Quebec school puts tablet PCs to the test

An independent co-educational boarding and day school serving children from grades seven to 12 has deployed almost 300 Tablet PCs to students and staff with the intention of creating a more dynamic and innovative learning environment.

Founded in 1836, Lennoxville, Que.-based Bishop’s College School (BCS) rolled out tablet PCs running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition three months, according to a school official. The technology is being used by some 240 students and 54 faculty.

“”Our mandate is to get our students into university,”” said Theodora Brinckman, director of advancement, BCS. “”We know technology is part of our young people’s and our reality. We wanted to ensure our students, when they graduated, not only have the technical savvy to use computers, but also have the ability to access and manage all the information available.””

The school actually started getting the necessary infrastructure — such as wireless capability — in place about two years ago, Brinckman said. It chose tablet PCs over laptops because of design and mobility considerations.

“”Tablet PCs are much better and physically lighter, so it’s not a big deal for students to lug them around,”” she said, noting that all students have their own machine–at no cost to their parents. “”The school decided to get the technology, so we decided to absorb the cost.””

According to Elliot Katz, senior product manager, Windows Client, Microsoft Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont., tablet PCs offer an opportunity for teachers to share with students content they’ve found on the Internet or to electronically send class lessons.

“”We knew they would be applicable to the learning environment,”” said Katz. “”We wanted the Tablet PC to be an evolution of the laptop…The Tablet PC operating system is a superset of what you get with Windows XP Professional. We also wanted (the machine) to be very mobile.””

Microsoft’s approach to the education sector is embodied in Partners in Learning, the company’s global initiative to make strategic investments in programs ranging from kindergarten to grade 12. As part of the initiative, Microsoft partners with experts in curriculum development to deliver learning and development experiences for teachers, resources to support success in the classroom and opportunities for educators to network with colleagues. The company has committed $330 million worldwide in cash grants to the program over the next five years.

The use of IT in schools exposes students and educators to new learning environments that support new ways doing things, said Douglas Watt, senior research associate, Conference Board of Canada in Ottawa, Ont.

“”Students will be more encouraged to learn using the new technology rather than by using textbooks and chalkboards,”” said Watt. “”The tablet PC is a technology they can understand. It’s also good for teachers to get over their fear of technology.””

Technology isn’t being implemented in the schools as quickly as it could be or should be, he noted, citing reasons such as budgets, finances and class sizes. Schools that are actually making technology an integral part of the learning experience, he continued, are among the leading edge.

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