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The Role of Technology in Changing the Fabric of a School:

On Becoming the Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business

John Munro (201496783)


John_munro@sd34.bc.ca

ISSUES AND TRENDS IN EDUCATIONAL COMPUTING


EDUC 6620
MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY of NEWFOUNDLAND

Dr. George Hache


July 23, 2015

v Abstract
Perhaps the most important question we can ask about 21st century reform is whether the call for
change is in response to new or to ongoing challenges. To what extent and in what ways are the root
problems we face unique to this century and to what extent are they manifestations of enduring problems
and aspirations?1
This question drives the on-going discussion at Rick Hansen secondary as wethe teaching and
administrative staffundertake a monumental shift in how we do school. This paper explores the
questions, answers and unknowns along the way.
In September of 2015, the plans were already well underway to rescue a declining enrolment school in
West Abbotsford BC. The decline began approximately 10 years ago. At the time Rick Hansen Secondary
was bursting at its seams with a field of portables and more than 1300 students. Academically, it ranked
among the top in the province. In sports the story was the same. Championship banners still line the gym
as evidence of the schools epic past. The arts and music programs were unparalleled. Performances
brought huge crowds; and here too, awards followed more awards. Now, entire wings of the school are
vacant. Sports teams are folding or shadows of their former glory. There is no music program. The band
and choral rooms are silent and a piano signed by David Foster sits untouched. The performing arts are
non-existent. Nothing seems able to stop the relentless attrition of the student body. Perhaps a plan to
revitalize and rebrand the school can offer a solution. It is to become the Rick Hansen School of Science
and Business. This is the story of the journey thus far, the strategies that we have employed and our hopes
for a great school once-again. This is also the story or how technology will lead the way in our
transformation.
v Introduction
The plan centers around creating a school that is unlike any otherone where no teacher works alone in
isolation, but rather one where collaboration is the everyday experience. The fact is that technology has
permitted us to do what was previously impossible. Course offerings will be centered in student-led
inquiry through an interdisciplinary approach. The focus will be on critical thinking and problem solving;
collaboration and leadership; communication and digital literacy; personal and social responsibility; and
global and cultural understanding. These 21st Century Skills will replace the content-heavy curriculum.
The goal to is have everyone engage learners in these skills while in-turn applying them to real world
issues and paradigms. Digital literacy will be emphasized beginning in grade 9, with a bring-your-owndevice (BYOD) initiative. Digital portfolios will permit students to showcase their learning.

Newman, G., & Case, R. (2014). Opportunities and Challenges in a Digital Age. In Creating thinking classrooms: Leading educational change for a 21st century world. Vancouver,
British Columbia: The Critical Thinking Consortium.

Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science and Business will be launched as:
A student-centered learning community.
A place that provides collaborative opportunities focused on higher order thinking
A place that encourages participatory learning.
A school where teachers serve as learning coaches.
A school that offers high-level work that moves beyond the reworking of data requiring learners
to think critically and creatively.
A school where digital information technology will be integrated seamlessly into the curriculum.
A school where 21st Century skills are paramount.
The plan is for Rick Hansen Secondary to be a flagship school for the launch of the new BC Curriculum
under the banner of the BCED Plan. It is hoped that we can tip the balance toward a new innovation and
be truly transformative. The redesign is established with a focus on personalized learning and student-led
inquiry. Social innovation, character development and personalized learning are all initiative that that will
be approached through Project Based Learning. Each initiative empowered through technology. It is truly
a new genesis, to lay the groundwork for a whole school innovation. It will be the first of its kind in
British Columbia.
If we are to understand a given educational reform movement, then it is more important to examine its
basic values and principles than the type of pedagogical activities or structures it champions.
[Jesse Goodman]2
v Overview
The overall goal of the innovative changes at Rick Hansen Secondary is to create an unprecedented
learning environment supported by technology. While academic rigor remains paramount it is also
essential to recognize the variety of ways that learners engage with the content. Technology will enable
this effort through the development of individualized instruction and a focus on project based/inquiry
based learning. These efforts would be impossible without readily available technologies that facilitate
this.
Technology will permit us to run two schools within a school. Each school will specialize in its core of
either business or science while at the same time meeting the new curriculum requirements of the BC
Education Plan. Each of the schools is similar in that the central philosophies include: social innovation,
character development, and Project Based Learning.
Whether it is the science academy, with its focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
or the Business School with its focus on entrepreneurship and occupational skills, the intent is to have
engaging content that is also challenging. This is in contrast to the early days of 21st Century Learning
programs and digitally delivered courses. At that time the solution was [usually] to allow for significant
student choice. By dropping the requirement for students to complete mandatory senior courses, they had
become free to pursue electives of their own choosing. For the most part, students were taking easy
courses, including online offerings, that they could waltz through without much effort, or they were
redoing courses solely to improve their grades.3

2

Goodman, J. (1995). Change without Difference: Schools Restructuring in Historical Perspective (Spring ed., Vol. 65). Harvard Educational Review.

