Between email, blogging platforms, Facebook and other social media, it can be a challenge for educators to engage students in digital learning while teaching kids how to be safe and responsible electronically. But one B.C. school board is doing just that with a network accessible only to students, staff and parents.
Since 2011, each child in Grades 4–12 in the West Vancouver School District is given a dashboard—a website, accessible only by password, that brings together several elements of online communication, such as email, calendars, recent activity lists, comment walls, instant messaging, blogging, document libraries and networks. Dashboards stay with the students from year to year, making them a great tool for tracking progress.
The idea is to give students and teachers access to innovative tools, without the safety risks of the Internet. “Students learn with and from the dashboard because they have access to an environment that uses digital tools to support the ways students learn today,” says Gary Kern, director of instruction for the West Vancouver School District in B.C. “Students must also learn how to navigate a digital environment, including all of the challenges of staying on task, being digitally responsible and learning how everything works.”
Overall, the program has been a success, says Kern: “Our students feel grown up because they have their own website and they enjoy connecting with their classmates through the environment.” Plus, he adds, teachers like the ease and consistency of a single system.
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