Winnipeg school makes laptops a classroom must-have

Some students at a Winnipeg high school are now being required to use laptop computers in the classroom, but not all parents are sold on the idea.

Laptops in schools

10 years ago
Duration 1:52
A Winnipeg public high school has made laptop computers a must-have for its Grade 9 and 10 students, a first in Manitoba.

Some students at a Winnipeg high school are now being required to use laptop computers in the classroom, but not all parents are sold on the idea.

Dakota Collegiate is expanding a pilot project aimed at replacing students' textbooks and notebooks with laptops, which students are using to submit assignments and get tutorial supports online.

The pilot project began last year with Grade 9 students, but this year it has been expanded to include Grade 10 students as well.

"It's fine. It's better than using pen and paper," said Austin Patterson, a Grade 10 student, during a math class on Wednesday.

Added Wendy Ma, "It has examples and teaches you how to solve it, while [with] regular textbooks you can just check the answers and cheat."

Officials with the Louis Riel School Division say they want mandatory laptop use to become more widespread.

"Once upon a time we started using calculators in mathematics class. Everybody thought the world had gone mad," said Terry Borys, the school division's superintendent.

"Well, it hadn't. And here we are, we're using laptops."

The school is believed to be the first public school in Manitoba to make laptop use mandatory for Grade 9 and 10 students.

Parents foot the bill

Although other school boards in Canada have laptop computer programs for its students, many of those programs lend the computers to students free of charge.

But at Dakota Collegiate, parents must pay for their children's laptops.

"This isn't like … going to Wal-Mart and spending money on pens and papers. It was a laptop, [which] is probably around at least $400," said Terri Ashcroft, whose son is a Grade 10 student at the school.

School officials say 44 students could not afford to buy their own laptops this academic year, so the school has provided them with laptops for the year as part of a "long-term loan" program.

"We don't want any students to miss out on anything in school because of money," said Allie Hassin, the vice-principal at Dakota Collegiate.

"We have computers that have been donated and we have some computers that have been refurbished."

Ashcroft said while she sees the potential of using laptops in the classroom, she worries that some students will simply use them to surf the internet.

But the school division has a solution for that: it has blocked students from accessing social networking sites, like Facebook, while they're in class.

Math teacher Joel Shimoji said having students use laptops in class will provide them with skills that will help them after they graduate from high school.

"We need to prepare students for their future and not our past," he said.