Newman, G., & Case, R. (2014). Opportunities and Challenges in a Digital Age. In Creating thinking classrooms: Leading educational change for a 21st century world. Vancouver,
British Columbia: The Critical Thinking Consortium.

The following Wordle4 developed by the Alberta Ministry of Education summarizes the scale of
challenges facing educational reform in the 21st Century. Balancing all of these of opposing initiatives
will continue to challenge anyone who attempts to integrate these into the existing system of education.

The school has begun its technology transformation. As students enter the school in grade nine (from its
feeder schools) they will be introduced to a wide array of courses that expose them to engineering design,
business principles and social innovation. When completed grade ten, students will apply to enter either
the STEM School of Science or the School of Business Innovation.
Each of these schools will exist as separate entities, with different teacher teams overseeing operations at
each school. There will be opportunities to integrate subject areas together based upon an inquiry model.
Courses will be planned to provide students with skills in problem solving, critical thinking,
communication and collaboration while challenging learners apply the skills newly acquired skills to
work with real world issues and paradigms.
At the center of this effort is a heavy reliance on informational and educational technologies. Digital
literacy will be the bedrock of the core offerings and a newly designed learning commons will become a
technology hub for teachers and students to explore learning together in a personalized approach to
instruction. Community partnerships with local businesses and the Rick Hansen Foundation will help to
improve the public image of our school through a focus on: personal leadership, difference making and
equity and inclusion. The design of the library commons will require careful consideration of user needs.
The publication Teaching for Learning: A Philosophical Approach to Classroom Design5 suggests five
important considerations:
1. Classrooms should facilitate student engagement: comfortable multi-functional spaces, ample
power supplies, good lighting
2. Classrooms should facilitate student collaboration: meeting spaces, movable tables, breakout
areas, student work/display areas

4

Ministerial Order on Student Learning (2013), Legislation, Policy, Standards and Forms, Alberta Education,
http://www.education.alberta.ca/department/policy/standards/goals.aspx

5
Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (2009). Teaching for Learning: A Philosophical Approach to Classroom Design - Five Basic Principles, Georgia Institute of
Technology Spring 2009, http://cetl.gatech.edu/sites/default/files/Classroom%20Design%20-%20Principles%20and%20Information%20for%20Georgia%20Tech.pdf

3. Classrooms should facilitate connections between students and teachers: wide aisles, direct sight
line with students, several teaching spaces
4. Classrooms should incorporate appropriate technology: LCD displays, wireless Bluetooth for
laptop connections, reliable network
5. Classrooms should have a flexible physical arrangement: good use of space, accessible swiveling
seating, allows multi-disciplinary teaching teams, visually appealing environment
All of these factors have been carefully considered in the newly designed student commons area. The
redesign will also be part of the phased implementation plan at Hansen. Eventually other areas of the
school will require reconfiguration. The article Constructing New FacilitiesOne Step at a Time
highlights some key considerations in any plan. In particular the fact that certain departments work well
together and should occupy proximate space; math, computer science and physics. This will be key the
interdisciplinary goals of our new school plan.6
We recognize that many challenges lay ahead, but this does not deter us from our effort to impact the
lives of our students. Rather than repairing a broken system, we are proposing an entirely new system, a
transformative innovation. It is widely accepted that many challenges exist in the standard model of
education. In a study undertaken by the Ontario Teachers Association, educators were asked to rank the
factors that limited student success.
Obstacle to Learning7
Behavioural Issues
Different Learning Levels Combined in Class
Class Size Too Large
Lack of Parental Support
Lack of Prep For Students in Lower Grades
Too Many Expectations in Course
Peer Pressure
Courses Not Relevant
Availability of School Resources
Suitability of School Resources
Lack of Support Staff
Lack of Preparation Time for Teachers
Applied Courses Too Difficult
Curriculum Does Not Allow for Different Learning Styles Student of Family
Poverty
Lack of Professional Support Staff
Time Restraints of Class/Course
Assessment Policy
Not Enough Learning Levels in Grade 9 and 10
Not Enough Leeway for Teachers to Assess
Lack of Support From Community
Too Many Compulsory Courses
Language Barriers With Students
Too Much Streaming
School in Remote Locations

