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Yk1 addressing technology issues
Students get increased access to computers as role of technology expands

Galit Rodan
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 22, 2011

Schools in Yellowknife Education District No. 1 are in the process of being equipped with additional computers to meet the demands of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment's new "technology infusion" program.

NNSL photo/graphic

Owen Reitsma, 5, in kindergarten at J.H. Sissons School, uses his class's SMART Board for roll call, dragging his name off the tree to show he is present. There has been an increased emphasis on technology in the curricula of Yellowknife schools. - Galit Rodan/NNSL photo

"Technology is being asked to be infused in all classes," said Bernie Giacobbo, assistant superintendent of education for Yk1. "It's in every course now; it's not just language arts."

At the first Yk1 school board meeting of the current school year, the issue of insufficient student access to computers was raised in the agenda by manager of information technology services Martin Male. Male said he had been writing that same exact agenda item for about ten months.

"We are finding students are only getting into the computer lab every second or third day for one period and this isn't giving students enough time to complete projects," wrote Male. "One computer lab in each school is not sufficient any longer and the need to add ... mobile labs is becoming a necessity."

Nearly $400,000 was spent on computer equipment during the previous school year, including virtual desktops at about $300,000 and computer labs at $70,000, according to an auditor's report by Janet Toner of Mackay LLP. Giacobbo said much of that equipment is in the process of being installed.

Currently there are three mobile labs at Range Lake North School, two at William McDonald School, two at Mildred Hall School and six at Sir John Franklin High School, said Male. For NJ Macpherson and JH Sissons School, mobile labs which employ laptops rather than desktops are "something that will have to be looked at in next year's budget," said Male.

In addition to mobile labs, the installation of virtual desktops whereby a number of monitors and keyboards can be connected to and run from one tower, have enabled the school board to increase student access to computers while also working within the board's financial means, said Giacobbo. The only thing needed to access a virtual desktop is an Internet connection and a log-in code.

"(Students) can save their work at the school, go home, log in to a virtual desktop, get the exact same applications they have in the school and have access to all their work," explained Male. "So the other benefit is parents don't have to put the money out for things like (Windows) Office 2010 if they don't want to."

Virtual desktops also free up computers from labs, allowing them to be moved into the classrooms, said Giacobbo. "They'll be putting about five per classroom and that'll be done in October. So now you see how all of a sudden kids are being addressed," he said.

Sissons, the last school in Yk1 to be connected, will have its virtual desktop up and running by Friday, said Male.

"In the district, with what's available and what we're doing, it's probably fixed the problem by 85 per cent," he said. And for next year, "We work on making things better even still and upgrading technology.

"We're getting the kids more access and more into using the technology as part of their regular education ... Compared to where it was when I wrote it (the agenda item) the first time 10 months ago, it's leaps and bounds ahead."

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