Enhancing Learning Possibilities with Digital Technology

Students and staff at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) will be leveraging technology more than ever before with the help of an expanded programme that will put a device in the hands of every student this fall.

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme will require students in Grades 9 to 12 to use their own school-approved device to support their classroom learning. Students in Grades 7 and 8 will continue to use the school-issued device, Microsoft Surface Go 2.

SMCS students working on their own devices and laptops in class.

Currently, St. Michael's College School students may use their own devices in class at their teacher's direction.
(Photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic)

The BYOD student programme’s mission is to embrace technology, foster responsible digital citizenship, support inquiry-based learning environments, and enhance digital literacy, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and collaboration.

“Incorporating technology into an already strong Liberal Arts programme allows students to be more versatile communicators, be more diverse in their creative expression, and be more collaborative individuals in their community,” says Mark Viola '97, SMCS teacher and the Innovation in Learning Lead. “It allows the learning to extend outside of the physical classroom by promoting connections.”

SMCS opted for a BYOD programme as opposed to a school-owned device programme to give families more choice in selecting an approved device that students feel most comfortable using, therefore increasing their engagement.

A group of SMCS students working on an English project together and using their devices to support their learning

SMCS students working collaboratively in class while using their school-owned devices.

“Students become distracted when they are disengaged from the material they are learning in the classroom – this occurs whether they have a device or not. Students become disengaged in learning when they do not see a connection to what they are learning and do not understand how the content is relevant to their lives,” says Viola. “A rich learning environment, like the one provided at SMCS, is one that focuses on making content relevant for its students and technology is a key tool in that learning.

“Technology provides students with opportunities to have a fuller understanding of the material they are learning,” he says. “When used in conjunction with rich, meaningful learning opportunities, technology promotes more engagement from students.”

Currently, SMCS students may bring and use their own devices in class at their teacher’s direction. In addition, as a result of the pandemic over the past year, many students have already integrated these devices into their daily learning.

Some SMCS students using their own devices to support their classroom learning during the pandemic.

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme will empower students in Grades 9-12 to use their own school-approved device, such as a laptop, to further enrich their learning experience at SMCS.

“Our faculty have been participating in technology-focused professional development opportunities for several years now,” says David Lee ’94, SMCS Vice Principal. “The focus of those sessions has been on leveraging technology in a way that allows new learning, collaboration, and creativity to occur in ways that would not be otherwise possible. Our primary focus has been on using technology to enhance the learning experience, and not just on using technology for technology’s sake.

“We have a number of certified Microsoft Innovative Educators, Apple Distinguished Educators, and Nearpod certified educators on staff and that number will continue to grow,” he says. “We have also entered into a partnership with Nelson Publishing and will be using their digital resource known as Edwin for several classes next year. One of our first goals will be to teach students how to effectively use the various platforms to ensure that they are growing as future-ready learners and leaders.”

Grade 7/8 SMCS students using school-owned devices to support their classroom activities.

Students have opportunities in class to work on pen and paper activities as well as approved digital devices.
(Photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic)

A Statistics Canada report in 2020 found that over half of parents were very concerned about the amount of screen time their children were engaged in since the start of the pandemic. With the increase in youth screen time being top of mind, parents do not need to be concerned that the BYOD programme will enhance it.

“Most concerns over youth and screen time centre around passive consumption on social media platforms,” adds Viola. “When students are asked to be ‘creators’ or ‘producers’ of content, they use technology as a tool.

“The focus at St. Michael’s College School has always been on offering a holistic education to foster students who are well-rounded,” he says. “Most aspects of our programme promote healthy, active living and in-person connection. This helps to provide the necessary balance between screen time and other activities.”

SMCS students both in class and on Zoom at home use their own devices in class during the pandemic

Many SMCS students both in class and at home have already integrated devices into their everyday school life to support their learning.

“As the school prepares for the launch of BYOD this fall, our faculty will continue to leverage technology to deliver content and allow students to explore, inquire, create, and collaborate,” says Lee. “We look forward to future possibilities through our BYOD programme while recognizing the importance of continuing to engage students in paper and pen activities.”