New tech­nol­ogy greeted Pal­liser staff and stu­dents

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Palliser Schools - BY CRAIG AL­BRECHT PAL­LISER SCHOOL DIVI­SION

A new school year brings with it many changes, in­clud­ing new faces, new friends and per­haps even some new back-to-school clothes.

For thou­sands of stu­dents and staff at Pal­liser Re­gional Schools, the 2018-19 school year also ush­ers in new tech­nol­ogy and the many ad­van­tages that come with it. Pal­liser pur­chased 1,400 new Google Chrome­book lap­tops and, with the help of sum­mer stu­dents, set up the com­put­ers and then shipped them out to schools for the be­gin­ning of the new school year.

“The goal is to en­hance the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment for our stu­dents and en­hance ac­ces­si­bil­ity to re­sources and in­for­ma­tion,” says Tom Hamer, As­so­ciate Su­per­in­ten­dent, Learn­ing Ser­vices.

Plans call for an­other 1,400 Chrome­books to be added to the in­ven­tory next sum­mer, bring­ing Pal­liser up to a ra­tio of one de­vice for ev­ery two stu­dents from kinder­garten through to Grade 12.

Hamer says that ra­tio seems to be the “sweet spot,” and ar­gues there’s a po­ten­tial down­side to pro­vid­ing each and ev­ery stu­dent with their own de­vice. Stu­dents aren’t prop­erly served by sit­ting them in front of a com­puter all day.

“That is one of the things we want to make sure, that there is a bal­ance be­tween mul­ti­ple learn­ing styles,” he says. “Yes, there is learn­ing in a dig­i­tal world and that Chrome­books are a great in­ter­face for that. But kids also need to learn through other means as well. They need to be phys­i­cally ac­tive and ex­pe­ri­ence out­door ac­tiv­i­ties as well.”

Nor should tech­nol­ogy re­place the teacher. Part of what teach­ers do is pre­pare stu­dents for life in the world out­side of school, says Hamer, and to do this they need to learn in­ter­per­sonal skills that come through hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.

“One thing tech­nol­ogy does is al­low a teacher to spend more time on build­ing re­la­tion­ships, rather than hav­ing them hand out pen­cils or pho­to­copy ma­te­rial,” he says.

Pal­liser also ad­dressed the other side of that equa­tion, and made Chrome­books avail­able to ev­ery teacher. When Hamer first took over the tech­nol­ogy port­fo­lio four years ago he says some teach­ers may not have fully em­braced the de­vices. Too of­ten those com­put­ers were out of date and there weren’t enough of them to guar­an­tee a stu­dent could start and fin­ish a project en­tirely in a dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment.

“The feed­back we have been get­ting is that this has re­ally kick-started pur­pose­ful com­puter use in class­rooms,” says Hamer.

Ev­ery teacher, he be­lieves, can find ways to in­te­grate tech­nol­ogy into their lessons. It’s just a ques­tion of their com­fort level, and Pal­liser wants to en­sure teach­ers re­ceive the sup­port needed to nudge their prac­tice into a “more seam­less” use of tech­nol­ogy.

While the Chrome­books are set up with safety mea­sures to limit ac­cess to in­ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial, Hamer says lessons in dig­i­tal cit­i­zen­ship for stu­dents are just as im­por­tant and teach­ers play a very im­por­tant role in this.

“The un­fil­tered In­ter­net that kids have ac­cess to when they are given a cell phone is far more wor­ri­some. From an ed­u­ca­tional per­spec­tive, we need to teach kids what is safe and what is not,” he says, adding it’s more ben­e­fi­cial and pur­pose­ful when teach­ers are teach­ing crit­i­cal think­ing in this re­gard.

Al­most 2,000 new com­put­ers have been added this school year, in­clud­ing up­graded com­put­ers for ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tants at Pal­liser schools. Most re­cently Pal­liser has typ­i­cally pur­chased be­tween 400 and 500 de­vices a year. Hamer adds plans are in place for sched­uled and time­lier re­place­ment of tech­nol­ogy within Pal­liser mov­ing for­ward.

Pal­liser School photo

Sum­mer stu­dents helped un­load, set up and dis­trib­ute 1,400 Chrome­books across Pal­liser in time for the new school year.

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