School to gauge how students, staff adapt to electronics in the classroom

If you walk into a classroom in Notre Dame High School this week, you would notice that aside from the voices and students and teachers, the tapping and clicking of electronic devices is the most common sound you would hear.

The high school’s Bring Your Own Device pilot project was announced to parents and students in June 2013. As of September, many more students will be bringing laptops and tablets to school, though it is not a requirement.

 Notre Dame is not the only school undergoing changes though. Every high school in the Calgary Catholic School District is either in the pilot phase of the project, or has fully implemented the Bring Your Own Device initiative.

Megan Romih, a 16-year-old Grade 12 student, uses a Mac laptop.Romih notes that in the past, students would often try to use smaller devices such as their cellphones for research. She says that the Bring Your Own Device pilot project has made it easier for students to do research in the classroom, and then go home to continue working on it from there.

Photo by Deja Leonard

“I think for English and social classes it helps a lot more because you do more typing,” she said.

How often devices are used is ultimately determined by the subject area and the teacher.

Joanne Romih, Megan’s mother, purchased the laptop for her daughter as an early graduation gift.

“My first reaction was I thought it was a great idea,” she said.

“In saying that, it depends on the kid. You need to know your kid as to whether or not they will use the time wisely,” she added.

The school partnered with Best Buy and the Calgary Catholic School District to provide students and parents who bought qualifying devices with discounted service and protection options, such as computer tune-ups and virus removal.

There are also a limited number of devices available at the school for students who are not able to bring their own devices.

Brian Rurka has been teaching at Notre Dame High School for eight years and has embraced the project.

He said that students have been using devices anyway.

“They preferred them over textbooks,” he said, adding that devices often weigh less and can do more than a textbook.

Benefits of devices:
1) Creativity
2) Engagement
3) Inquiry-based learning
4) Personalized learning
5) Collaboration
6) Cloud computing – anytime/anywhere learning
7) Instant access to online resources

The school plans to have two surveys on the Bring Your Own Device pilot project — one in November 2013 and one in April 2014.

The November survey will focus on the students’ and teachers’ responses to the pilot project, while the April survey will also include the students’ parents.

From that point, they tentatively plan to announce that devices will be required for instruction at Notre Dame High School in the following school year.

Students would be given the choice of having textbooks in digital or hardcopy format.

“Using the electronics is not a right, but a privilege,” Rurka said.

dleonard@cjournal.ca