That Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC) has become a technology-focused school is nothing new with all stakeholders quickly adjusting to the modern ways and means of rendering and receiving education digitally.
But availability of digital technology is one thing and how it is used is something else.
Management and teaching staff at the PSC have raised the bar by one notch to introduce online interaction for both students and teaching staff through personal web sites built by teachers, making the process of learning an omnipresent practice.
“It puts me at places where I cannot be in person” says math teacher, Assistant Principal Ron Rarick, who has built one of the most content-rich of the teacher websites at the PSC.
“Course outlines are there, course materials are there, the calendars are there as well as links to other support material and contact information,” Rarick said, listing the names of the basic folders on his site which function as the gateway to the information that is for use not only by students but also to be seen by parents.
The idea was initially just to have the course outlines online by the end of September so that all parents, students and other stakeholders could access them anywhere, anytime.
But alongside other teachers, Rarick took the concept a step further and, in addition to teaching material and course outlines, he added links to his website, links that take students to tutorials on any given subject, practically allowing the students to learn the subject online.
With so easy access to course and support material outside the school, could that negatively affect student attendance? Rarick thinks it doesn’t.
“Actually it complements what is going on at the school; kids are busy, they have lots of things going on, too; if they do miss (a class) because of a family trip or whatever, they can catch up.”
He said his students were always present in his class unless they were sick and that the students used the material on his website to support their learning. Rarick even consults his students to learn what works and what doesn’t on his website, something that allows him to improve the learning outcomes from the process.
As for the differences in the format and content of the websites of various teachers, Rarick said it was a learning curve for all the teaching staff and all teachers were in an effort to create the tools that best communicate with their students.
One teacher, for instance, has a phone number on the website to allow students to receive text messages while another runs a blog.
“This gives us a kind of ‘school at any time any place’ advantage … it helps keep kids on track and helps them manage their time,” Rarick concluded.