About Garden Valley School Division
Garden Valley School Division (GVSD) educates more than 4,300 K-12 students and employs 600 educators and administrators across 12 facilities throughout south central Manitoba, just outside the capital city of Winnipeg. GVSD has an annual growth rate of approximately 300 students per year.
GVSD built its reputation of superior education by offering a wide range of high quality programs and services to prepare students to eventually compete in a fast-paced job market. Yet their lapse in technology innovation left many teachers and administrators feeling they weren't adequately preparing students for a world increasingly run online—thus breaching the ethics instilled within the foundation of GVSD's mission. GVSD needed to find a way to help teachers keep up with students and innovate their classrooms in a quick, efficient and effective manner—especially on the social media side.
"We realized that students' adoption of the latest and greatest technologies was far outpacing our adoption of these tools to further the educational process," said James Reimer, IT Manager for Garden Valley School Division. Reimer continued, "The fragmentation between students and teachers was becoming apparent, sending up a huge red flag to a school IT system that always embraced open collaboration. Unfortunately, administrators knew that with the playing field becoming increasingly unequal, it would only be a matter of time before the overall performance of the students, teachers and school system as a whole suffered."
GVSD turned to Novell Vibe® to help close this technology gap. The district began using Vibe as a teaching tool with several goals in mind. First and foremost, GVSD wanted students to be the predominant users; therefore, it needed a solution that had a user-friendly social media interface. It wasn't long before students caught onto the social side of Vibe. For example, they were able to learn about blogging and improve their writing through practice with the solution's secure microblogging tool. Additionally, Vibe provided a secure environment for students with a robust selection of tools allowing GVSD to ensure students are safe online.
Given its size and extensive network of education professionals, GVSD also wanted to establish a professional learning community among the teachers within each school while also fostering cross-collaboration between each unit. The goal was to provide forums for teachers to correspond openly about curriculum questions and specific learning techniques. Novell Vibe was able to take what was once a siloed and spread-out organization and create an active community of teachers collaborating on all things classroom-related.
Today, there are over 500 active students and educators utilizing Novell Vibe with plans to expand to all 4300 students and 600 staff at the start of the 2011 school year. "Teachers really enjoy it and see a lot of potential in it revolutionizing how they conduct their classroom affairs, correspond with their colleagues and collaborate with students. For students, they're able to sharpen their writing and social media skills while also being able to relate to their teachers and fellow students on a closer level," said Reimer.
Additionally, there has been a reduced risk of cyber bullying as teachers have utilized Vibe to run specific online safety courses, discuss ethical uses of technology and exemplify the advantages and dangers of having an online presence. Another overall benefit for GVSD is in its ability to link each teacher and student quickly and easily. With such a large campus, students have the ability to make their own voice heard while teachers can ask for advice and receive feedback almost instantly. In an effort to further extend collaboration, GVSD also looks to leverage full integration between Novell Vibe and GroupWise® 8 in the near future.
"Our teachers are extremely busy and don't want to log into multiple sites, so this integration will enable them to automatically sign-in to their email account while also having access to all Vibe folders," continued Reimer. "The more integrated we can be, the easier it will be to have full access within a few clicks and the faster teachers will adopt and advocate for the solution."