The one-to-one student owned laptop initiative will head into its second year this fall with all students entering Grade 9 required to bring the computers to class.
Teachers Chris Rogers and Ken Symington said the first year of the initiative using laptops as an educational tool was a learning experience for all.
“Already in one year it has become such a part of day-to-day life for us,” Rogers said. “Having a computer has become part of the infrastructure... It didn’t prove to be as scary and risky as some thought it would be.”
When the initiative was first unveiled to parents of Grade 8 students last year there were some concerns over the added responsibility for students and cost.
However, Rogers said students did take ownership of the laptops, took care of them and brought them to class.
“It is about personalizing learning, giving kids voice and letting them have choice,” he said. “It is how they work and play these days and it brings the real world into school.”
This year, CCHS was one of the first schools in the province to have students write achievement tests with their personal computers.
Symington said teaching students how to navigate the internet and use computers effectively is not as simple as putting computers in classrooms.
“It is very important for the teacher to be there,” he said, adding students are technologically comfortable, but not savvy without instruction.
By having access to the tools of a laptop on a personal basis for every class, Rogers said the way learning happens changes.
He said students take ownership of information and learn to sort through it – something often assumed this generation is naturally capable of.
“How do you sift through and find what’s useful and sort through the noise?” Rogers asked. “That’s what they need to learn.”
Symington said it was a wakeup call for students that they did not know everything and challenged them to learn new software and troubleshooting for their laptops.
It also challenges the roles of teachers who need to learn the best tools and methods of using laptops in the classroom.
Rogers said what is exciting about the initiative will take a long time to become apparent as both students and teachers learn together.
But a survey of students this past year showed those in Grade 9 were slightly more engaged than the rest of the school and the national and provincial average.
The formal survey measures engagement with provincial/national students reporting 40 per cent, CCHS 55 per cent and those with laptops 57 per cent.
“We can’t say if it was the computers, but it certainly hasn’t hurt,” Rogers said. “As we learn how to teach in that new environment and students start to learn, hopefully we will see movement.”