Mean

SD

736
716
727
728
704
719
727
716
730
730
710
723
685
711
708
593
722
704
668
705
678
688
691
669
405

4.17
4.03
4.01
3.91
3.71
3.65
3.51
3.47
3.42
3.30
3.23
3.29
3.28
3.17
3.16
3.03
2.95
2.84
2.83
2.80
2.76
2.66
2.63
2.53
1.78

.913
1.120
1.223
1.004
1.164
1.183
1.060
1.182
1.243
1.209
1.329
1.274
1.244
1.195
1.056
1.256
1.305
1.264
1.306
1.244
1.178
1.290
1.372
1.266
1.137

Any strategy that is implemented must address these major issues. In many cases technology tools are
able to bridge the gap between the issue and the implementation. For example, behavioral issues are often
related to boredom and irrelevant curriculum. Different learning levels, large class size, availability of
resources and difficult coursework among other concerns can easily be addressed if technology is

6

Project Kaleidoscope (2007). Consultant Report Constructing New FacilitiesOne Step At A Time, Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts,
http://www.pkal.org/documents/ConstructingNewFacilities.cfm

7
Antonelli, F. (2004). From applied to applause: An OSSTF research project on improving student success in applied level courses. Toronto, ON, Ontario: OSSTF.

available and strategically implemented. In other cases, curriculum reform at the provincial level offers
the promise of less content and more opportunities for student to explore interests of their own. At
Hansen, our goal is to use technology as the tool by which we will transform the delivery of a new
curriculum.
v The Plan
The revitalization of Rick Hansen Secondary as two-schools-in-one will depend on constructing our plans
around both inquiry and digital literacy. Both students and staff will need to drive this change. The
proposed plan reflects changes which in the direction of the new BC Curriculum.
A shift from:

Teacher directed skills and processes, as well as active learning


Knowledge retrieval complex knowledge construction
Learning centered in the classroom learning the involves networking and global citizenship
Finding the answer discovering the big ideas and underlying foundational concepts
Working in isolation working in collaborative partnerships.

Established learning ideals remain important to our plan. We are not suggesting that there is no longer a
need to know and retain content, but we would add to this a focus on skill acquisition through
interdisciplinary course offerings. We will put the emphasis on ways of doing that will transfer to life in
an ever-changing world.
v Program Overviews A 4-stage plan for implementation beginning in September 2015
Each student entering grade 9, will be required to take:

Applications of Digital Literacy (ADL) 10


ADL 10 will be taught through an interdisciplinary group of Math, Science and English instructors. The
learning demonstrated here will be through project based and inquiry based learning. Students will also
make extensive use of the library learning commons as a digital hub for integrated research, project
development and collaboration most often through personal technology devices such as Chrome books or
laptops. The following grade 10 year, students will broaden their understanding of the fundamentals of
inquiry and will receive instruction through an interdisciplinary grouping of English, Science and Socials
Studies.
In September these course will have well-established protocols and structures for student behavior and
use of technology. As students demonstrate their ability to self-regulate, courses will merge with each
other in the hope that ultimately the learning becomes seamless and no longer requires a bell system.
A cumulative grade project will be required at the end of each semester. The focus of each project will be
on a social innovation that the student has explored and developed. This will require collaboration.
Certainly, the subject area teachers will help to decide on the common outcomes achieved, but
collaboration amongst the students will be essential as well. Through a concerted effort to reinforce this
standard expectation of digital use, it is hoped that the depth of inquiry as well as level of standard of
social innovations, character development, and course work will increase as students advance through the
grades.

