.
The Dashboard is a versatile tool that allows students to centralize their learning and communication within the school and district environment. Within the Dashboard environment, students have the ability to select from a variety of artistic themes and add content that suits their needs. From this perspective, we have given them the sandbox; how they fill and move their sand around is up to them.
Director of Instruction: Technology and Innovation Gary Kern said of the initiative:
"The intent of the dashboards is to provide all students with access to digital tools for communication, collaboration and digital content creation. We know that many students already participate in this space and in these activities in their personal life; however, we have not been able to teach and learn with these tools in a systematic or school wide manner because we have not had the universal access to these tools.
The dashboard is our effort to provide the students with a common set of tools to connect with their learning network, their teachers, and digital learning opportunities. The dashboard is providing us with a “platform” or “foundation” to support personalized learning.
The primary tenet of personalized learning is that every student learns differently, and that every student has unique experiences and backgrounds. A digital platform is one way that can help manage and recognize the multiple learning and pathways that are occurring in our students, and provide a common place to aggregate, share and experience learning."
"In the following blog post HERE, we shared how technology impacts the 3 key phases of learning: content, the learning process, and the "feedback" or assessment (do I know it?) loop.
At each phase, the dashboard can expand opportunities for students through the connection to content and the connection to their learning network.
We are just beginning to leverage the possibilities of a networked school district where students can learn from one another, connect around learning ideas, and expand learning opportunities."
Superintendent Chris Kennedy was recently invited to be the keynote speaker at the EdTech/MindShare Summit 2011 in Toronto. In his address, he spoke about many of the initiatives in SD45, and the way that technology and digital literacy for staff and students is a critical component to moving parts of education forward. To watch his presentation view the video below and scroll the timer to the 1:05:00 minute mark to begin his talk.
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To view a collection of comments from viewers of the presentation click HERE.
The Dashboard is still in its infancy, yet it appears to be gaining popularity. At a recent meeting of school administrators, I was able to watch firsthand a grade 7 student demonstrate how he uses his space to keep himself organized, complete assignments for some of his teachers by generating responses on his blog, store his schoolwork, communicate with his classmates to ask questions, and stay in touch with events going on in the district. As a web based application, he told me that the ability to access his dashboard anytime, anywhere is a significant benefit to enhancing his learning.
I suspect that many parents may have questions about security, privacy, and accountability regarding this platform, as the students themselves are the ones who will predominantly be engaged in the space. Chris Kennedy commented on this in his presentation and cited that there are filters in place to flag key words. In addition, the province's schools access their internet through PLNET (a provincial network infrastructure created and monitored by several provincial government ministries), and that this environment is not unlike that of a playground where when something happens, we rely on students to come forward and adults to respond and support.
While I have not had a great deal of time to explore the Dashboard yet, I see the following points as some that highlight its strengths and benefits:
a digital space and common platform for all students (grades 4-12)
anywhere, anytime learning
a safe and closed digital environment with access limited to only those in the SD45 community
a collection of tools for students to engage in learning in different ways
a tool for teachers to connect with students (and vice versa) in a professional environment
a means to better reflect the times regarding the proliferation of technology
an instructional tool to model and teach elements of digital literacy
If you are a parent or guardian of a student in SD45, I encourage you to ask to take a look at your child's dashboard; you may be amazed, as I was, at what they are able to do, have already accomplished, and how they view it in relation to their learning.