Google Apps for Education could be the key to homework help
By Elwin LeRoux, Superintendent
What could make students in Grade 6 actuallywant to do their homework?
According to Shelly Bembridge, it’s Google Apps for Education (GAFE). (Find Google Apps at www.google.ca/edu/products/productivity-tools/)
“After introducing Google Apps in my classroom this spring, homework completion rates jumped from just 40 per cent to 92 per cent in a matter of weeks,” says Ms. Bembridge, a Grade 6 teacher at Bedford South School.
GAFE is not only engaging students in technology, Bembridge says it has removed barriers for students who previously found excuses for not doing their homework.
“Whether they’re at school or at home, they can no longer say ‘I forgot my homework.’ With GAFE, students can access their work any time, any place,” Bembridge says.
GAFE is a collection of tools that includes Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites and more. These apps allow students and teachers to access files from cloud-based storage from any device with an Internet connection. They allow for live collaboration on any file, simultaneously, from anywhere. Collaborators can see one another’s work on their screen, they can review the entire revision history and saving happens automatically.
Nova Scotia’s Department of Early Education and Childhood Development isintroducing the GAFE suite of tools to support Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for Education 2015 (\www.ednet.ns.ca/files/2015/Education_Action_Plan_2015_EN.pdf)
Many schools in the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) have begun using Google Apps for Education. Just a few months in, the reviews from students, teachers and administrators are overwhelmingly positive.
“I find that it has really increased the quality of student work because I don't have to wait until the product is finished and submitted before providing qualitative feedback,” Bembridge says. “Because I can edit, comment and review the work as it is crafted by the student, there are so many more teachable moments to help guide student work. GAFE supports a more differentiated model of instruction.”
Students can also spend as much time as they want reviewing concepts and using resources that have been shared on GAFE by their teacher. GAFE is also helping to connect teachers.
“Teachers are using GAFE to support students and work with them as if the student were sitting next to them,” says Ramona Joseph, Principal of Five Bridges Junior High School. “I am also able to be part of Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings and not even be in the room by using GAFE. It’s not changing our work, it’s changing the way we work,” Joseph says.
HRSB’s Technology Integration Lead Team (TILT) is providing the professional development for GAFE. Alexander MacDougall and Mario Eleftheros have never seen a demand for technology-related PD as great and as enthusiastic as it is for GAFE.
“Google Apps is the biggest single technology-related game changer for our schools since computers were first introduced,” MacDougall says. “It enables teachers to more easily
reach beyond the classroom and provides a smooth and virtually seamless platform on which everyone can share ideas and information, be creative and get organized.”
MacDougall believes that HRSB will see GAFE change the way students work collaboratively and independently, both in and out of the classroom. “It takes learning, sharing and collaborating to a whole new level,” Eleftheros says. “It is true collaboration using tools that are accessible to everyone.”
As superintendent, I’m excited to see how Google Apps for Education will enhance the way we work at the board level, the way we teach and the way students engage in their learning, in school or at home. It is, however, important that we don’t lose sight that no technology can be successful without a teacher who is using it in meaningful ways to support the learning of all
Elwin LeRoux is the superintendent of the Halifax Regional School Board. Follow him on Twitter @Elwin_LeRoux
Crossing guards have an important job in getting students to school each day
By Bridget Hillier
In September 2014, my mom decided we should move. That meant I would be going to a new school and I'd be able to walk from school to my house. The first day I walked home from school there was a crossing guard. His name is Sean Kelly and he is more than just a crossing guard. He also spends time volunteering and watching his grandchildren. The kids who also walk say they feel safe with Mr. Kelly being there.
“I needed to find a part-time job and I like working with children,” Mr. Kelly says of the reason why he got a job as a crossing guard. He also makes time for the knights of Columbus, which is the volunteer group he is in. They help with Special Olympics, Beacon House, and much. He says that he loves seeing the kids because they are polite. Mr. Kelly also likes working with children because it’s rewarding. He works 3.5 hours a day: one hour in the morning, one hour and a half hour at lunch, and one hour in the afternoon. He has been a crossing guard for three years. His former job was as a salesman for Timex watches. He traveled across the Atlantic Provinces for 30 years. Mr. Kelly said it was a fun job, it paid the bills, but he missed a lot of special occasions.
Mr. Kelly explained that 99 per cent of cars pay attention and one per cent don’t. He makes sure that he has eye contact with the drivers and everyone is stopped so the kids can cross the road safely. “The biggest single problem is the people behind me on the inside,” Mr. Kelly says. “Most times if I see them going, I can point a finger at them and they will stop.”
What people don't realize is Mr. Kelly can get their license plate number, call the police and they can get a $675 fine, and four points on there license. But it is hard because he has to watch the children. “They don’t understand that the stop sign is the same as a bus,” Mr. Kelly says. “Once that sign is up, you cannot go through the crosswalk in either direction until I put that sign down.” So, drivers please pay extra attention when the crossing guard is crossing the children.
Mr. Pat Woodrow is safety supervisor Mr. Pat Woodrow for the crossing guards. He says in August all the crossing guards from the three locations (Halifax, Dartmouth, and Lower Sackville/Bedford) go for training. Human resources and the Halifax Regional police dept. hold this training every year before school starts. In Halifax there are approximately 67 crossing guards, in Dartmouth there are approximately 63, and in the Sackville/Bedford area there are approximately 45. Mr. Woodrow’s job is to make sure the crossing guards are at their crosswalk, have the proper training, and are keeping the children safe. But crossing guards work with everyone for safety. “I don’t think the program could operate correctly if we weren’t in close contact with principals, vice-principals and parents,” Mr. Woodrow says.
The crossing guards are an important part of the year to make sure that the kids get to school and back home safely. “The crossing guards are professional, very conscientious and they take their jobs seriously,” Mr. Woodrow says. “The children certainly would not be safe without their professionalism.”
