Technology isn’t the future at some Thunder Bay high schools, it’s the present.
On Monday officials from the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board announced they’ll be spending more than $1 million to equip classrooms with laptops, tablets and wireless compatibility, an attempt to help students prepare for life after high school.
Chemistry teacher Michelle Luu was one of 13 instructors who took part in a pilot program last school year at St. Ignatius and St. Patrick high schools and said having access to the technology in the classroom not only excites students, it also gives teachers a better handle on how they’re progressing.
“I was able to develop interactive lessons and it gave students a voice that some of them never had before,” Luu said.
“I was also able to assess them throughout the lessons and knew exactly where every student was at every step of the way. So if somebody was falling behind I knew exactly who that person was – and nobody else did. I was able to get to them right away and catch them back up.”
Students could also anonymously get descriptive feedback and help from other students.
“It was really nice for those shy kids who don’t really want to show people their work.”
Luu said introducing tablets and computers to students in the classroom is a natural progression in education.
Many students are already using the technology at home, and knowing it backward and forward will be a requirement when they hit college or university and later, the job force.
“It’s important they get familiar with it and know how to use it to help themselves when they’re done with us and move on to post-secondary education,” Luu said.
The improvements were noticeable, she added.
“Absolutely,” Luu said.
“The biggest improvement I found was with those quiet students, who didn’t really talk to you and you didn’t really know how they were doing. They have a voice now. Everybody has a voice now, instead of just those few kids who always (speak up).”
TBCDSB director of education Pino Tassone said the success of the pilot program, combined with similar results at the elementary school level, encouraged board members to push for the upgrade, which will provide a MacBook Pro to each teacher, training on the software. Each school will also see PC computers replaced with iMac desktops and two additional mobile iPad carts for classroom use. The board also intends to continue and expand its iPad mini project in 2014-15.
“Once we brought in the technology into the classroom, right away the students were engaged,” Tassone said.
“This is the way students learn now and we felt we had to be on top of the game.”
Tassone said the commitment extends to the elementary school level, where hardware and software updates are planned.
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