Eastern Townships Schoolboard
Designing the Future of Children Around the World
By Ron Canuel, Director General
Eastern Townships School Board, Quebec, Canada.
In early November 2008, the Eastern Townships School Board (ETSB) signed a partnership agreement with the South American country of Uruguay. Just what is so significant about this agreement?
Well, the ETSB remains one of the few public school boards in North America where a laptop deployment has been happening since 2003. Over the course of the past five years, there have been important advancements in the quality and integration of technology into the classrooms. However, in all the past and on-going challenges that laptop deployments present to educators, the "Human Factor" remains one of the major considerations for a successful deployment.
In our lengthy conversations with the educators from Uruguay, it was clear that the OLPC deployment represented a major social, educational and cultural shift, in effect, bringing the 21st century directly into communities and families. To do so effectively, requires significant planning and insights into the "Human Factor" so that technology does not displace the essential role of the educators. Too often critics of laptop technology deployments cite the very old concern that a machine should never replace a teacher. And they are correct in this affirmation, however they are incorrect in insinuating that technology has no place in the classroom.
Our lengthy experience with the integration of laptops into our classrooms has clearly demonstrated that the "Human Factor" prevails and predominates any issue or question on how to best integrate technology into teaching and learning practices. This understanding of the dynamics of the individual in the classroom permitted our colleagues from Uruguay to further appreciate the complexity of a successful deployment.
In their extended visit to our School Board, the Uruguayan educators were intrigued by the multiple usages of a laptop, but also equally pleased to see the impact on families and communities. In one visit to an isolated community, the delegates witnessed a classroom interaction between students and biologists from the world famous San Diego Zoo. The interactions were dynamic and engaging to the students. To add to this context, the school also has developed itself into a Community Learning Centre, bringing in the citizens of the village, at all times of the day and evening. Senior citizens are taking computer courses, using the Internet for the first time, setting up email accounts, etc. In effect, it was a clear demonstrable outcome of the laptop deployment.
The partnership signed between our School Board and Uruguay is also a reciprocal agreement, in that educator and student exchanges are also planned. Acquiring the rich experiences of the first, real OLPC laptop deployment, on a country-wide basis, is an essential component of our own laptop experience. Having a better appreciation of the strengths of technology deployments in other parts of the world will only add to the overall experience of ensuring that children, regardless of where they live, can truly be successful and active global citizens.
Ron Canuel, currently President and CEO of the Canadian Education Association, was the Director General of the Eastern Townships School Board from 1999 - 2010. In his role as administrator, he developed alternative non-traditional strategies to addressing the serious issues that students, staff and communities regularly face.
The Eastern Townships School Board, located in southeastern Quebec, is responsible for the first board-wide laptop initiative in Canada. The ETSB began phasing in laptops in 2003. To date, approximately 5,600 laptops have been distributed to its students and teachers.The Eastern Townships School Board, located in southeastern Quebec, is responsible for the first board-wide laptop initiative in Canada. The ETSB began phasing in laptops in 2003. To date, approximately 5,600 laptops have been distributed to its students and teachers.
To read the next Global Story click here