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Seniors beware: I don’t understand this either

Technology in our local schools has come a long way since the 1970s. The East York Board of Education, which encompassed Leaside then, was advanced with PETs and Commodore 64s. The programs were loaded into tapedecks and were clunky. And there still were blackboards, chalk and erasers.

Now, there are SMARTboards, laptops and iPads galore.

At Bessborough, for instance, under the leadership of new-to-the-school principal Patricia Broderick and vice-principal Caroline Rosenbloom, there are Arduino workshops for senior students.

Don’t know what that’s all about? Neither did some of the teachers, who were provided with assistance to get them up to speed.

Arduino? It’s an open-source electronics platform based on easy to use hardware and software. It’s intended for anyone making interactive projects.

By writing code, the students can make the lights on the board go on and off, but to make it work, they need to understand the process, rather than blindly following the rules.

Even in the primary grades, there is an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) as an integrated way for students to learn. A class might be out in the neighbourhood, armed with iPads to measure angles in a way that is more understandable to them than lines in a notebook.

At St. Anselm Catholic School, where Richard Walo has been principal since April of 2013, the students, starting with kindergarten on up, are using forms of social media, including Twitter and Skype to enlarge their world and their understanding of it, in addition to using programmes like Prodigy math to help boost math skills.

It is an interactive website that looks like a game, but is aligned to the Ontario curriculum. A newly-upgraded computer lab and additional hardware in the classrooms lead to more computer competence and confidence.

The generosity of the parent community has enabled the purchasing of the JUMP Math program for all students in grades 1 to 8. While not specifically technology-based, it is definitely not traditional rote-math, Dr. John Mighton, the founder of JUMP Math, was at the school to spend an evening with parents.

Meanwhile, at Northlea, with David Ehrlich starting his second year as principal, most classrooms are equipped with white SMARTboards which can be used as projectors, with a computer hook up, or written on by hand with special pens. Some staff attended a weekend Google Camp workshop to learn the intricacies of SMARTboards, while other staff taught the course.

With the financial support of the school council, the entire school is wireless, and also has an array of iPads, laptops or notebooks. Chromebooks are on their way for the grade 6 students.

And last but not least: Rolph Road, where Michael Kennedy has been principal since January. Again, with the help of the school budget, donors and more, technology is on its way – a cart with new laptops for the library, new laptops for the primary team and the resource group, and iPads for the kindergarten team.

Students in the portables are getting some special perks. Their classrooms are wireless, have SMARTboards, and have two sets of 30 laptops being shared between the four portables.