Mimio Global Press

Local Education Benefits From Technology

Written by Luke Reimer for Steinbackonline.com on Friday, 24 August 2012

A Winnipeg school recently caused some surprise by requiring both Grade Nine and Grade Ten students to own laptops for the upcoming school term. Media reports indicate Dakota Collegiate began the pilot project last year with the formerly listed grade.

However, local education is also changing significantly because of technology. Chris Gudziunas, Hanover School Division Assistant Superintendent, explains a new initiative they are taking.

"We are in the process of starting to build a fibre network. That will be foundational in terms of then putting the wireless networks in our schools, which will allow us to bring your own devices or wherever we want to go with that." However, he says this project will still take a while to implement.

Gudziunas says this upgrade would allow all students access to faster internet.

"Currently, when we have a large number of kids on our network, the internet slows down because we don't have the capacity to deal with this. The fibre network eliminates that for us. It also allows some equity in the sense that all of our students have the same speed - you don't have faster internet access in Steinbach and slow internet access out in New Bothwell or Blumenort." He notes he thinks it is important everyone has the same opportunity for learning in this regard.

Despite this eventual transition, Gudziunas says an open campus wireless system for students to use will not happen in the very near future.

"There is a responsibility, because what is done on our internet and where we are leaves what we call a digital footprinting. We want to make sure that it's through education that we provide a safe learning environment for our students. Open campus - we're a ways off from those discussions and implementing that." He says Hanover is working to promote the theme of digital wisdom, adding information can be found in their new school calendar.

Gudziunas says the division's network is as secure is one can possibly be. He explains they use two methods to create safety.

"There is the personal side where our teachers work and educate our students as to the proper use of the internet. We also have our filter system, the technical side that blocks out all of the sites we would deem inappropriate." While Gudziunas admits 100% security does not exist, he says Hanover's system is close.

He states mandatory laptops for their local schools does not seem likely.

"I think that would be a difficult thing to do, because there are a large range of laptops coming in and then you're getting into the equity issues. What would be great is if the government provided a standardized laptop for students - that's one option." Last school year, Gudziunas points out Hanover put short throw projectors in every classroom.

Moving forward, he says they are starting a new pilot project this year.

"They're Mimio boards, and what it does in our classrooms is it allows the internet access in, and the white boards become actual teaching tools. There are a variety of things teachers are able to do with that kind of stuff." Gudziunas notes many schools have indicated interest in participating.

While technology can certainly improve efficiency and quality of education, he says it is not an end in itself. Gudziunas shares what he learned at a spring brain and technology conference in Washington.

"We have to remind ourselves that technology doesn't replace good teaching. It's still important to have a good teacher, and technology is a tool - but, it can be a very wonderful tool if used properly." He says the many possible affects of technology on learning are being studied by educational professionals. Gudziunas notes virtual learning environments are even being experimented with.

He says it is common for kids to bring personal smart devices to school in Hanover, but says they are not yet being integrated into the learning environment.

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