Catholic digital project spreads

The St. Thomas Aquinas School digital pilot project has opened the door to allow students to use personal electronic devices throughout Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School Grade 6 student Ashleigh Smith holds an Apple iPod touch device students at the school are using for their studies.

St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School Grade 6 student Ashleigh Smith holds an Apple iPod touch device students at the school are using for their studies.

The St. Thomas Aquinas School digital pilot project has opened the door to allow students to use personal electronic devices throughout Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

In January, the school board gave the go-ahead for usage of student-owned devices on the region’s wireless network in all Grade 6 classrooms and high schools.

The decision came as a result of the successful pilot conducted at the middle school.

System networks analysts are currently how to roll out the program to the entire district.

“As you can imagine, it is going to be quite a leap going from one school where students have accessibility from their devices to the whole division,” said principal Dave Khatib, who spearheaded the project.

“At this point, we have network analysts working to ensure that when students log on with their own devices, they are going to get conductivity in anyone of schools. . . . Once that is done we will be able to fully roll it out to all the schools in the division.”

Khatib could not say when the network audit is expected to be completed.

For three months last year, the 400 students were allowed to use their electronic devices, including cellphones and iPods in the classroom.

The focus is to enhance student learning.

For example, students could conduct research when instructed. Whereas in the district’s other 16 schools, students had to put away and turn off their devices during class time.

On a given school day during the pilot, 40 to 45 per cent of the students used their own hand-held devices and during a deliberate focus, about 60 to 65 per cent used technology.

“There is lots of information out there that talks about technology enhances learning and it does,” said Khatib.

“It’s a tool and it’s a delivery tool. It doesn’t replace teachers, it just enhances learning. And if we can create tools that can increase achievement, then we’re really doing a good job.”

Paul Mason, associate superintendent of personnel, said a number of the schools are well-positioned to join the initiative and others may need a little more time.

He believes at least two schools could be up and running by September.

“Before we turn the switch to allow students to access the network with their devices, schools need to take that time to work with students on responsible digital citizenship,” said Mason.

Teachers, as well, could need more professional development to allow for incorporating the devices in the classroom.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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