New Brunswick’s Department of Education is serious about building a 21st Century model of learning. On April 16, 2010 the Department announced that every teacher in our system will receive a new notebook computer. The multi-million dollar investment involves over 8,000 teachers. The New Brunswick Teachers Association applauded the investment and all agreed that a 1:1 teacher-computer model is essential in today’s 21st Century learning environment.
The Department of Education first offered a personal notebook computer to teachers in 2006. At that time teachers were offered a computer to support their daily teaching activities, including the delivery of provincial curricula, programs and services and accessing online information and resources. A high percentage of teachers accepted the offer in 2006. The more recent announcement to refresh all the notebook computers will keep New Brunswick teachers at the leading edge of using technology and their profession.
The New Brunswick teaching force is now among the highest trained in the world on using ICT applications for teaching and learning. They depend on their computers for creating, storing and sharing lesson plans, report cards and formative assessment information. A growing number are using email, twitter, Facebook and other web based applications to communicate with students, parents, and their local communities. They are collaborating electronically with other teachers in their own school or elsewhere in the New Brunswick system, accessing information on the internet, and increasingly partnering with schools in other parts of the world. With the growing number of interactive whiteboards in New Brunswick’s classrooms teachers now have the capacity to link their notebooks with the whiteboards and create engaging lessons for students. Having their own notebook also allows them to access the department’s on-line portal that offers a host of information, ranging from curricula to on-line resources and best practices. The 1:1 teacher-computer model also facilitates the development of our electronic special education plans for children with disabilities and special needs.
School districts in New Brunswick employ a number of technology mentors and technicians to support the ICT infrastructure and applications in schools. Over the years they have witnessed a significant shift in the teachers’ capacity to integrate technology into their instructional practices. Focused professional development has been a key ingredient in this evolution of skills, and when combined with teachers natural passion for teaching and their personal innovative styles enhanced student engagement and learning is bound to occur. School District 18, a Fredericton- centred district with schools located in both urban and rural areas, has initiated an innovative program of ICT related professional development they call “Tech Tuesdays”. The online training is facilitated by the interactive whiteboards in the classrooms. The district simply “beams in” the training to each school and teacher from the central office. The sessions are short and focused, and relatively inexpensive compared to the more traditional model of physically bringing teachers together. All of this activity is increasing the ICT competencies and skill sets of our New Brunswick teachers. And today’s digital kids respond quickly to a teacher who is adept at using the tools and applications of their generation.
As noted in earlier articles, New Brunswick is also pursuing a 1:1 student-computer model for its upper grades and clusters of computers in elementary grades to complement our 1:1 teacher model. In our next article we will introduce an innovative project in New Brunswick involving a web-based student identifier model that is transforming how we interact with and track our students.