The BYOD initiative will be key to this plan. A 1:1 delivery will be central to the program development.
It is our intention that technology will empower students. In media arts it may be a tool for learning but
also creativity. Used responsibly and intentionally, technology can be the catalyst for creating life-long
learners who thrive in a digital age. Technology can free students and teachers to move beyond the rote to
becoming and empowering free critical thinkers and innovative leaders and developers of tomorrow.
Rick Hansen Secondary will provide an open network available to each student as well as space to
manage a digital portfolio. Each students space will be a place for developing, organizing, storing and
sharing their work. It is also intended to promote a community of learning where students can leave a
legacy of learning to support and inspire future students.
The Grade 10 cohort will also be enrolled in a hybrid offering of Planning 10 developed in conjunction
with Abbotsford Virtual School. The course will focus on planning for career and post-secondary
opportunities and will serve as an introduction to the senior Schools of Business and Science. Not only
will the two directions/careers be explored but students will also be actively engaged in researching postsecondary institutions in both Canada and abroad so that they can start planning for their futures.
v Program Overviews Grade 11 and 12 (initiating in September 2017)
The Rick Hansen Secondary School of Science will be a two-year STEM program offered to Grade 11 and
12 students. STEM programming is a pedagogical focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and
Mathematics. The core purpose of this initiative is to create learning experiences to increase student
awareness while at the same time being relevant and engaging. Ultimately, the program will lead to postsecondary STEM studies and potential careers in the field. Scientific literacy will also be a key focus.
Students from Abbotsford will have the opportunity to cultivate math and science skills through their
educational experiences. This is in an effort to ensure that no barrier (economic or socio-cultural)
prevents their enrolment post-secondary STEM education. Ultimately it is hoped that many students
from the STEM program will select post-secondary science education and become the creators and
innovators of the next generation.
The Rick Hansen School of Business will be a two-year program offered to Grade 11 and 12 students.
This School will integrate several curriculum areas merging business studies with mathematics,
humanities and experiential learning. This may include apprenticeships or entrepreneurship. Career
pathways will be open to students intending to enter the workforce directly; undertake an apprenticeship;
or enroll in university of college. Students will be able to select classes that will provide a basis for many
business careers. Rick Hansen students will offered a wide range of business courses intended to prepare
them for careers in law, resource management, human resources, marketing, design development,
technology, and entrepreneurship among others.
v The Maturity of our Proposal Early Implementation
During the extensive development process many stakeholders were brought into the discussion these
initiatives were reiterated over and an over and became the foundation for our redesign plan:

21st Century Skills


Digital Literacy
Social Innovation
Inquiry

Science and Business Focus


Information meetings took place to share this vision with the parent community of both Hansen and the
feeder schools. A community forum brought together a large group of people from local businesses, the
scientific community, local post-secondary institutions, non-profit organizations and government
organizations. We received direct feedback on how we could help to educate learners that would
eventually fill the needs in the community.
The following link shares some of the thoughts expressed:
http://rickhansen.sd34.bc.ca/science-business
v Recognizing the Challenges
Despite all the planned improvement, it is worth recognizing that there are many great things already in
place in the Abbotsford school district as well as Canadian schools overall. Evidence of this fact is
presented in a survey of over 29,000 students in 83 schools from across Canada. The report found that 41
per cent of students were intellectually engaged at school.8
With this in mind it is worth noting that some concerns do exist:
1. It is possible to lose what is good about the system if we do this incorrectly. Canada currently
performs very well internationally compared to other countries. Why take the risk of this
reformation weakening a strong system. Inquiry learning is opposed by the view that it
undermines content mastery. Critics point to declining mathematics scores to support their case.
Teachers will carry the weight of both success or failure and this must be recognized as well.
2. Standardized tests only reveal what they are designed to test. Perhaps they no longer measure
what is important in an educational system. It would be interesting to see how students perform on
a standardized test that does examine what really matters. If test results were to decline would this
necessarily imply a failure of the initiative? These things must be considered. Our aim must be
higher than to produce students who are good test writers.
3. Will graduates truly be prepared with the necessary skill-set the stakeholders require in this global
digital world? I have heard many conversations from university professors and employers that
claim students these days just do not have the necessary skill-set for the work they face. This is
either because students are not learning what they are being taught, or that what they are being
taught is not worth learning.
A study from the United States supports this concern:
Students who attend class and complete assignments to avoid punishment or bad grades are
less likely to become engaged beyond a superficial (just get it done) level, whereas students
who complete assignments because the material captures their interest or because they


Dunleavy, J., Milton, P., & Willms, D. (2012). What did you do in school today? Trends in Intellectual Engagement (Vol. Report 3). Toronto, ON, Ontario: Canadian Education
Association.

