Thank you for visiting the Saskatchewan Community Learning Centre homepage. My vision of this centre has been inspired by many things: a thrilling description of the potential of a learning centre, my exciting experiences teaching in synchronous classes online, and the depressing knowledge that my daughter spent the equivalent of a working year of her life traveling on her high school bus. Not only do I believe that I can save my son from losing a working year of his life, but I know that Saskatchewan has an opportunity to improve learning for all its students.

This is a copy of the letter that may have brought you to this page. Understandably, I did not have space to give details of how a Saskatchewan Community Learning Centre (SCLC) might operate. An SCLC requires no new physical infrastructure. Each student would attend their nearest school and be assigned to a teacher.

At the end of the school year, a student and their family would meet with the teacher and determine the educational goals for the student's upcoming year. This teacher would continue to meet with this student once a week throughout the school year and the student would lead student-parent-teacher conferences after report cards were sent out. The student would be responsible not only for the direction of their own learning but they would be held accountable for their choices.

SCLC Divisions would simply be a name change for our current school divisions. Currently, in the spring of the year, the divisions collect information and study the demographics to determine what classes and courses are needed for the upcoming school year. They then assign teachers. This would remain the same except that an SCLC Division would have the information from the educational goal setting meetings and they would also assign the teacher their class or course format of traditional, synchronous, or asynchronous.

For the first two days, registration would be only within the division. After the first two days, the online synchronous and asynchronous courses would be posted to a province wide network of SCL Centres. A student then would have a wide selection of online courses to meet their learning needs as they could enroll anywhere in the province. Also, there would be efficiencies gained as teachers would not be limited to students from just their home centre and even teachers in small centres could be assigned specialty courses.

Do not imagine that students would be without supervision at anytime. Students in synchronous or asynchronous classes, like those in traditional classes, need to have an educator in the room at all times. However, the educator may be a teacher or a teacher assistant who motivates the student, facilitates communication with the e-teacher, and maintains the technology.

Do not imagine that students up to Grade 6 are on the computer all day. Before Grade 6, students must master a three dimensional world. They must learn how to learn before they can use technology as a learning tool. The pencil comes before the pen and the pen comes before the computer. It is ridiculous to give a student a pencil and think that they will learn from it, yet we give students computers and expect it will improve their learning! We need thinkers. Computers need thinkers too.

Do imagine that students play an active role in their learning. They would be responsible for following their own individual schedule and getting their needs met. Kindergarten teachers already encourage independent learning by offering learning centres. This independent learning needs to be extended. Older students need to be given a vocabulary of learning so they can recognize and communicate their learning needs rather than being dependent on the teacher. The teacher would become the "guide on the side" rather than the "sage on the stage".

I jokingly say I would love my children to learn in a one-room school house but I'd hate to teach in one. That is, I suspect I'd hate it because my pre-service training and all my training as a teacher has indoctrinated me to a factory mentality. My class has always been assigned a grade.

This though is the Great Grade Myth. Any teacher knows that any grade has a range of abilities and the higher the grade, the greater the range. I've been teaching in a multi-grade classroom without the advantage of pre-service or in-service training.
Many of the advantages of the one-room multi-grade school house have been lost. It is a tremendous advantage for young students to have previews of upcoming curriculum and reviews of curriculum they have mastered. Also, the older students would have invaluable opportunities to reinforce their learning by helping younger students and there is no better teacher than a recent learner. In an online lab in a community learning centre, the wide range of ages would create opportunities for social as well as learning advantages as younger students have positive role models and older students experience the rewards of helping others.

Saskatchewan has the ability to create a learning environment for the 21st century by utilizing three types of delivery: traditional, asynchronous, and synchronous. Saskatchewan Community Learning Centres could meet the learning needs of our diverse population so it could meet the challenges of an ever changing world.

A Virtual Classroom
As always, seeing is believing. I still find virtual classrooms amazing. The screen grab below is of an Elluminate Live! virtual classroom. The four main windows are participant info, text messaging, audio, and whiteboard. The top row of icons include a variety of polling choices, application sharing, graphing calculator, multimedia library, quiz, file transfer, web cam, and web tour.


asynchronous: Students and teacher in different locations with no regularly scheduled times. Students learn independently by reading, writing, and using various multimedia in their own time. Students and teacher communicate by phone, email, and chat. Group work is done in a chat room. back

synchronous: Students and teacher in different locations. Students and teacher meet online during regularly scheduled times in a virtual classroom that has audio so students and teacher can talk. Virtual classrooms have whiteboards for text and images as well as a host of other features: text messaging, polling, breakout rooms for groups, raising you hand, emoticons, web touring, web cam, and sharing multimedia files. back

traditional: Students and teacher physically in the same location with regularly scheduled times. back

Nancy Carswell
email: scl.centre*
Note: The * replaces @ as a protection from email robot harvesters.