ARCHIVED—Exemplary Practices 2008
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Whole School Mentoring
Peer mentoring is an established methodology that has shown proven results in schools across the country. It is unusual, however, to mentor the entire professional staff of one school. Milissa Gavel, who teaches at Davison School in Melville, Saskatchewan, took the bull by the horns when she recognized the benefits of successful integration of technology into teaching and learning. She also knew that she could help her colleagues improve their skill levels. "Because teachers had limited computer skills themselves, they often felt uncomfortable and lacked confidence when using computers. As a result, computers were used primarily for basic skills such as typing, drill and practice, games, word processing and surfing the Internet," she says. Gavel knew that they were just scratching the surface in terms of the learning applications that technology supports.
So what to do? She put together a long-term plan. The plan began with mentoring everyone until they were comfortable. "Last year, I worked with 13 teachers in my school to integrate SMART board technology into their regular classroom practices. I spent three weeks working with each teacher in their own classroom using a situational peer mentoring process," she says. This involved modeling lessons, helping teachers develop multimedia resources that connected to what they were teaching in the curriculum and by the end of the first year, teachers reported a 40 percent increase in the use of technology and greater comfort with its use overall.
The second year of the program was transformational where the former 'Computer Period' became a subject with an integration focus now known simply as 'Tech Time'. This required a shift in thinking on the part of teachers in the school. "Our hope is that within three years 'Computers and Tech time' won't need a title or a subject; technology will be used as a part of effective teaching and learning," Gavel says.
The transformation was also reflected in student work. For example, students now revise and edit work using Microsoft Word; publish, share work and practice speaking skills using PowerPoint; convey information, communicate and send attachments using email; learn about media studies, digital book reports, movie trailers and book talks using Windows Movie Maker; develop research strategies, skimming and scanning using the Internet; develop online safety awareness and practices; explore the usefulness of digital concept mapping; and blog for online communication purposes and publishing work. And this is only the start.
The range of applications and work students undertake has expanded dramatically as technology has become a seamless part of instruction time. Gavel herself has become recognized as an educational technology leader in her school board and across the province, and has delivered many presentations at workshops and conferences. She's written a handbook on the integration of whiteboard technology into the classroom and runs a blog. Future plans are ambitious. "Within two years, I plan to see most teachers using technology as a tool independently and supporting one another as a collaborative community of learners," she says.