Maple Ridge students free learn on their own

After 10 years at Yennadon elementary in Maple Ridge, online program expanding to Fairview next year

Dave Dixon with three of his Cyberschool students

Dave Dixon with three of his Cyberschool students

It’s a typical Tuesday at Yennadon elementary, and Dale MacQuarrie’s students are nowhere to be seen.

They are at home, working intently on their schoolwork. He knows this because he is monitoring their work remotely via computer.

MacQuarrie’s students are part of the district’s innovative cyber school program, now in its 10th year at Yennadon.

Like all Grade 6 and 7 students in School District No. 42, MacQuarrie’s students have each been given a laptop computer to do their school work on. What’s different at Yennadon is that once or twice a week, the students can work from home and submit their assignments remotely.

“We give them a great deal of freedom,” says MacQuarrie. “But with that comes high expectations and accountability.”

Each “cyber day,” the students are given a list of assignments to complete. Students can download lesson tutorials, and when they have a question, send an instant message to MacQuarrie, who can respond via video chat.

MacQuarrie can even separate the students into small groups to discuss a subject in an online forum, and can even take over a student’s computer if they are off task.

Back in the classroom, MacQuarrie uses a large digital smart board to conduct a lesson. Using a special pen, he writes on the chalkboard-sized screen and his notes are instantly transmitted to his students in their homes.

The program has proven so popular with students and parents alike, the program expanded to Alouette elementary school four years ago, while Fairview elementary is planning on running the program next September.

“It’s another choice for students and parents,” says superintendent Jan Unwin. “One size doesn’t fit all, and this provides another option.”

The key to the cyber school is the flexibility it allows students. Students can do their school work in their pajamas and take a lunch break whenever they choose.

While students can opt to work from home on Tuesday, they also have the option of working ahead and using their cyber day however they like.

“They use that time to go skiing with dad, or go visit their grandma,” MacQuarrie says.

The program isn’t for everyone, however. With students working from home, they need to be properly supervised, so an adult is required to be present.

“It allows parents to get more involved in their child’s education,” says Unwin. “It doesn’t work for all students, but it works very well for some.”

Students in the program say that while the work load is heavier, they love the freedom the program provides.

“It’s definitely not easy, but you get rewarded,” says Grade 7 student Mackenzie Payton.

Earlier this year, Grade 7 student Alexis Toren travelled to Arizona on a family vacation, and didn’t miss a day of school because she was able to do her work online, and interacted with the class via video chat.

“I was gone for a week, and I didn’t get behind in school,” she says.

MacQuarrie says one of the biggest skills students learn through the program is how to effectively manage their time.

“It was difficult at first to adjust,” said Grade 7 student Isaac Dornbusch. “You’re at home and you don’t have to come to school, so you can sleep in if you want to.

But there’s a lot to do, so you really need to work hard, or you will be left behind.”

In all, more than 50 students in two classes at Yennadon are part of the cyber school. MacQuarrie says he and fellow teacher Jessica Wilson try to integrate the two classes as much as possible.

“We team teach and team plan our lessons,” he says.

The program was first developed for the school district by Yennadon teachers Dave Dixon and Keith Rajala. When Dixon transferred to Alouette elementary four years ago, he decided to bring the program with him.

“The program has really become a part of the culture of [Yennadon],” says Dixon. “It’s really taken off at Alouette, as well.”

The program at Alouette differs from the one offered at Yennadon in that it is available to students not only in the school’s catchment, but across the district as well.

Dixon said he and Rajala, who has since retired, first learned about online distance education at a conference in Alberta 11 years ago.

“These programs were originally set up to reach kids living in remote rural areas, but they found half the students taking part were from Edmonton and Calgary,” Dixon says.

After a brainstorming session in their hotel room, the pair decided on a hybrid model that could work at Yennadon, offering students flexibility, but still retaining the classroom experience.

“As a teacher, you want to see your students face to face,” he says. “But maybe you don’t need to be there every day.”

Initially, there were challenges. Funding was nonexistent, and prior to the introduction of the district’s one-to-one laptop computer program, students who wanted to take part in the program had to use their own computers.

“It was difficult,” Dixon admits. “The kids were using all sorts of different computers and there was different kinds of software.”

The school didn’t have a server to host the program’s website on, so Dixon resorted to hosting on an under-powered Apple desktop computer.

Thankfully, technology has caught up to the program. Students are issued identical computers and programs such as Moodle and Elluminate provide a totally interactive experience for students.

“We don’t want to just put lessons online, we want to put school online,” says Dixon.

Not surprisingly, the program has attracted the attention of educators all over the world.

“We have people coming in all the time to see what we’re doing,” says MacQuarrie. “We’ve had people from around B.C., Canada, the States, even Australia.”

At its core, the program teaches students how to learn on their own. The freedom the program provides is essential for that, Dixon notes.

“At Alouette, we started with 19 kids, and now we have more than 30, and next September the program is going to be starting up at Fairview,” he says.

“It’s an option that really appeals to some parents.”

Just Posted

The draw for May’s Shop Local & Win contest takes place June 4, 2021. (Special to The News)
Open your wallet close to home and win

Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce hosts shop local competition

Brian Malfesi and his partner Vincent Jourdenais have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge kayak racer qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Malfesi is first B.C. sprint paddler to race for Team Canada at Olympics in 33 years

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Chamber of commerce for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows hosts Conservative leader

Erin O’Toole and MP Dalton part of online Zoom meeting on Monday

A photo of Telosky Stadium from the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives. (Special to The News)
Telosky Stadium opened in Haney on this day in 1950

Maple Ridge Museum and Archives marks special day in local sporting history

Transport 2050 is TransLink’s largest ever public engagement. (TransLink, Special to The News)
Last day to take TransLink’s planning survey

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents can have a say in Transport 2050

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read