Algoma District School Board Shares the Learning from Learning at Home

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Since March 13th, when Ontario schools were ordered to close in response to the emergence of COVID-19, the Algoma District School Board (ADSB) has provided students with focused learning opportunities and learning conversations. At the May 26th Board Meeting, Superintendent Marcy Bell provided an overview of ADSB’s Continuity of Learning Plan and shared some of the grade specific assignments and unique learning in which our students (and staff) have been engaged during the last 10 weeks. When asked, ADSB educators had hundreds of examples they were willing and eager to share. Superintendent Bell provided a sampling of the submissions.

Many of ADSB’s weekly assignments provide opportunities for students to engage with their families while learning. Many of the activities designed for JK students for instance, are very play-based and demonstrate how children learn through play. Trustees saw examples of students practising their numbers and Kindergarten students conducting a dice challenge. In the dice game, players roll the dice and whomever has the higher number gets to “steal” a rock (or other counter) from the other player until one player has all the rocks. We received photos and video of JK students working on their numbers while playing the game with older siblings and family members.

In April, Grade 7 students were asked to analyze the features of narrative text. The learning goals of this assignment were to understand narrative, organize ideas, think about the intended audience and write a children’s narrative. One student took the time to expand the story he had written for this assignment into something more – a children’s fairy tale book which he gave to his younger brother for his birthday. The student wrote and illustrated the book and was able to share it with his teacher using the Edsby platform.

A Grade 6 teacher shared a story that illustrated how teachers are learning alongside their students. The assignment was to develop a marketing campaign for a product. A student took the initiative and produced a promotional video which was detailed, visual and informative. It turned out the file was too large to send by email. The teacher shared, “We brainstormed for a day and he said he could send it through SNAPCHAT as it will work with larger files. So I set up a SNAPCHAT for myself and he sent it to me and directed (taught) me how to save it to my own device. We celebrated his great work and I celebrated the learning of a new platform!”

Families with limited or no online access continue to be supported through weekly drop offs of hard copy materials. One assignment required students to write 250 words to complete an unfinished story. One student hand wrote 4 chapters to complete the story, with an exceptional level of detail and imagination!

In another instance, a teacher reached out to a student who had not been engaging in the weekly assignments. The teacher learned that the student had limited time to work on assignments, in part because they were busy helping their parent build a deck on the back of their house. The teacher took this opportunity to engage the student and to point out the skills being used. The teacher asked many questions about the construction of the deck and helped the student connect the thinking (area, perimeter, amount of lumber needed), planning and math skills to this at-home building project.

ADSB staff are continually rethinking how to engage students and how students can make use of what they may have on hand in their homes, ensuring that all families have the means to complete tasks. Some students are building garden boxes and planting seeds, monitoring the progress of the growth. Some high school students have been doing experiments as part of their Exploring Technologies course, looking at oils used in cars to determine their properties and performance levels. Senior arts and foods students have continued with art projects and food preparation, sharing their work through video and photos.

SAL (Supervised Alternative Learning) students have been doing well in this current environment, which is of interest to ADSB. The number of SAL credits earned has increased in the past ten weeks and half of our SAL students will earn 2 or 3 credits this semester alone. Some will earn a Phys Ed credit through tracking of recreation, leisure, or fitness activities in which they’re involved.

Algoma District School Board Feedback Surveys were recently completed and we were pleased to see that the results revealed our Continuity of Learning Plan is working for the majority of our families and students. Over 1800 parents and over 1000 students and staff from elementary and secondary panels responded and 83-88% of our families confirmed that the plan is working for them. Respondents also shared that the tools we are using to communicate with families (Edsby, email and/or phone) are also working well. A small number of parents and some secondary students suggested supplementing some video to support learning, while others asked for no changes or additions. As feedback is vital to gauge how the plan is working and how best to meet the needs of students, ADSB thanked all survey participants for their feedback, noting it will inform some adjustments to the plan.