WEYBURN - “We have built the house and now we’re moving in,” said Jeff Walters during his opening remarks to the board of trustees for the South East Cornerstone Public School Division at their April 27 meeting.
Walters, the division’s co-ordinator of instructional technology was bringing the board up to date on what he and his team have been doing in the past year.
He also informed the board that he would be retiring soon. Walters said he had been a teacher at Estevan Comprehensive School for 15 years prior to joining the division’s office team as an instructional technology consultant for 11 more years and then taking on the co-ordinators’s job for the past five years.
Technology is an ever-changing world and the technology team is using it to help students “become better citizens,” Walters said, listing that item as one of the priorities.
He said it was important for the students to see such things as robots and other technological items not just as shiny toys, but rather as a path to progress.
The co-ordinator spent a good section of his half-hour presentation outlining the procedures used to bring the school division’s administrative assistants fully on board so they can provide complete support.
He also explained how the MySchoolSask (MSS) system provided the avenue for this training and that later led to further information on the division’s Edsby strategic plan that provides a platform for recording and reporting student achievement. Teachers use it for everything from keeping attendance and grade books to family communications. The program has since been expanded to include communications for student-led conferences and school schedules among other things.
The instructional technology team led by Walters includes Michael Van Betuw, who handles those chores for the western sector of the division, while Curtis Bourassa is found in the south and Grant Taylor on the eastern side.
Wendy Courteau is a helpdesk technician and Adam Wilson has been appointed co-ordinator of instructional technology beginning in the new school year. It was also noted that D’Arcy Megenbir, another member of the team, is also retiring soon.
The administrators supporting the administrative assistants programming consists of Marvel Bradley, Dione Swyryda, Kyle Stein and Alexander Biezenski.
Instructional technology is there to use as a collaborative tool for teachers and students on the “show what you know” process, Walters said. This is a triangulation of evidence and student engagement through IT practices. He had a trio of brief video clips showing how IT was used as an engagement tool and how it increased student interest.
IT has also been used at Weyburn and Estevan Comprehensive Schools. It assists students in online course selections while helping administrators and assistant administrators build schedules.
The MSS program has led to integration with another program listed as Skopus, which uses report card data plus training scheduling capabilities within its scope.
The administrative assistant training process was conducted over seven different sessions, consuming about 8 1/2 hours, Walters said.
“Families are appreciating the communications,” he added in commenting on the Edsby/Skopus plans. It is leading to solutions “people can feel comfortable with,” he added.
Nine school divisions in Saskatchewan are now using the Edsby program, and they have set up a system to work collaboratively while using Edsby as a “news river” for family communication.
The IT programming now allows positive things to happen in the classrooms that couldn’t be accomplished without it, he suggested.
“It’s neat to see the students get so excited,” Walters said.
Director of education Lynn Little praised Walters for his work.
“Jeff has been instrumental in our work,” said Little, who is also retiring at the end of the academic year. She added that Walters has been a vital key in putting various technological systems into one working system during the early years of the huge school division amalgamation process.
“Some schools were using entirely different systems from others and aligning the work together wasn’t easy,” she said.
Walters noted that at first, when he took on the technology roles he wondered, “where do I fit in and who had technology?”
He noted he saw where changes were required desperately and so they began the process of “duct taping together,” the immediate required changes and then the teams worked out and forward from that juncture.
With that said, board chairwoman Audrey Trombley thanked Walters, not only for the afternoon’s update but also for his dedication to the division and the work put forth on its behalf.