New Brunswick

Hampton High handing out USB keys to save cash

A Kennebecasis Valley school is starting to turn away from traditional, paper-based agendas and textbooks and offering more assignments online and electronic books.

A Kennebecasis Valley school is starting to turn away from traditional, paper-based agendas and textbooks and offering more assignments online and electronic books.

When classes started this year, roughly 700 Hampton High School students were given two-gigabyte USB keys — or portable memory sticks — instead of agendas. Some classes have also switched from textbooks to online assignments.

The portable memory sticks allow the school to appeal to more tech-savvy students and avoids the hefty costs of purchasing new textbooks.

Rob Chapman, a vice-principal at Hampton High School, led the USB project and said he believes that taking advantage of the technology will give students' education a boost and lighten their backpacks.

"We can take online textbooks or e-textbooks, and we can place them on the USB," Chapman said.

"So that better facilitates students being able to transport information from home to school and school to home."

The Department of Education has trimmed district education budgets as a part of the provincial government’s overall effort to eliminate the $450-million deficit. Those budget cuts mean every school is being forced to find ways to save money.

The USB keys are a component of that strategy to save money for Hampton High.

Reduces replacement costs

Chapman said a USB key costs about $10 compared to $80 for a traditional textbook. Paper-based textbooks are easily damaged so the use of electronic texts also cuts down on replacement costs.

Stephanie Davarenne is one of the 700 students who was given a USB key at the start of the school year.

She said that downloading her homework onto the memory stick lightens her load.

"I carry a 20-pound biology book, so it'd be nice to slowly but surely get rid of that," she said.

A few math classes at Hampton High are also using electronic lessons and posting assignments online.

The school has also made provisions for students who may not have a computer or internet-access at home.

Chapman said those few students can still sign out a textbook.

But he said with the vast majority enjoying easy online access, computer based learning will only spread in school years to come.

Recent studies show that only 70 per cent of households in New Brunswick have internet access compared to the national average of 79 per cent.

However, New Brunswick has one of the highest rates of high-speed internet access, according to a 2009 study by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission.

The New Brunswick government partnered with a business to offer high-speed internet to rural areas.