Providing students with more opportunities to learn, to further their education into post-secondary, and to connect with their courses in a more meaningful way is of major importance to the SNP STEAM Academy. Created as an extension of Six Nations Polytechnic, the STEAM Academy provides a secondary-school education in a culturally diverse community, with a strong focus on connecting students to careers in the technology industry. Students can attend this program entirely for free.
Using a blended learning approach, students can earn their Ontario Secondary School Diploma and earn college credits towards their college diploma within a 5-year period. And this is what makes them unique.
Six Nation Polytechnic made the decision to launch the STEAM Academy to offer students an opportunity to learn in a culturally supportive environment that encourages creativity, critical thinking, innovation, excellence and mutual respect.
President/CEO, Six Nations Polytechnic
The STEAM Academy mission
Because they serve a population made up of a majority of Indigenous people, the STEAM Academy places great emphasis on providing a robust education in technology, while also integrating Indigenous culture into their curriculum. “This is incredibly important from an educational standpoint,” says James Medway, Development Officer and teacher at SNP STEAM. “Being cognizant of culture and history helps us to deliver an education that relates more personally to our students and encourages involvement from their parents.” They were founded on the principle of providing low economic communities with technology where they otherwise might not have access.
The tools they use and love
Having tools and resources available in a handy location makes everyone’s job more efficient. As James explains, “we transitioned to D2L because it can aggregate a lot of different learning resources. Alternative LMS solutions and standard email were not efficient. We needed to centralize everything into one platform.”
The Assignments tool in the Brightspace platform allows the STEAM Academy to collect evidence of learning, with the data stored for review even 5 years down the road. As well, courses can be created more efficiently and they can be easily improved with each iteration. “Brightspace stores content, which allows us to re-cycle materials, saving time. What you’re building isn’t just for this semester.” This approach to continuous improvement means that courses and material can be enhanced, based upon what works and what doesn’t. And this information can be determined by the level of engagement they can monitor through reports on their student data.
As well as overseeing the technology development James is also a Healthy Active Living teacher. One of the things he loves is being able to show evidence of participation in his class, and then, of course, sharing this evidence with other educators or, more importantly, with parents. For example, he prints off QR codes that get scanned when students perform a certain physical activity. Performance-based assessment (such as shooting or passing of a basketball) can be immediately uploaded into Portfolio.
“Rather than having to recall and manually record at the end of class, or on my own time, I can capture this data on the fly.”
SNP STEAM is required to provide data for inspections conducted by the Ministry of Education. They need to be able to demonstrate how course materials are meeting the Ontario Curriculum Expectation standards and are mandated to create lesson plans with the same criteria and level of scrutiny.
“Brightspace Lessons allows us to meet Ministry standards. It allows us to ensure accountability, which is incredibly important.”
By creating their own HTML templates and then turning them into lesson templates, the STEAM Academy can ensure consistency between objectives and outcomes. This ultimately creates a reliable methodology that ensures compliance with standards. There is also a need to collect evidence of student learning and progress. The school requires a system that will house this information for years into the future, or upon request and Brightspace provides them with the security of having student data available to deliver granular information about each students’ grades or other relevant details.
“Reporting is a big part of our job. The student data provided by Brightspace is invaluable.”
Family involvement makes a difference
Having families engaged with their children’s education has a major impact on learning. Building a connection between teachers, students, and their parents or guardians requires a certain amount of technology. D2L’s Brightspace for Parents
provides an accessible space where communication and class activities are easily shared.
“Our parents will no longer have to wait for parent teacher interviews to find out how their child is doing.”
With this tool, parents will be able to log in whenever they like to see what’s happening in the classroom. This can include upcoming due dates on assignments, recent grades, and announcements from the teacher that appear in each student’s Activity Feed. They will even see examples of the work that their child has completed. This level of communication and coordination between families, students, and teachers will allow STEAM to provide a highly personalized approach to learning.
“We’re excited to see the impact that this will have on student outcomes as their parents have more information to support their children in reaching their potential.”
Connecting students to career paths
Providing access to an education in technology is only one part of the STEAM Academy’s vision. Being able to provide access to job opportunities is the ultimate goal to be able to best serve students in their community. SNP STEAM has partnered with major technology companies to help build education paths that can outlet into valuable career paths. Technology companies and partners see the value in developing a tech-ready workforce and the STEAM Academy is providing with well-educated, work-ready candidates.
The STEAM Academy is far exceeding its goal of providing a blended learning education experience. They’re building communities and providing access to opportunities that can evolve into real social change. What’s more, they are having a positive impact on the lives of their students, which is really the goal of all educators. We’re so excited to see the possibilities and results of the work that the STEAM Academy is doing and we’re honored to be the technology partner the school has chosen to grow along with their institution.