I hope that after reading this article the children appreciate the crossing guard more, and drivers are cautious about crosswalk safety.
If you are a parent who would like to say something about your local crossing guard, call or talk to your principal.
Bridget Hillier is a Grade 6 student at Sackville Heights Elementary in Lower Sackville.
Our kids’ diets are overloaded in sugar. Here’s how you can cut back
By Edie Shaw-Ewald
Our children are being raised in a sweet environment–and I don’t mean “sweet” in a charming way. They’re exposed to sugar-laden foods and drinks everyday, starting with their breakfast. Children are offered sweet treats everywhere they turn. The majority of the processed foods that fill grocery store shelves have one or more forms of sugar and foods marketed towards kids are particularly high in sugar and there are more of these kid foods everyday.
We’re hard wired to prefer sweet foods from the time we are born. Historically, it was important for survival to prefer sweet foods as they were less likely to be poisonous plants. Today, the super-sweet foods are the poisons.
If our children frequently consume super sweet foods and liquids (pop, juices, fruit-flavoured snacks, sweetened cereals, cookies and cupcakes) their taste buds will not likely mature to appreciate the natural sweetness of whole fruits or the slightly bitter taste of some leafy greens and vegetables. This can lead to pickiness when it comes to trying new foods and the highly processed sweet foods will take the place of the healthier food that they need. They will get the calories but not enough nutrients: they will be malnourished.
What about natural occurring sugar from fruits, veggies and milk? The sugar from whole foods comes with vital nutrients that benefit our body and slow down the release of the natural sugar into our blood stream. Whole fruits and vegetables also contain fibre that our body has to chew and digest before the sugar can get into the bloodstream. Think about how long it takes to eat an apple as opposed to drinking a cup of juice. Whole fruits and vegetables also make you feel full for much longer.
Even foods that are generally thought to be healthy such as yogurts, granola bars and the new breakfast cookies are super sweet foods. Flavoured yogurts usually have between 10 to 13 grams of sugar in a 100-gram container. A 200-mililitre yogurt drink can have between 22 and 26 grams of sugar. Some of this sugar is naturally occurring in the milk. The label doesn’t separate the naturally occurring from the added sugar.
Sugar is present in many foods that you wouldn’t expect—breads, pasta sauces, and salad dressings. A kids’ canned pasta has 9 grams of sugar in ¾ cup. Salad dressings can have almost 1 teaspoon of sugar in 1 tablespoon of dressing.
Labels list ingredients in descending order of the quantity. But consider that in many processed foods that several of the many forms of sugar may be included; sugar may actually be one of the main ingredients.
We all know that a high sugar intake is unhealthy but more studies are revealing the extent of damage sugar does to our bodies over the short and long term. The well-known long-term effects are the increase in risk of obesity, tooth decay and Type 2 diabetes. Sugar is also being implicated in many chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and cancers. Children are being diagnosed with what used to be known as adult health conditions: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. In the short term, a high sugar intake can affect moods and energy levels and can depress the immune system for hours. Low energy and sickness can affect the ability to learn and concentrate. Suddenly the future doesn’t look so sweet.
So what should we do? Explain to our kids that they need to avoid candy and cookies? Well, that could be part of the solution but let me ask you this? If you were offered fruit punch or water when you were a kid, which would you have chosen?
Take these steps to wean you and your family off of high sugar foods
Step 1:Avoid sweetened drinks: Pop, sports drinks (unless indicated by vigorous activities), juices, sweetened milk, sweetened non-dairy beverages, etc. Drink water most of the time—smoothies made with whole fruit, milk and plain yogurt are a healthy option too. For special occasions, try club soda or mineral water and add a splash of 100 per cent fruit juice.
Step 2: Break the fast without added sugar: Cereals, especially those marketed towards children, often contain lots of added sugar. Choose a cereal with less than six grams of added sugar and more than four grams of fiber. To do this gradually, mix the healthier cereals with a sprinkling of a favourite sweet cereal. Instead of flavoured instant oatmeal, cook up the plain and add cinnamon and sliced banana or berries.
Step 3: Provide fruit for snacks and desserts: If you still want cookies or muffins, bake them at home and cut down the sugar by one-third or even one-half. You won’t notice the difference in flavour.
Step 4: Become familiar with the many names of sugar: You will be able to spot them on the ingredients label.
Step 5: Remember this formula: Every 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar*
Step 6: Speak up about sweet treats: Mention thisat your child’s school, daycare, community centres and sports teams. Don’t be afraid —you have the World Health Organization (WHO) backing you up now!
Concentrating on one single aspect of foods can sometimes blind us to the big picture. Avoid a narrow vision of just avoiding added sugar and make sure to examine your family’s diet as a whole. In the end, limiting highly processed foods and emphasizing real, whole foods is the sweetest thing a parent can do for their family!
*The World Health Organization recommends a daily maximum of 10 per cent of total calories from added sugars and proposes an ideal intake as low as 5 per cent of total calories for more health benefits. Five per cent equals 25 grams of added sugar or app. 6 tsp. per day.
The added sugars do not include sugar from unsweetened dairy or whole vegetables or fruits.
The Canadian Community Health Survey of 2004 revealed that the average Canadian consumes 110 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 26 teaspoons. This includes naturally occurring sugars in milk and produce.
A bowl of Cheerios (¾ cup) with milk has 2 tsp (9 grams) of sugar
1/2 cup of Five Alive juice has 3 tsp (11.5 grams) sugar.
1 snack pack of Mini Oreos has 3 tsp (12 grams) of sugar.
That’s more than the 6-teaspsoon limit before lunch!
Edie is an In-Store Dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in Tantallon, Sackville and Elmsdale