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Sun West Initiative for School Improvement(SWISI)

The Sun West Initiative for School Improvement (SWISI) is a bold approach to improving student learning by encouraging teachers, parents, and the community to work collaboratively to introduce innovative projects that address local needs. It is modeled after the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) that was originally initiated in 1999 by the Alberta Government. SWISI will provide targeted funding to schools to improve student learning and enhance student engagement and performance. More than one million dollars is being invested in this initiative by the Sun West School Division to continuously improve student learning in Sun West.

This will be the first three year SWISI cycle. School improvements will focus on improving student learning through fostering enhanced strategies at the school and/or school division level. School improvement strategies will incorporate 21st Century Competencies as outlined in Sun West Board policy.

Essential elements to promote school improvement include leadership, instructional practice, school climate, assessment and accountability, building capacity through professional development, student and parent engagement, and integration of effective practices.

The Sun West Board of Education provided approximately one million dollars in funding from their reserves last year for innovative school learning improvement projects. Six projects were chosen from across the division and implementation of the projects started in September, and will continue for three years. Recently the Board of Education heard updates on those projects.

At Rosetown Central High School, teacher Kent Carlson implemented a project using Polar H7 Heart Rate monitors, and iPad and Bluetooth technology to track student heart rates and display them in real time during phys-ed classes. Students in grade 7, 8 and 9 classes wear individual heart rate monitor bands that are synched to a computer program that displays their actual heart rates as they take part in various exercises and show how active they are being. The goal of the project was to motivate students in the classes to improve and show the effort they are putting forward in their class as well as help teachers change or increase the level of activity in phys-ed classes. So far results of students have shown vast improvement and students are becoming more self-directed in their level of activity. He stated that when students are wearing the devices they will begin in a game of tag to get their heart rates up, even before class has started.

The Colony Schools have a SWISI project underway focused on improving wellness and physical activity. Colony School Supervisor, Shirley Barclay presented on their project "healthy minds make healthy bodies." In the fall, all Colony Schools received a large package that had a vast assortment of phys-ed and exercise equipment and teachers have begun implementing physical activity into gym classes and body breaks throughout the school day. The colony students are loving the new equipment and are excited about going outside for recess and gym class. The teachers have also began building a binder of lesson plans and units around different physical education curriculum outcomes that fit in this project and Shirley explained they hope to create a handbook at the end of the three years. This group also held a contest to design a logo and name for the project and received 130 entries from colony students. Five winners were selected and those Colony Schools received a catalogue in which they could order more gym equipment from. The winning posters will be hung in every Colony School as a representation and visual reminder that healthy minds create healthy bodies.

At Westberry School in Kindersley, their project is looking at the effects of social programming on behavior and achievement. Principal Tammy Diemert reported that if students are having social difficulties intervening at a very young age will improve their behavior and academics overall as they moved through school. Literature has said more and more that students are coming to school without the appropriate social skills in place and those lacking skills can present as behavior problems. Traditionally those students may have been punished however at Westberry they are working on targeting those skills and working with different programming options for those kids to improve student learning. Right now Westberry is building the data to track the trends and see if the programming is making a difference. They have targeted high risk students who are formed into groups with non-risk students and social lessons are taught using a variety of different techniques. Once learned, those students go back to their classrooms and teach those skills to their classmates. The project is focusing on students in kindergarten to Grade 4 mainly but some Grades 5-7 students are also involved.

At Dinsmore Composite School teacher Sue Lytle and intern Kristen Blomert explained the their grade 5/6 class is working with Lucky Lake on project based learning social studies curriculum outcomes through technology. So far the students have been investigating and learning different apps and working with technology in partnership with the students in Lucky Lake. Kristen, along with three Dinsmore students, showed the Board some examples of the work they've been doing using tablets, mind map apps, and Google drive. The students are also learning proper technology etiquette and both classrooms in the schools have been changed, to now contain tables instead of desks and the students work with their partner beside them. This semester the two classes will begin to develop a joint website. Teacher Sue Lytle says, "Having the 1-1 tablets has really increased student engagement!" and students love it "This is so cool being able to write on the same document as Lucky Lake kids!" They are using Google Docs to share info about their projects with the kids in their groups from Lucky Lake.

The Elrose Composite School submitted a written update to their school wide technology project based learning project. Currently they have two teachers that are well into their SWISI projects and a couple more that are about to embark on their SWISI projects. Planning has occurred during each of the school-based PD days. Michelle Prytula has visited the school and facilitated as the teachers decided whether ECS should focus on one research question or develop individual research questions. The consensus was that one research question that all projects would fit under would be best. The question (not quite finished yet) is: "How does project based learning enhance/improve student learning within the school. Michelle brought a student, Taneisha, with her to individually interview ECS teachers. It ended up that Taneisha taped the group meeting because both she and Michelle felt that it already offered the data they were seeking. Common criteria was also agreed upon with Michelle's help. Technology Learning Coach Terry Epp, has been at all Elrose's SWISI planning meetings and has been offering ideas and assistance to teachers on a weekly basis as well. He is able to add insight into what is going on in other schools and help navigate technology.

The Distance Learning Centre's SWISI project began this fall in connection with the Physical Science 20 broadcast. Students in Kenaston and Loreburn have iPads and students in Beechy have laptops. In semester 2 the plan was to continue the Project Based Learning and Inquiry Learning work in the Chemistry 30 broadcast as well. Loreburn will also be a receiving school for that broadcast. There may be a need to adjust the plans as Plenty is now in need of the Chemistry broadcast and their students do not have devices

A typical PBL activity consists of students connecting with other students through Skype or Bridgit or email. Students work together in groups to solve practical problems related to Physical Science in a collaborative manner .They share documents through Google Docs or through the Skydrive of the email system. Once all learning has been done on an activity, they summarize their learning through a final collaborative project.

Students also utilize the device to review previous lectures for missed days,or to prepare for upcoming exams. They also use the devices to communicate with the teacher with questions related to the course work .Students also use the calendar app as a time management tool and when planning out the collaborative projects. Having access to these devices when needed, rather than trying to book the computer lab has been critical to establishing an effective process for completing PBL work across schools. The communication tools of the device have exposed students to the ability to remove the distance between the students and bring multiple classrooms into one learning environment. The overall class numbers have grown significantly, so managing the increased student numbers has been a bit of a challenge . In total there are 29 students spread over the three schools

Blended Learning
Sun West teachers participate in a Division-wide project focused on the development of blended learning environments through a systematic, documented, and supported approach.

This SWISI project includes comprehensive teacher training that identifies and incorporates pedagogical strategies specific to blended and online teaching.
It also includes access to release time for teachers to develop a blended learning course under the guidance of Sun West’s support team of Consultants and Coaches. Finally, blended learning participants will be given access to technology for their classrooms in the form of pods of devices.

1:1 iPad Pilot Project between Kenaston School and Elrose Composite School
This project will foster the development of 21st Century skills in students and staff, including critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity through the use of Apple iPad. Every student in grades K-12 in both schools have iPads this year. This project aims to develop qualities of a 21st Century digital citizen and facilitate mobile learning, which increasing students’ productivity in and outside of the class when completing assignments and projects. It will also promote leadership in learning by establishing access to educational resources and tools to craft information that support specific curricular areas.

 

 

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