Skills Development Centre – Collaborative Inquiry

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January 3, 2013 by wendybeamish

     Wendy Beamish, James Francom, Theresa Haysom, Paula Saar, and Andrea Wood have begun a collaborative inquiry project that aims to discuss the question, will we increase literacy levels if we integrate technology into our Skills Development Centre?

From the beginning, we realized that we cannot just add technology to the SDC program and expect it to be a panacea for literacy problems. We recognize that if we are to succeed, we will need to plan and systematically organize the placement of technology in the Skills Development Centre (SDC).


We began planning to use technology in the SDC in the spring of 2012.  At this time, we were more focused on iPad apps but have subsequently moved away from this.  We now have 15 refurbished iPads in the SDC. Each of these iPads has a keyboard and case for students to use for traditional typing.

One thing that we learned is that we need a staff member, who is committed to troubleshooting and configuring the iPads. Fortunately, James Francom has been able to take on this role.

We began to introduce the iPads into our classes in mid-October. For us, the gradual transition worked well, and we were able to show the students how to use the devices as study aids, rather than as toys.

Students began to do their journal writing on the iPads, something they had done earlier on paper in their skills binders.  At present, the students have a choice of writing in online or offline journals.  Journal writing has allowed us to examine our students’ writing for grammar and style issues. Furthermore, we have forged more meaningful relations through reading and commenting on our students’ writing.

Write, Write, Write

Write, Write, Write

Often the subjects, we assign relate to the school curriculum. We may have students write about what they are doing in Social Studies and encourage them to use as much Social Studies vocabulary as they can use. Students who are using the iPads to compose their journals on have commented that they are able to write more and “get more into” the topic.

As part of our technology platform, we are developing a blog with resources on that hopefully students will use:

Skills Development Centre Blog

This, too, has been a work in progress and we continue to add to it. Students have seen the blog many times and we have shown them links to sites that will facilitate their learning.


We will continue to monitor student journals as an indicator of growth in literacy. We will not only look at them quantitatively, but qualitatively. Students who are stronger writers (and we have some) will be encouraged to begin a blog on Blogger. This will be a slow transition and will likely only involve a few students.

We will continue to use our blog, especially to promote study and test taking skills before the exam writing period in late January.

We will provide students with audio versions of books taught in their classes such as The Hunger Games.

We will have students work weekly on a website called Quizlet. Using Quizlet students will create four dictionaries, one for each of their academic subjects. Each week they will be asked to add 5 to 10 words to one of their dictionaries.

Here is an example of a more extensive list that one of us created:

Literary Terms

The rational behind incorporating vocabulary building tools into our technology platform is simple. Many of our students who are weak readers, also have significant vocabulary deficiencies.


Ready to Learn

Many students are welcoming the changes. They are using the iPads for the most part for what they are intended to be used for and not detouring onto social media sites.  Students are not yet fully using the blog. However, some students have begun to use Quizlet and recommended sites to complete homework.


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