School District 8 has approved a plan to put new laptops on the desks of every Grade 7 and 10 student.
The board of trustees voted at its Feb. 9 meeting to spend $750,000 on 750 Microsoft-based devices ahead of the 2020-2021 fall semester.
Nick Howald, the district’s director of information technology, says the plan will make a positive impact on students.
“I think that we can see huge student success, and that’s really the key, right?” said Howald. “This is not technology for technology’s sake. This is for student success. This is the easy part. Using this as an effective learning tool is what we really need to do.”
Howald said Grade 7 and 10 were chosen because they are considered transition grades for students entering middle school or looking ahead to post-secondary.
The plan, Howald said, envisions students keeping their devices for three years before getting replacements. So a Grade 7 student would get a new laptop in Grade 10, while a Grade 10 student would keep their tech through to graduation when it would be returned to the district.
The district, in turn, could either recycle the laptop, sell it or repurpose it for younger students.
The board has only voted in favour of the plan for the next academic year, but if it continues to be included in annual budgets then every student in Grade 7 through 12 will eventually have their own laptop.
Howald said access to technology is an issue at every SD8 school. Some schools have carts of laptops that are shared between teachers, which leads to a lack of availability. Other students may bring their own devices from home and have an unfair advantage over their classmates.
“By providing every student with a comparable device to all other people in the class, you remove the have and have-nots and any struggle that someone may feel with bringing their own device in.”
Howald said students surveyed said they valued physical keyboards, touch screens and front-facing cameras, which they took into account when deciding on laptops versus tablets.
Teachers, he said, will also receive professional development showing how best to incorporate the tech into the classroom.
Although the tech is meant to stay onsite, Howald said it will be up to schools to decide where it follows students.
“I envision this to be like a textbook,” said Howald. “The schools and the teachers are the ones who know the students best, and if they believe that the student can take a device home and it can provide value overnight, then let’s let that be a school-based decision.”
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