The Peel District School Board is considering extending a pilot program that provides 25 teachers, along with two administrators and three teaching assistants, with wireless notebooks from Toronto-based MDG

Computers

The pilot, which began last September, is taking place at H.F. Loughlin Public School.

“With the notebooks we’ve been able to target training on software that is available from the Ministry of Education, so my role has been to help (teachers) see the connections between what software is available and what they need to teach at their grade levels,” said Tania Sterling, instructional technology resource teacher at the board. “We’ve also seen people using their notebooks to communicate with each other electronically, so for e-mail and online collaboration.”

Having wireless access to the Internet has given teachers the ability to look for online resources to support their planning, instruction and assessing, Sterling said. For example, a teacher planning a unit on medieval history can find the most up-to-date, comprehensive information on medieval dress online.

Teachers have embraced the addition to their resources, Sterling said, although it will be up to the board’s assessment and accountability department to decide whether to continue with the pilot. Two surveys of the pilot program participants have been conducted so far. The findings will be used to determine the project’s future and to improve the way the notebooks enhance the teaching/learning experience.

To ensure teachers get the most out of their notebooks, each was provided with about eight hours of formal training. “Part of my portfolio this year is to support on-site teachers at that school with any type of technology or software training they required,” she said.

According to Brian Monette, chief marketing officer for MDG Computers Canada Inc., the 15.1-inch widescreen notebooks use an Intel Centrino chipset and run on Windows XP Professional. They have been donated to the school with a view to a longer-term relationship in the educational sector.

“Wherever we can help introduce more technology to the classroom is good for teachers and administrators but it’s also good for the industry as a whole,” said Monette.

MDG provides all the tech support as well. “We worked with the board on issues that were outside the basic technology issues,” he said

Although tablet PCs might eventually be a better fit for teachers in the classroom, they’re still too expensive, Monette argued.

“The way the tablet PC is evolving is probably the slowest of any format, but it does offer some interesting solutions,” he said. “One of the most important aspects of this pilot project was getting technology that was readily available in the hands of all the teachers, and Loughin was a great school to do that because it had a great cross-section of teachers with a variety of expertise ranging from neophytes to experts. The whole initiative from Peel’s standpoint was so the pilot could actually represent the challenges of deploying technology to an average school at the board.”

MDG currently has a number of educational partnerships with Ontario school boards.

“We’re offering a similar type of solution to other boards as well and we’ll be reviewing each applicant based on its criteria,” Monette said.

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