OCT OEEO

PS_September_2021

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46 TECH CLASS Professionally Speaking September 2021 PHOTO: MICHÈLE MORIN & MÉL ANIE MORIN Creating Pictures Sparks Enthusiasm About Words A French-language teacher gives his Grade 8 students digital drawing tools to improve literacy. BY STEFAN DUBOWSKI Philippe Belanger-Leroux, OCT, incorporates digital art to improve reading and writing. THE CHALLENGE Students aren't excited about improving their literacy skills. THE SOLUTION Have students use drawing software to explore settings, themes and vocabulary. LESSONS LEARNED Philippe Belanger- Leroux, OCT, a teacher and the STEAM co-ordinator at École secondaire Toronto Ouest (who will be the school's vice-principal in September), felt that many of his students saw literacy as a necessary evil: important, but boring. So he embarked on a mission to get them excited about reading and writing. He built on the fact that many students love technology and figured he could create a powerful interdisci- plinary web. "The fact that I'm using French and technology as well helps them make connections," he says. Belanger-Leroux used a handful of free technologies with his Grade 8 class last year. He had students use RoomSketcher (roomsketcher.com), a program for drawing 2D and 3D room layouts, to recreate rooms from the novel they were reading and help them better understand the setting. He also had them use Pixton EDU (edu.pixton. com), a program to create comic strips, to summarize chapters. "It's a great way to verify reading comprehension," he says. "It's also a fun way to learn new writing techniques." Belanger-Leroux also had them use WordArt.com, an online word-cloud- art creator. Students chose 50 or so words associated with the novel to explore new vocabulary — a great way to study themes, he says. OBSERVATIONS Belanger-Leroux asked his students directly: How do these programs help you? They said they had a better understanding of the books they were reading, but what's more, they were practising important skills such as time management and collaboration since they often worked in teams. And they appreciated that they could demonstrate their progress through formats aside from pen-and- paper assignments and tests. YOU CAN DO IT TOO! 1) Introduce students to RoomSketcher (roomsketch- er.com) and have them draw a room, a house, or another interior seing from the novel they're reading. 2) Sign up for Pixton EDU (edu. pixton.com) and have stu- dents use this comic book creator to summarize a chap- ter from the book. You can provide feedback directly to your students through Pixton as they develop their summar- ies, Belanger-Leroux says. 3) Try WordArt.com as a way for students to explore new vocabulary. The College's professional advisory Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media — Updated (oct-oeeo.ca/ecomm) guides members' professional judgment in the use of technology. Belanger-Leroux found that students seemed motivated to think and learn when using these programs. They also liked being able to work on their own schedule, as they could use the programs at home as well as at school. They eagerly shared with each other any new features and solutions they uncovered. They were proud of their work and quick to show classmates and family members what they created. Perhaps most importantly, Belanger- Leroux noticed that students were less worried about making mistakes, so they took greater creative risks — and that means their grades were better. For other teachers who want to try something similar, Belanger-Leroux recommends being as clear as possible about expectations and learning criteria to help students stay focused. He also suggests not showing students finished examples beforehand, so their creativity isn't restricted. PS

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