Naomi Musa is a graduate of Central Toronto Academy, a public high school that’s part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Naomi also served as a TDSB student trustee and was involved in several other student leadership initiatives. A recipient of the TD National Community Scholarship, Naomi will attend Western University in fall 2023.
Before Naomi’s graduation, we spoke with her about summer school, her student trustee work and why she’s confident her experiences using Brightspace in high school will benefit her at university.
A Hybrid High School Career
I started grade 9 in the fall of 2019. In my second semester, the pandemic hit. I only had one “regular” semester before everything shifted to remote learning. I didn’t have a regular year again until grade 12. Even after schools opened, teachers were still adjusting.
During the pandemic, it made sense to use online tools for learning. Now that we’re back to in-person learning, some people wonder why we’re still using an LMS (learning management system). But I see it as a valuable tool.
D2L Brightspace acts as a central system where teachers can put in classwork, assignments, notices—everything. Accessibility is a huge thing. If a student didn’t come to class and assignments were only physical handouts, they’d be behind. But if they check Brightspace, they can stay up to date.
At Central Toronto Academy, students can take an “online day,” when they have the option of learning from home. Having an LMS is what makes this an option—it wouldn’t be possible without it.
Brightspace is also useful when teachers are absent. They use the LMS to post instructions, homework, etc. Whether or not the substitute teacher uses them, it’s almost like it doesn’t matter because the students know what to do.
I also think it’s great that we can digitize our lessons. I use an iPad and like having everything digital. I don’t like taking notes on paper because it just accumulates and everything becomes disorganized. My parents were sick of that. So, I thought “OK, I’m going to digitize everything.”
– Naomi Musa, student, Western University
Having access to everything in Brightspace really helped me improve those time-management skills, freeing me up to do what I wanted.
On Being A Student Trustee
In addition to my regular schoolwork, I’m a student trustee with the TDSB, which is a big responsibility. The other student trustees and I are tasked with being the voice of our peers. Currently, there are around 235,000 students, but that number shifts all the time.
Although I don’t directly use Brightspace for my trustee work, it does play a role. We’re responsible for collecting other students’ voices and bringing their opinions to the TDSB meetings. Technology is something students have opinions about.
Using Brightspace In the Classroom
The support and learning for Brightspace varies between classrooms and schools. In my case, my teachers will post any resources they have at the beginning of the year. They’re more than happy to help us figure out the functions of Brightspace as the semester progresses, as they know it can be complex to start learning it.
I’ve grown to love Brightspace over the years. When I started, I didn’t understand everything and a lot of other students felt the same way. It’s complex, right? But it also has so much more to offer than other classroom tools. One of the things I really love about Brightspace is the grades and how they’re weighted correctly. Other systems don’t always do that.
A Multiplatform Approach
I like that we have the option of using the Pulse app on our phones and the Brightspace website on our computers. A lot of students have the app on their phones, but most of them will look on their computers. I use a mix of both. I like having the Pulse app because I like getting instantly notified when my grades come out or when an announcement has been posted. Instead of taking out my computer, I can read it on my phone. But then later, I can log in to Brightspace on my computer to get more information.
Brightspace During Summer School
I took accounting as a summer school course and our teacher encouraged us to be independent. We’d have Zoom meetings two or three times a week, but pretty much everything we needed (videos, pre
–recorded lessons, modules) was in the content section in Brightspace from the start. This was great because if I had a day when I had more time and wanted to get ahead, I didn’t have to email the teacher or wait for anything to be released.
I’m a person who asks a lot of questions. During summer school, I’d try to ask as many as I could in the Zoom meetings. And if I couldn’t get my questions answered, I’d contact the teacher through Brightspace. That was the only way she accepted any questions, which was nice in a way because it kept it all in one system.
How Brightspace Helps With Time Management
I liked the online option for summer school. I think it was good for me to understand how to set my own schedule. What I mean by that is if I didn’t want to do work on a particular day, then that choice was on me. No one was responsible for my learning but me. So, if we had a Zoom meeting in the morning, I would join that. But it would be over by 11am. At that point, I could have stopped working, but I chose to keep studying until 3pm.
When I first started my summer school course I was with my cousins. We were outside the city at a cottage. I was trying to finish my work so that I could hang out with them, but I also didn’t want to fall behind. Having access to everything in Brightspace really helped me improve those time-management skills, freeing me up to do what I wanted.
Transitioning to University With Brightspace
Honestly, having that experience of learning how to manage my time while studying accounting was so valuable. It’s a great skill to have going into university because I’m not going to have someone reminding me to do stuff all the time. I understand why Brightspace is used way more at universities and colleges because of this—it gives students more freedom over their learning.
In the fall, I’m heading to Western University to study business. When I found out Western was going to be using Brightspace, it made me really happy. It just means I’m going to be ready at the start of the semester—I won’t have that learning curve for a new piece of technology.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
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