Educators from across the country are developing new learning opportunities that fuel the intrinsic motivation of students to take ownership of their learning and challenge traditional ideas of “teacher” and “learner”.
“It was an absolute pleasure to learn about such a wide range of small-scale innovation percolating in our classrooms,” says Canadian Education Association CEO Ron Canuel, “and we count on decision-makers to explore the potential for scalability so that these great projects are no longer the exception to the rule.”
The winning entries demonstrate innovative practice where students solve problems, are creative, and participate positively in the school community – many also demonstrate a depth of knowledge of what aboriginal and disengaged students, and students with learning difficulties need as an essential learning environment.
Ken Spencer Award recognition ceremonies are being planned in the communities of each of the seven winners. This is the third year of this award, and CEA would like to thank all of the school and school district staff for their time and effort in the preparation of nomination packages. Full Project Booklet Download (PDF).
2011-2012 Ken Spencer Award Winners
First Place – $7,000: Dundas Central Elementary, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
While designing an app under the mentorship of web programmers from Australia and Finland, and a digital media artist from New York City, students quickly realized that this was real work and that Apple was a real audience. Fueled by this intrinsic motivation, students’ honed a professional work ethic, engaged in difficult decision making, and took ownership of the project that demanded continuous problem-solving, including learning from failures.
From a teaching perspective, real-time access to online experts transcended traditional ideas of “teacher” and “learner”. With no models to follow, the teacher dealt with a mix of uncertainty and chaos, and continues to share her experiences with peers in Canada, the U.S. and Austraila – these innovators are using the ‘Dundas Central model’ to create their own apps and websites, and in the process are building a global base of culturally relevant Creative Commons licensed curriculum.
Second Place – $3,000: Oasis Skateboard Factory, Toronto District School Board
The classroom is transformed into a skateboard design studio where students – who have not previously experienced a high level of success in school – run a skateboard-building and graphic design cooperative business. The program strives for a very high course completion rate for previously non-attending, non-achieving, disengaged youth, who earn credits by learning hands-on to build skateboards, design original custom graphics, work with local artists and community partners, and market and display their work.
The students are flourishing in a site of innovation, entrepreneurship, and social change, which reinforces the need for a high-interest re-entry point for students to re-connect to school. The OSF is an example of innovation in education dedicated to helping teens explore creative art and business opportunities, and to be re-engaged in the classroom and community.
Honourable Mentions – $1,000 Each
The iDEC Program – Caulfeild Elementary iDEC program, West Vancouver School District
iDEC provides a digital environment that supports any technological device and platform. From Kindergarten to Grade 3, teachers are embedding student ownership into their digital learning every day with the help of Smartboards and iPads. By Grade 4, students can bring their own electronic device into the classroom, and student webpages serve as a central area for their learning and participation, where they solve problems, are creative, and participate positively in the school community.
iDEC is a school wide initiative – led by a dedicated team of teachers and administrators – that aligns and leverages three innovative themes emerging in education: digital immersion, inquiry-based learning, and soft skills (self-regulation, understanding, creative thinking and collaboration,empathy, enthusiasm and determination) where staff development and innovation is occurring at every class at every age and has shifted the teaching and learning experience dramatically.
Centre éducatif Saint-Aubin – Saint-Aubin Education Centre Commission scolaire de Charlevoix, Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec
The goal of this program is to increase the motivation of high school students experiencing learning difficulties, while reducing their behavioural issues through the delivery of robotics and multimedia projects that integrate information and communication technologies (ICTs). Teachers develop innovative practice while students develop academic and social competencies that lead to increased academic achievement.
Programs include video-conference and face-to-face student exchanges with a group of Crie students to learn about their culture; an animation project that builds technological and language skills; robotics workshops that emphasize deep meaningful learning in math, science, and technology; and a night class that invites parents to refresh their math skills alongside their children, offering the opportunity for students to validate their learning and strengthen parent-teacher relationships.
MTHS Apps – Mother Teresa Catholic High School, Ottawa Catholic School Board
High school students partner with Grade 3 students and in the process, create learning that is collaborative, project-based, and focused on real-world outcomes. The Grade 3 students become a vital part of the team for the development of Iphone games because they are the ‘clients’, and therefore the subject matter experts. The Grade 10 students do all the programming. Although technology was used at every step of the process, it didn’t become the focus and was leveraged as a tool to enhance learning.
With real customers, real due dates, and an independent third party looking at the results, both classes are motivated by regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings to present deliverables. The pressure for both age groups is intense, yet positive and constructive. Both groups of students learn the merits of hard work, teamwork, and sheer determination, which combines for success.
OKM Flipped Classroom – Okanagan Mission Secondary School, Central Okanagan School District 23
Senior Math and Biology teachers ‘flip’ classes by videotaping their course lectures on to YouTube. Students’ homework is to watch these videos, which allows them to control the pace of the lesson and avoid the frustration of completing homework they don’t understand. What was traditionally considered homework is now done in class, and the teacher is readily available to revisit challenging concepts one-on-one. Students who do understand are free to move on and are not bored by revisiting a topic they have already mastered.
The flipped class provides new learning opportunities where deep meaningful conversations occur with each learner in every class. This accelerates how quickly teachers can respond to the individual needs of each learner. A learning community is created that can continue to thrive and grow outside of class time, which has transformed how students are learning in the classroom.
Community Studies Program – Omiishosh Memorial School, The Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, Pauingassi MB.
This program was designed, developed, and implemented to meet the needs of aboriginal learners using mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual components from the Medicine Wheel philosophy. Students develop their self-concept, self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-determination by learning about the historical aspects of First Nations culture, including treaties, the residential school experience, and local issues such as lack of clean water, in the context of the aboriginal world view and value system.
The community component of this program includes a variety of activities: high school graduates mentor all students at Omiishosh Memorial School in upgrading their skills. Under the tutelage of the Student Mentor Project, the Grade 9 students read and discuss stories with primary students in both English and Ojibway, and gain workplace skills with local businesses. They interview the Elders to collect stories for a book used by younger students to help them understand their history. Students receive a credit at the end of the academic year for this Community Studies (21G) School Initiated Course. This inquiry-based program has re-engaged students and could serve as a relevant blueprint for other First Nations communities across Canada.