Montreal

iPads, tablets enhance classroom learning, school administrators say

Quebec public schools may not be able to put tablet computers on students' school-supply lists according to a provincial rule, but some schools using tablets say they are having great success using the devices.

Education Ministry ruled last week to not allow schools to put tablets on school-supplies list

The assault happened over an iPad (Nathan Lambrecht/Canadian Press)

Quebec public schools may not be able to put tablet computers on students' school-supply lists according to a provincial rule, but some schools using tablets say they are having great success using the devices.

Antonia Zannis, the deputy head of Westmount's all-girls private school The Study, told CBC Daybreak on Thursday that children from kindergarten and up are equipped with tablets or laptops to help enhance their learning.

Jennifer Maccarone (Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board) and Antonia Zannis (The Study) say that tablet computers enhance students' learning experiences. (Tracey Lindeman/CBC)

"They're doing a variety of things. For instance, in kindergarten they use an app, Daisy the Dinosaur, and they have to use simple coding techniques to move Daisy around the screen," Zannis said.

She said children from kindergarten to Grade 5 are given iPads to use in class, while children from grades six to 11 are given laptops. The cost of the computers is factored into the tuition parents pay.

She said students use the devices to make designs, test and enhance their knowledge, write and edit material and do other tasks. Zannis said the school wants to teach its students to be creators and not merely consumers of technology.

"They're coming in with so much experience already. They're used to having devices, so that just makes it very natural for them. It's very exciting for them — it engages them to a great degree," Zannis said.

Rules put public schools at a disadvantage

Meanwhile Jennifer Maccarone, the chairperson of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, said each school in the public system has to determine for itself whether to use tablets.

The disparity problem that it presents is unavoidable, she said. Some schools are simply in a better financial position  than others to buy tablets for in-class usage.

In a number of other provinces, either the province, school boards or schools — and in some cases, all three — have set aside funding specific to the purchase of tablet computers.

That's not the case for Quebec public schools. With a year of cascading budget cuts, schools are pinching their pennies harder than ever before.

"The measures we received from the government are very stringent in that they dictate to us exactly how we need to spend that money, and that money has not been allocated for the purchase of tablets," Maccarone said.

Last week, CBC Montreal wrote about a school in Quebec City that asked parents if they were willing to pay for tablets for the children. They were, according to the school.

The school's director argued that the school could get bulk-discount rates on the tablets by placing a large order.

However, asking parents to front the cost of an iPad or other tablet is no longer permitted in public schools, according to a recent provincial ruling. 

Maccarone said public schools are doing the best they can with the financial resources they've got to give kids a 21st-century education.

"I don't think there's any one particular subject that isn't touched by the use of technology today," she said.

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