The writing is on the wall, or tablet
Getting out of the press conference of the ETSB at Granby’s Parkway Elementary, a student project caught our eyes. The young boy chronicles his life around his parents and computer technology, ending with: ‘My parents have Iphone’.
He was not born yet when the Eastern Townships School Board, under the guidance of Dr. Ronald Canuel, took the bold gamble of throwing money out of the window by buying computers for most of its children. When the present publisher took over this newspaper, we made one of those small steps that sometimes resonate a lot more than originally thought. On our front page, we published a picture of two young kids looking at their portable computers in front of Christ Church here in Stanstead. OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL HOURS. That was nine years ago.
The gamble we will say has paid off. Not on the far flung claim that somehow the school board’s dropout rate is related to the introduction of computers, this one having been heard before back in the early 70’s when audio-visual would do the same thing. But there is no denying the facts: the dropout rate of the ETSB stood at 42% ten years ago; it is less than half that today. Still, the young kids using their computers nine years ago are now young adults who have learned the basic skills of using modern tools.
There is a side effect to this: the library was dark last morning at that school.
We do not believe that technology can solve all of the ills that face our school system. Good teaching is more than having all kids using a computer. Yet, the evidence that they can help and even solve a lot of problems is there. The ETSB program was started at around the same time that the MIT Nicholas Negroponte started the one laptop per child program; it is now obvious that in third world countries, this is making a huge difference. By the way, the so called $35 laptop used in India was developed in Montreal by Datawind.
There were schools offering computers before our school board did. But in the massive undertaking that it started, rather than being used by students, they were integrated into the whole curriculum. Not an adjunct but an integral part of the student learning experience.
Today, the whole program, its ten years of experience, its international ramifications, remember the Cirque du Soleil using the ETSB as their international school board, may not survive the cuts of the government. This would be one of the greatest mistakes ever made in this province. We hope that intelligence will prevail and that a proper budget will be allowed for the ETSB.