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School district in Powell River makes technology available

Efforts are being made to communicate; students connect with teachers from home
Gianna and Ethan Hull Powell River
USING TECHNOLOGY: Gianna and Ethan Hull are staying connected to School District 47 activities. The school district is providing access to laptops and tablets for students who need them, and also carrying out hundreds of Zoom meetings to stay in touch. Contributed photo

School District 47 has been using technology to help keep students connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Director of technology Matthew Hull said one component is the school district is working with teachers and school administrators to identify students and families who would benefit from technology access at home.

“Students have access to either a laptop or an iPad depending on the learning needs identified by the classroom teacher,” said Hull. “The district also supports a variety of learning platforms, to ensure students and educators can stay in contact during this period of remote learning. Through this program, the district has managed to reach out to more than 10 per cent of the families in the region, providing them with the needed technology to stay in touch with classroom supports.”

Hull said those making use of the program are a mix of students who don’t have access to the technology at home, and families who have a number of students and a limited number of devices at home. He said at this point, the school district has only distributed one device per family, typically sending tablets to elementary school students and laptops to high school students. However, there are instances of high school students receiving tablets.

Requests come in from the teacher to the school administrator and they come up with a plan for the classroom. The administrator passes that to Hull’s department and they deploy the device the school believes is the best.

All devices going out have been sanitized.

More than 100 devices have been distributed to Powell River students. There are devices still available for distribution.

Efforts have also been made to keep people in touch. Hull said in coordination with the provincially ministry of education and FocusED, the district has deployed Zoom accounts to all of its teaching and support staff so they can stay in contact with each other and their students.

“Over the past month staff have participated in more than 800 meetings with students and their colleagues to ensure the needs of students are being met,” said Hull. “Students across the district have been able to connect with their classroom teacher regarding projects, activities and social/emotional support.

“Teachers have also been doing small group meetings with students to support them in their literacy and numeracy skills. We look forward to continuing to support students using any and all technologies available to us.”

Hull said the ministry of education went out and did the privacy work with the Zoom platform. He said the district has been working on the security and proper use of Zoom.

“The media has given it a bit of a bad rap, but in terms of security concerns, it’s not so much that they are being hacked as they are being hijacked,” said Hull. “In these cases, people are just not taking proper precautions. Teachers, in other jurisdictions, are posting [Zoom sessions] to open websites for ease of access, but then people are finding the links and jumping in on the classroom.

“It’s not really a security problem as it relates to Zoom, but rather, best practices.”

Hull said he met with a kindergarten teacher who has meetings almost every day with her class and she has an educational assistant (EA) who joins her. The EA manages the students.

“The teacher will open up a presentation and the EA will be there as well to mute kids and unmute kids,” said Hull. “We have teachers who are using Zoom in a variety of ways to make sure students stay in contact with their teachers, and give students a chance to keep in contact with each other.”

Hull said children are social learners, so allowing them to have that interaction is important.

“Kids really need that social interaction,” he added.