Digital onboarding

The other “half” of my role currently is technology integrator. I say “half” with irony as it seems I can only ever do 100% of one or the other at any one time.

I’m not sure how the digital onboarding process goes in your educational community. I’m talking about the students moving up into middle school and having laptops of their own for the first time. One thing is for sure, the idea of “digital natives” is definitely a myth. Yes, most kids take to computers / iPads with a fluency that appears to be amazing, but when you dig a little deeper, it’s a very superficial fluency. Something like the apparent language fluency of BICS (Basic interpersonal communication skills) vs. CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). So our G6 teachers had been asking for a tech session to make students were upskilled and ready for learning in the things that would help them succeed in the classroom (as opposed to MMO and YouTube watching competency).

Last Thursday only the G6 students were on campus as the other two grades were on trips, and it coincided with a Day 9 (off timetable day) – so the ideal time to do something. The thing is how to make something like this engaging enough for the really competent students while upskilling the rest. In the end I decided on two sessions of 70 minutes, dividing the group into two sets of 65 students each and alternating with a “getting to know MYP” session with our MYP coordinator Stephen.

For the Tech-Spectacular session we had 6 stations of 12-15 minutes each. Each station was worth a potential 100 points and had around 10-12 students at a time, and there were prizes for the top 5 students in each session.  The prizes were given after a Kahoot slamdown in the theatre (station 6) with the top 5 in each session pitted against each other with the rest of the students competing in groups of three.

In order to set up the stations I had conversations with different G6 teachers and the counsellors and watched a few students in action in the classroom. Common issues were disorganisation; not saving files; too many tabs / applications open; messy desktops; not knowing how to create and save a document; not knowing good email etiquette; not able to find files; not able to quickly go to school sites; not using an online or offline calendar/agenda etc. fairly basic things that were getting in the way of learning optimally and taking up a lot of classroom time and energy.

Taking all that I decided to have a few stations with each dealing with an aspect of the issue. The intention was to get an initial status for the student and then help them to be better organised in that area. After the sessions, students with additional needs were identified from their score cards and teacher feedback and they’ll be helped in one-on-one sessions.

This is how the stations were set up:

Station 1: Laptop Maths

Calculate your points as follows:

  • Add laptop battery %
  • Minus – Number of files not in folders on desktop x 10
  • Minus – Number of desktops open x 10
  • Minus – Number of tabs open x 5
  • Minus – Number of apps open x 5

Station 2: Microsoft Word & communication etiquette

  • Open Word
  • Create a document of a book you enjoyed following the format shown (30)
  • Save it as “Yourname D9 Book Enjoyed” (10)
  • Open Email
  • Send an email to telling me that you’ve attached a file of what book you have enjoyed from the Middle school library. Remember to have a subject, to politely address me, use full sentences and to sign off your email. (30)
  • Attached the Word document to the email (20)
  • Send the email (10)

Station 3: Calendars and schedule

  • Open outlook Calendar
  • Add MS Calendar (20)
  • Add G6Assessment Calendar (20)
  • Bookmark Calendar (20)
  • Open Powerschool (20)
  • Find your schedule (20)

Station 4: Folders and OneDrive

Folders are a way of keeping your work organised
OneDrive makes sure all your files are backed up

  • Create the following folders in your OneDrive:
    I&S; Design; PHE; Maths; L&L; Arts; Language; Sciences (50)
  • Put any stray files from your desktop into the right folder (50)

Station 5: Bookmarks

Collect 10 points for each item you have bookmarked

  • WAB email
  • WAB calendar
  • MS Moodle
  • MS Blogs
  • MS Library Guide
  • MS Library Catalog
  • MyTime
  • Noodletools
  • Yammer
  • MyWAB

Station 6: Kahoot

An overview of the main points of the day in a quiz format to check for understanding using a Kahoot.

In each case the station was manned by one or two middle school teachers who were familiar with and comfortable explaining the necessary tool / functionality. In some cases this also created the opportunity for a mini-teacher PD to get them up to speed. We also had our two IT people on hand to deal with any technical problems.


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Reflection on the activity

The good:

We have some great teachers who helped to run this, and the new upstairs learning lab is a wonderful space to break out into different groups with different goals. Students were generally motivated and keen to do the activities. Most said they’d learnt new things.

When I looked through the ISTE Educator standards I was a little concerned that this was a rather basic activity setting up some fairly foundational skills that didn’t involve very much creativity, or design thinking on the part of students. Then when I related it back to the ATL skills framework I realised that one has to start somewhere fairly basic in order to have something for students to build on in order to success for the more sophisticated use of technology.

Can be improved:

For most of the students the 5 stations during the sessions was too much for 70 minutes. Students take a while to get from station to station, settle down and be ready for instructions. Teachers reported back there was not always enough time to get across both the “why” and the “how” of the activity.

The idea of saving and backing up to OneDrive is still under-utilized in the learning community and students were concerned that their files were “gone”. The way to get around that is through putting the “alias” on their desktop to reassure them it wasn’t missing. Just teaching files, folders, saving, renaming and storing of files in itself was probably enough for a whole session.

ISTE Standards for Educators

7. Analyst
Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals. Educators:
a. Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.
b. Use technology to design and implement a variety of formative and summative assessments that accommodate learner needs, provide timely feedback to students and inform instruction.

ISTE Standards for Students

6. Creative Communicator
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students:
d. publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

ATL Skills

Self Management:

III. Managing time and tasks effectively

  • Plan short- and long-term assignments; meet deadlines
  • Keep and use a weekly planner for assignments
  • Bring necessary equipment and supplies to class
  • Keep an organized and logical system of information files/notebooks
  • Use appropriate strategies for organizing complex information
  • Select and use technology effectively and productively


VI. Information Literacy

  • Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on their appropriateness to specific tasks
  • Understand and use technology systems

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