School Name: Ecole Central Elementary
School District: SD#60 Peace River North
Inquiry Team Members:Elaine McEachern, Rebecca Elias-Bertrim, Lynne Cote-Aubin, Laurie Petrucci
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOII (focus on core competencies, OECD learning principles, etc.)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Language Arts – Literacy, Mathematics / Numeracy
Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Flexible learning, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Does technology (particularly IXL Math and Early Literacy) enhance the teacher’s ability to offer differentiated instruction?
Scanning: At the beginning of the year, we scanned our classroom and recognized a diverse skill set in the classroom that ranged from Pre K academic skills to above grade skills. As well, 1 student required significant intensive behaviour support (she’s out of the class for most of the day), 2 required moderate/intense behaviour support and 1 had a diagnosed Learning Disability. 6 students were of First Nations ancestry. 2 of our most needy learners had First Nations backgrounds.
We used OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperative and Development) Principles of Learning by
– Making instructional, developmentally appropriate math and literacy centres, via IXL on iPad.
– Making learning social by hosting small group targeted instruction in addition to whole class instruction.
– Recognizing individual differences (as mentioned above)
– Stretch all learners using a platform that allowed us to easily offer numeracy and literacy at developmentally appropriate levels.
– Use assessment for learning (IXL has clear & student centred assessment so students can see exactly how they are doing after each question)
– Build horizontal connections – by bringing Laurie Petrucci and her tech in; by connecting a classroom teacher with a platform I typically use with only my most needy students.
Focus: We hoped technology would allow us to target our “outside pins” (See Shelley Moore) and give all students instruction at their developmental level. We hoped IXL would allow EAs, Classroom Teachers and LATs to offer a common approach for extra cycles of instruction. I hoped the IXL platform would help me compliment teacher instruction, as it allows both of us to see “trouble spots”, progress and improvement.
Hunch: Our Grade 2-3 class has levels of ability that range from pre K through grade 4, with everything in between. The diversity of the cohort makes teaching a math lesson hard. What instructional tool would reach all the learners? We had a hunch that IXL math was a platform that would easily allow the teacher to group kids by ability and offer them “guided numeracy” in much the same way we offer guided literacy. Students would learn at their instructional level in small group or centre activities.
New Professional Learning: I got coaching from the District Numeracy coach in SNAP Math daily math sheets, which may be a better fit than the IXL platform, but we didn’t have time to implement this. The classroom teacher learned to use IXL English and IXL math apps.
I didn’t arrange for collaboration or coaching… it was just too busy this year with the audit, class comp, teaching my own classes and so on.
Taking Action: We took action by offering guided literacy, whole class math and “IXL Centres” on the 6 iPads that Laurie Petrucci loaned us.
We noticed that 6 iPads for whole class numeracy isn’t enough and quickly resorted to offering an IXL Centre during literacy centres.
We used the 4 questions in the spring to help us assess the effectiveness of the intervention and plan our next steps. We noticed that our learner experiences weren’t as effective as we’d hoped, because there just wasn’t enough tech to go around and running a math centre wasn’t easy – logging little kids on often sucked up valuable instructional time.
As well, this writer (the Learning Support Teacher) wasn’t present for the interventions because of audits, classroom composition changes & massive amounts of paperwork.
Checking: With the audit, changes in classroom composition and so on, I ended up doing a lot of paperwork and I just wasn’t physically in the classroom to help students or teachers very much this year.
This intervention was better suited to literacy than math, as literacy centres are easier to run with a 6 pack of iPads; math centres weren’t as useful. The whole class needed iPads to make the numeracy part effective.
Ultimately, the iPads and the apps were “better than nothing” but the teacher ended up teaching her math lessons as usual (number of the day, fact fluency, etc).
We found parents enjoyed using it for supporting learning at home.
As an LAT, I found it useful to connect with the data online, since I was unable to connect with the kids in person as much as I’d have liked. I still enjoy being able to “pull numeracy data” on the kids I’m supporting & seeing exactly what they’re working on while they’re doing it. That part, I love.
Neither of us were satisfied with the “whole class” outcomes of the intervention. The changes over time could have just as easily been attributed to regular classroom instruction. Implementing the iPads with this young cohort was too time consuming.
Having said that, specific students (our most needy) benefitted from this tailored approach to their instruction. It’s a very “user friendly” platform for support staff & parents. This is a good compliment to regular classroom interventions
We think, with dozens of iPads, it may have been an effective whole class intervention.
I think the most telling part of the responses to our 4 questions was this: Only one student listed me as a person who believed they’d be a success in life. Heartbreaking. The students all made gains in their learning, but as the classroom teacher put it, “[iPads and IXL] were better than nothing.” Ouch. Usually I’m listed by all learners as a person who believes in their success.
Reflections/Advice: There is no substitute for person to person service in the classroom. Relationships, not just technology, are critically important to a students’ sense of success. As well, the support relationship between LAT and CT wasn’t as effective as it might have been, were I in the classroom more.
Next year, I’m not going to be a Learning Assistance Teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I have other reasons for leaving the Support Teacher role… but this year (a lot of work with very little emotional connection to my staff and students) made it really easy to walk away from the job. To work this hard and at the end not even be thought of as a person who believes in you? What am I doing this for?
My advice to other schools is this: If you are thinking of how to spend your resource money, ensure a balance between resource (tech) money and resource teacher money. Tech is no substitute for a real, live person with mad skills.
Lastly, when staffing, ensure your Learning Support Teacher is the person who supports teachers and students. A Resource Teacher or admin would be better suited to doing the paperwork associated with audits and class composition dynamics. I have the skill set to do all of the above, but didn’t do a good job of supporting my people while I was ensuring the audit paperwork and class comp was perfect.