Success Story

Preparing students for future readiness

04/24/2018
When it comes to preparing students for the future, a broad one-size-fits-all approach may not always be the best. Some students respond well to one set of teaching methods while others may be less receptive. In Ontario, this is especially true when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics learning (STEAM), an essential set of skills for future readiness.

DSBN Academy students Esteban Sarmiento and Rachel Wang work on an online collaborative brainstorming app to develop solutions to challenges that they uncovered in their school.

In a rapidly-evolving technological world, it is more crucial than ever that all students are given the opportunity to enhance these critical skills.

Some argue that a lack of engagement in these disciplines is holding back students in their education and future readiness, both academically and professionally. They cite a lack of connection of STEAM learning to real world problems as key barriers to engagement in the knowledge economy. Naturally, companies, organizations, and education institutions are looking to find solutions to this challenge.

An example of this effort is the partnership between the Educational Research and Innovation Hub (ihub), the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN), and The Royal Conservatory’s Learning Through the Arts (LTTA). Through this partnership, which is facilitated by the AdvancingEducation Program, the Board and the Royal Conservatory have deployed an innovative online solution that offers teachers and students a shared space for STEAM-based collaborations to find solutions to social challenges in the community.

The AdvancingEducation Program is funded by OntarioBuys, an Ontario government program, which makes investments to support innovation, facilitate and accelerate the adoption of integrated supply chain, back-office leading practices and operational excellence. OntarioBuys helps drive collaboration and improve supply chain processes in Ontario’s broader public sector.

This graphic represents the steps in the 6 Social process that guide teachers through the online professional development sessions. The teachers then bring this learning back to their classrooms and apply it in their work with students.

With students becoming the catalysts for social change, it is vital that as many of them as possible have a chance to engage in meaningful collaborations. The DSBN looks to do exactly this via the AdvancingEducation project.

“As you know, we believe in STEAM learning, but we also believe in STREAMS, which is an interesting concept that we like to look at… We add R in there for Reading and the S at the end for Social,” says Dino Miele, Chief Information Officer, DSBN. “Social is looking at opportunities to create passion for the teacher to create lessons that are actually connecting to real world situations or real-world problems that might connect the students and the teacher to engage with the lessons or learning environments.”

“With 6 Social, by using the problems that are either outlined by the UN or other important agencies, whether its dealing with environment or water issues, mental health or well being, we get them involved in trying to create a solution by thinking outside of the box,” Miele continues. “And not necessarily with technology.”

DSBN Academy students Danielle Bolhous and Rachel Wang work with their teacher Jill Russell (center) to develop digital prototypes of solutions to challenges that they uncovered in their school.

The Royal Conservatory, through its LTTA initiative, has been at the forefront of innovations to improve learning and increase engagement with students. For example, they are proponents of “social innovation”, a process of developing and putting into action solutions for systemic social and environmental challenges for social progress.

“The reason we came to social innovation is we’re trying to model real-world learning and real-world problem solving, and typically, in schools, that has fallen under entrepreneurship,” says Shaun Elder, Executive Director, LTTA. “We learned that younger students have very strong opinions about things like what they don’t like about school, what isn’t working for them at school, what they see in their community that makes them angry, what they think could be done better.”

“Younger kids have a strong sense of justice and how things could be made better and how they should be done right,” continued Elder. “So, we realized that if we anchored to social innovation, as opposed to business innovation, we would have something that would really engage students because they would be working on problems that really matter to them.”