Tech upgrades thrill small school

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/12/2014 (2806 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OAK LAKE — A $25,000 Staples Canada Recycle for Education grant is helping place iPad minis into the hands of Oak Lake Community School kindergarten students.

Principal Brenda Masson said it is grants like these that make it possible for rural schools to keep up with technological advances.

“For a small school, it makes a huge difference,” Masson said. “Technology, kids love it and it keeps us connected with the rest of the world.”

Bruce Bumstead/Brandon Sun Oak Lake Community School junior kindergarten students Micah Thiessen, right, and Courtney Cochrane use their school’s iPads to record images of their class at play on Tuesday afternoon.

The small school of 121 junior kindergarten to Grade 8 students was notified in May it was the western Canadian elementary school winner of the Staples Canada Recycle for Education computer lab contest.

Masson said she helped break the news to staff and students during a surprise assembly.

“We weren’t sure how we were going to measure up against the rest of Canada,” she admitted, adding it was the school’s outdoor LED sign powered by a wind tower that may have given them a competitive edge.

The now-popular sign in the small town, secured through grant applications, is used to display school, environmental and community messages. The school’s recycling initiatives, along with a learning garden for kindergarten students used to help produce treats for the school’s daily breakfast program, were also mentioned in their grant application.

With their winnings in hand, last month Masson said staff members made the trip to Brandon’s Staples store, where they spent every last dime on 20 iPad minis, 10 Microsoft Service Pro 3s, two Apple TVs, protective cases for the new devices, charging stations and speakers. Masson said they’re hoping to receive their order in full sometime this month.

“We came together as a staff and decided what would be the best educational tools to purchase for our students to make the biggest difference in our classrooms,” she said. “They just fit nicely into the kids hands … they get to hold that device and they’re natural at using it.”

While the new technology will be available for all the students in the school, the kindergarten students get first crack at the minis.

With an iPad in hand, five-year-old Micah Thiessen walked around taking pictures of his classmates during play time Tuesday afternoon. After carefully selecting his favourite photo, a filter and a caption, he posted it on his classroom’s private Instagram account.

Instagram, a popular mobile photo and video sharing and social networking service, has been a fun way of integrating technology into her classroom, kindergarten teacher Devon Caldwell said.

“No matter how young children are and whether or not they can read or write, they can always take a picture,” Caldwell said.

“And taking a picture allows them to share their learning with a real audience and get feedback on what they’re learning in the classroom.”

Although technology in the classroom has sparked some controversy, Caldwell said she provides a balanced approach “that is supporting development, not taking away from it.”

“It provides one more way to express what they know,” she said. “If we give them a tool like this, they can photograph what they know, caption what they know, shoot video, record their voice … it gives them just another medium to express their learning.”

» lenns@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @LindseyEnns

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