experience a sense of pride in accomplishment are more likely to go beyond the minimal
requirements and become actively and deeply engaged.9
It must be at least recognized then, that student engagement and attention is not the entire issue. Some of
the blame must fall upon the curriculum and instructional methods. In an era of at-hand information it
becomes much more difficult to justify learning the same information we always have. Technology has
changed the game plan. Perhaps the move from microscopic to macroscopic and from small ideas to big
ideas is the solution here. Competencies can replace content and student choice can lead to new ideas
while learning continues.
We believe that with careful thought and planning we can have the success we desire. Careful planning
recognizes the interaction of factors within the system. The construction of the system is similar to the
construction of a home. Everything rests on foundational beliefs, while the roof is the ultimate vision or
goal that we wish to accomplish. The guiding principles rest on the foundation and build toward that
vision and ensure stability of the system. School and classroom practices are the visible attributes of the
system at work and are represented in the unique nature of the school environment often called a schools
DNA.

The education system is integrated similar to the construction of a home.10


Foundational to our school plan is a belief in the following key initiatives:

9

Engaging schools fostering high school students' motivation to learn. (2004). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.


Newman, G., & Case, R. (2014). Opportunities and Challenges in a Digital Age. In Creating thinking classrooms: Leading educational change for a 21st century world. Vancouver,
British Columbia: The Critical Thinking Consortium.

10

Engage students This will be accomplished through an effort to facilitate individualised


instruction utilizing personal digital technology.
Sustain inquiry This will be accomplished through training and exploration in 21st century
skills.
Nurture self-regulated learners Ultimately the goal is a responsible digital citizen who is
empowered to explore and innovate in this rapidly changing culture.
Create assessment-rich learning It is necessary to recognize that academic rigor is not
obsolete simply because technology provides the tool for information retrieval. Assessment tools
should reflect the truly vital areas of learning.
Enhance learning though digital technology Since technology will be the vehicle by which
the transformation is to occur, it is essential that all students become literate digital citizens.

Ultimately, the success or failure of our plan will be measured by the success or failure of our students. It
will take a collaborative effort on behalf of all stakeholders and require a significant amount of retraining
(both of the mind and of classroom practice), but with the tools offered by technology and willing
participants, we are well on our way to building a new, integrated, technology-rich educational system at
Rick Hansen Secondary.

Works Cited:
Antonelli, F. (2004). From applied to applause: An OSSTF research project on improving student success
in applied level courses. Toronto, ON, Ontario: OSSTF.
BCs Education Plan: Focus on Learning, update January 2015, BC Ministry of Education. Retrieved
from http://www.bcedplan.ca/assets/pdf/bcs_education_plan_2015.pdf
Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (2009). Teaching for Learning: A Philosophical
Approach to Classroom Design - Five Basic Principles, Georgia Institute of Technology,
http://cetl.gatech.edu/sites/default/files/Classroom%20Design%20%20Principles%20and%20Information%20for%20Georgia%20Tech.pdf
Dunleavy, J., Milton, P., & Willms, D. (2012). What did you do in school today? Trends in Intellectual
Engagement (Vol. Report 3). Toronto, ON, Ontario: Canadian Education Association.
Engaging schools fostering high school students' motivation to learn. (2004). Washington, D.C.: National
Academies Press.
Goodman, J. (1995). Change without Difference: Schools Restructuring in Historical Perspective (Spring
ed., Vol. 65). Harvard Educational Review.
Martorella, Peter, Urgent Emerging Issues Related to Technology Applications in Schools, Department
of Curriculum and Instruction atNorthwest Carolina State University,
http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/jan98/feat_4/apps.html
Ministerial Order on Student Learning (2013), Legislation, Policy, Standards and Forms, Alberta
Education, http://www.education.alberta.ca/department/policy/standards/goals.aspx
Newman, G., & Case, R. (2014). Opportunities and Challenges in a Digital Age. In Creating thinking
classrooms: Leading educational change for a 21st century world. Vancouver, British Columbia: The
Critical Thinking Consortium.
Project Kaleidoscope (2007). Consultant Report Constructing New FacilitiesOne Step At A Time,
Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts,
http://www.pkal.org/documents/ConstructingNewFacilities.cfm
Seelos, C. & Mair, J., Innovation Is Not the Holy Grail Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2012.
http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/innovation_is_not_the_holy_grail
Taylor, J. (2012). How Technology Is Changing the Way Children Think and Focus. Retrieved from
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201212/how-technology-is-changing-the-waychildren-think-and-focus