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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Canadian Kaleidoscope: Brookfield High School

At a multicultural high school in Ottawa, technology opens new worlds for the diverse student population.
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Canadian Kaleidoscope: Brookfield High School (Transcript)

Narrator: Brookfield High School in Canada's Capital City of Ottawa, is a study in diversity.

Anne: If you were to walk the halls of Brookfield High School, you see a real kaleidoscope, colors, cultures, religions, and 45 to 50 different languages.

Narrator: In 2004, the school received a technology grant that provided 23 laptop computers, wireless internet access, and teacher training.

Beverly: Or you go to File, New, then we can just make a new one.

Narrator: The new technology has opened new worlds to students, from global video conferences--

Teacher: Okay, we have another question, Mr. Davis.

Student: Just drop the ball and let it bounce.

Narrator: to the exploration of invisible forces.

Student: So there you can see where the ball bounced, and then it's constant velocity.

Anne: The teachers that have been connected with the grant, have really used the technology to consider how they teach. They plan their lessons, knowing, of course, that they've got the technology, and therefore, they're far more creative in their teaching.

Beverly: Okay, so you're going to be going to the site with the tablets, and you're going to be doing a little bit of research about the Rideau River.

Narrator: Four times a year, science teacher Beverly Wilkinson takes her biology class on the road to collect data on plant and animal species in Ottawa's Rideau River.

Beverly: Try to get one organism at a time, and organize them into the white egg cartons.

When you're entering the data onsite, it makes it more real. If you wait a day or two, then they forget, and it separates from the actual science that they are doing. So it's all part of the process. And they will use the tools that we have in order to record all of their data onsite, so it's like they're acting as true scientists.

Narrator: Students post their data to Ottawa's Museum of Nature Website, where it can be shared with students all over Canada, who are doing similar studies.

Katja: There's a youth portal that they can go to, and they can input the data that they found from this project, so different types of, you know, measurements about the water, the types of invertebrates that they found.

Student: That's our main specimen.

Katja: And so this information is accessible to anybody who has access to the web. They can take a look at the data that's collected, and compare it to their own rivers.

Teacher: For you, Monsieur, delivery.

Gordon: Delivery. Thank you.

Narrator: The tablet PCs move from classroom to classroom in a cart that includes a wireless hub.

Gordon: Galileo, what was Galileo's experiment? Five hundred years ago, they said, who's going to hit the ground first, 500 years ago--

Narrator: Students in Gordon Kubanek's physics class use the computers to visualize the intangible.

Gordon: There's much, much less mass in all that there, right?

Physics is, sometimes you can't do an experiment physically, so what you do is, you do the experiment in your imagination, and it adds this element of what we call, spatial intelligence, so when most people think about physics, they think about math, which is true, but actually, math alone is insufficient. You have to be able to visualize these interactions in three dimensions, because there's real things happening and so the technology allows you to do that, and you could never do it before.

We know that you have a certain weight at the surface, which he's drawn over here. And if you weigh nothing in the middle, halfway, you should weigh half. It's logical, yeah? And by the way, the diagram helps.

In the simulation, they would change the gravitational field, Earth, Moon, Jupiter, and see the effect. The simulation would graph it, you could accelerate different objects to see, as you accelerated them, what would their motion look like? What would the graph look like? And it visualized the ideas.

Narrator: The technology helps students learn, by explaining their work to others.

Student: So if you're one there, and zero there--

Gordon: Yeah.

Student: You can't be half.

Gordon: Research tell us, whoever does the explanation does the most learning, so in most classrooms, teachers are learning a lot, because they're talking a lot, and the kids really aren't. so you want to try to discourage the memorization kind of approach, want the kids explaining things and showing their work. The teacher wandering around much more, being more on the side guiding them.

Do you weigh less, compared to being at the surface?

Student: Yeah.

Gordon: Okay, that's good.

Student: Wait--

Gordon: It does take a lot more time to design a good lesson with technology. When you have a normal lesson, you can literally think about it for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, get your resources together, and you're good to go. With technology, you have to make a real lesson that's designed for everything, so the students know what to do next, and that takes, like, an hour. So that's the downside, if there is any.

Anne: I am blessed with a staff who's willing to take some risks, and to come into my office and say, should we give this a try? And there's not a lot more that I can ask for as a principal. We're hoping that each department, whether it be in an art classroom, an English classroom, social science, phys ed, health, we'll sort of have a technology person who the other teachers can go to and get some creative ideas from.

Jeannie: Okay, so do I get to this program through the file menu?

I don't pretend to be an expert, but I'm very good at asking for help, and I can see the possibilities that technology opens up, even when I don't know how to make that work yet.

Narrator: When Jeannie Hunter needs help, she turns to colleague, Bev Wilkinson.

Jeannie: Working with Bev has been a real asset, because she's able to take the crazy ideas that I have and structure them and make them work in a way that I can use them. So she gives me a level of accessibility that I wouldn't have otherwise, and makes it accessible to the students as well.

Narrator: Last year, the World Voices Choir, released its first CD, and made it available over the internet.

Michael: All of a sudden, it hits home. People pretty much anywhere in the world can begin to connect, so I mean, we could reach to Africa, we could reach to Sudan, and we could reach to China. You know, people could start, you know, connecting, getting past the language barrier, getting past, you know, the distance barrier.

Jeannie: We had someone e-mail from Kenya, and say, I'm listening to your CD, and he wrote the e-mail in Kiswahili. I couldn't read it. So I have two Kenyan girls in my choir, and I sat down with them, and I said, I'd like to show you this e-mail. And for them, the moment where they could read that e-mail, and go, wow, somebody from home is listening to us. The world becomes a very small place when you're able to interact with people from anywhere.

Narrator: For more information about, What Works in Public Education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Karena O’Riordan

Executive Producer:

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producer:

  • Loren Micalizio


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Mike Pearson
  • Peter Jones


  • Michael Pritchard

Additional Footage Provided by

  • Brookfield High School, Ottawa, Ontario

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