Technology and your kids

Trent Ernst, Editor


In Tumbler Ridge, personal technology in the classroom is in its infancy.

Over at Tumbler Ridge Elementary, technology is discouraged. “Some kids have brounght in their own laptop or iPad for special things, but we try and avoid it,” says Kim Ferguson, principal. She says it isn’t that the technolgy is unwanted, it’s just that the kids are so young. “We try and avoid things like DSes or iPads for fear of something being broken or stolen.”

Ferguson says that kids do have access to the school’s thirty iPads, which were aquired last year, as well as the computer lab, which features new iMacs.

“We don’t even let kids bring phones to school. If they have to call home for a ride, their teacher will keep the phone for the day, and give it back after school.”

Ferguson says that the school might be getting new technology through a grant in conjunction with the Senior’s Centre. “The Seniors have tried to figure out a technology grant; there was a letter that went forward at the end of last school term. If the grant goes through, some of the older kids would teach the seniors how to use technology like scanners.”

Over at the high school, the teens have a bit more freedom to bring their own technolgy. While some teachers still have phone boxes for students that abuse the technology, Tumbler Ridge Secondary principal Blaine Broderick says that, while the school won’t be providing each kid their own laptop anytime soon, they don’t actively dissuade students, either. “We have wifi set up for studetns to use,” says Broderick. “Some students do their own Individual Education Program, which is designed for students who struggle in certain aspects of learning, These are individual plan to support their learning, and some of them get laptops provided.”

With technological literacy a growing concern, Broderick says that people are still split on what is appropriate. “Teachers have different belief around technology in the classroom,” says Broderick. “Someone brings in an iPad, and they wind up playing games in class. Other kids use them as graphing calculators and as word processors.”

Broderick says he’s in favour of properly used technology in the classroom. “Over the last few years, we’ve moved more towards being able to sit and compose on computer, as opposed to writing first few drafts on pen and paper. The kids are more computer literate. In fact, often times, they’re teaching us about technology, about certain programs. In ten years time, it will be required in the workplace, at home.”

Broderick says that one thing that the school district has been looking at is something called a “flipped classroom.”

“Instead of me teaching a math lession,” says Broderick, “I would email notes to the kids, and then in class we work on it together. I like the idea of being more interactive in terms of technology. I don’t know if we’re at the point yet where we could do lessons as a correspondence course, and I wouldn’t be comfortable with it.”

Recently, Broderick has started moving in that direction. The school, he says, has a few smart podiums, which allow what he writes and draws on the podium to be projected onto a digital whiteboard. “There are things you can do through that,” he says. “For instance, I save the notes as a PDF, and I email them to the students. The students that are traditional learners and want to write their own notes can do that. The ones who want to listen and then review the notes later can do that.”

Are there any technological requirements for students? No, says Broderick. “There’s nothing that a student needs to have, nothing that is absolutely necessary. Some students take corrospondence, because there are things we don’t have. Kids who do that will need internet accesses, but that’s about it, and they can do that at school.

Broderick says in January, he visited a school down in the Lower Mainland that showed him how technology and a flipped classroom can lead to interesting results. “It was very eye opening. Very non traditional. As they get older, their timetable becomes more of their time. Their schedule is mostly open, and they can work during study blocks. They might have an English class once or twice a week.

“Teachers have their courses ready in advance, and if a student wants to work ahead, they can. They can do tutorials during regular class time, or they can work with other students or they can get work with teachers.”

Broderick says he’s interested in this new model. “If we were able to turn our entire school that way, it would accelerate the learning of many students.”