Learning with Technology

What do you need to know?

Westside is lucky to have Ms. Bayles as both a member of the faculty and as Westside’s Educational Technology Coordinator. Bayles is an expert in the topic of learning with technology, holding a Master of Educational Technology from UBC. She’s also passionate about sharing her knowledge with faculty and parents.  

At this month’s Parent Academy, Ms. Bayles walked parents through the ADST curriculum and how it’s being implemented at Westside. She also provided insights about how to manage and approach educational technology at home.

What is ADST exactly?

It stands for Applied Design, Skills and Technology. The main concepts, according to the BC curriculum, are Understand, Know, and Do. The goal is to have students understand specific Big Ideas, know particular Content, and then be able to implement this knowledge with their gained Skills and Processes.

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Design Thinking makes up the core of the ADST curriculum. So let’s break down what that means. Design thinking encompasses five main areas: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

This isn’t a linear process. Although any great design must start with empathy, that process of empathizing doesn’t end as soon as the next step begins. Design thinking is more circular than it is linear. Its primary purpose is to solve problems, i.e. to provide positive results.

You can see why this is so valuable from an education standpoint. You’re not teaching students how to memorize by rote or recite facts, you’re teaching them a skill that will set them up for success in all areas of life, including their future careers.

If you can apply design thinking to a school project, you can apply it to anything. One of the greatest benefits of learning design thinking is that it teaches students that it’s okay to take risks and fail. Great success and innovation is a result of numerous failures. Trying new things will always produce spectacular failures. While failure used to be unacceptable in schools, now it’s considered a necessary tool for growth.

The era in which we live demands creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. To get there, we must all take risks, fail, assess, try again. 

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Learning with Technology at School


Often we’re scared of new technology because we don’t understand it. And our instinct might be to shield our children from this new technology.

With computer performance increasing rapidly, technological development shows no sign of slowing down. Shielding children from technology too much could mean stifling their growth and performance in the future, putting them behind their colleagues.

That being said, within the school, students are given plenty of focused time with technology, so parents don’t have to. While permitting your children to use certain apps can have value, you don’t need to double down on technology. Students receive an excellent balance at school. 

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Students do stop motion animation here with clay art and their devices.

It’s common to think of learning with technology as just being in front of a screen. Technology simply means anything that extends our capabilities. A bicycle is technology. So is a computer or an iPad. So are elevators and cars. Even a crayon could be considered technology.

At school, there is just as much focus on students using design thinking as there is on actively engaging with a device. The Foundation Years STEM Fair was an outstanding example of students going through every phase of the design process to create projects that were tested by colleagues. While some projects involved computer technology, most did not.

Learning with Technology At Home

Many parents are afraid that their children have too much screen time. There is often the concern that playing video games may have negligible educational value and even be harmful. But it’s important to remember that these areas, which may be just for fun now, can turn into exciting careers. You can’t become a video game developer if you’ve never played a video game. Nor can you become an animator if you haven’t watched animated movies.

Playfully engaging with technology can be useful when younger children are at home. But there’s no need for more focused time. Students are learning enough in school that they don’t necessarily need to have additional focused activities at home. For older students, however, more focused time may be necessary if individuals are not grasping the material. 

If your child does express an interest in using apps on a device or playing games, just follow these guidelines.

  1. Always play the game or use the app with the child for the first time. Not all apps directed at children are actually suitable.

  2. Discuss the game or app after trying it together.

  3. Set time limits that seem reasonable. Your children will need your help to stop using an app or playing a game. 

  4. Ensure that your app store is password protected so that your child can’t download an app without you.

  5. Have device-free zones, so you can enjoy distraction-free family time.

  6. Be a role model when it comes to healthy device use.

  7. Strive for balance. It’s hard. But even a small effort will provide a great benefit.


Screen Time at Home and at School

At school, screens are used minimally. In the younger years, students may have one hour of screen time on an average day. This focused screen time may include creating an animation, doing basic programming, practicing math through an app, or doing a multimedia project. As students get older, they may use computers more frequently to work on projects, but classroom hours are still not focused around a computer screen. Balance is always what we’re striving towards.

While balance may seem like some ephemeral goal that’s hard to achieve or even measure, you can use the Healthy Mind Platter to guide you.

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The Healthy Mind Platter means providing ample time for all of the following: down time, focused learning time (educational apps), play time, time in (quiet reflection), connection time (in person), physical time (moving!), and sleep time.

Keeping this in mind when thinking about how much screen time is appropriate for your child will help take some of the stress away.

If you have any questions about how to use technology at home with your children or you’d like some recommendations for apps, contact Ashley Bayles: ashley.bayles@thewestsideschools.ca

UPDATES FOR THE YEAR

Technology at Westside in 2019/2020

  • Class set of iPads for the Foundation Years Centre

  • Seesaw Learning Journal for the Foundation Years

  • Expansion of maker space and multimedia studio for use by all centres/grades

  • Westside is working to get the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for MYP/MVP