Nova Scotia

Many Cape Breton students to get laptops for school year

The Cape Breton Victoria Regional Centre for Education is issuing all middle school and high school students — about 7,000 students in total — a laptop of their own.

Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education to issue laptops to all grade 6-12 students

A student uses a Chromebook. (Dawn Gillis)

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education is making an extra investment in technology for the coming school year.

It will issue all middle school and high school students — about 7,000 students in total — a Chromebook laptop of their own.

One of the goals is to reduce the sharing of equipment, said Lewis MacDonald, co-ordinator of facilities management.

"In previous years, Chromebooks would be in a classroom, on a charging cart, and students would come and take a Chromebook out, use it in a class, and put it back," he said.

"Part of the back-to-school plan calls for cleaning of computer equipment in between individual uses. So this year all students will just have their own Chromebook."

The school district has been buying the laptops over the past five years, with help from the provincial government.

An extra 500 were added to this summer's order, at a cost of about $270 per unit, to ensure all students in grades 6 through 12 will have one of their own, said MacDonald.

Chromebook laptops are shown ready to be deployed to Cape Breton-Victoria students. (Lewis MacDonald)

It would be a dream scenario for Kurt Kublek, technology integration co-ordinator with the centre for education, were it not for the circumstances behind the move.

Kublek said the pandemic lockdown, and the move to online learning in the spring, provided a lesson in the benefits of technology, with more teachers making use of the web service Google Classroom to issue assignments and share resources.

"Now with restrictions in the classroom we really have to try to figure out different ways to do things, like say group work," he said. "So how do you do group work when you can't get into a group? Well, technology really can help with that sort of thing."

Having students equipped with laptops at home would also be useful in the event that another wave of the virus necessitates a return to online learning.

"It's definitely in the back of everybody's mind," said Kublek.

Students will be required to sign a responsibility agreement, and will be expected to return the laptops at the end of the school year.

Cases of lost or damaged laptops will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, said MacDonald. But families likely will not be held financially responsible.

"That's not part of the responsibility agreement at this time," he said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Holly Conners is a reporter and current affairs producer who has been with CBC Cape Breton since 1998. Contact her at holly.conners@cbc.ca.

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