Toronto kids explore Canada

Grade school students at Toronto’s western-end are having fun studying Canadian history and in a way recording with the help of tablet devices.

Grade 5 and 6 students in 23 elementary schools in the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) Western Region recently began various projects incorporating stories, poems, photo journals, drama videos and animation with the use of BlackBerry’s PlayBook tablets. The 184 PlayBook tablets were donated to the TDSB by data storage, information security and cloud computing product and services company EMC Canada.

“Both students and teachers have been very enthusiastic with getting the program off the ground,” said Tim Kamino, vice principal at the Islington Junior Middle School. “Everyone wanted the opportunity to roll out the tablet and incorporate them into the curriculum.”
(Old school, new school – The Inslington Junior Middle School, then and now)

He said the mobile devices have sparked renewed fervor among students to tackle school subjects in a different approach.


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“They’re not just listening to teachers or writing down note,” he said. “With the tablets, lessons are more hands-on – the children are taking photos, recording videos and putting together skits and plays that they can present in class.”

Kamino sees the tablets facilitating learning and more collaborative involvement for teachers in and students in other studies.

“I can see the projects that children start with these devices facilitating the development of various skills such as language skills, reading, researching and of course learning multi-media and the application of technology,” he said.

For instance, an 80-year-old alumni of the Islington Junior Middle School recently donated a 1948 class photo when he realized that the school did not have a photo of the class on its display board.

Teachers and students took this opportunity to invite the man to speak to Grade 5 students about what it was like to attend school in the 1940s.

“The students shot videos of the man with the PlayBook tablets and interviewed him,” said Kamino.”The children also did additional research, compile other photos from the era are now tying this all together into a video presentation.”

He said the tablet is enabling children to connect with history in “terms that they are familiar with and can understand.”

Once completed the video will be viewed by parents and the public in a school presentation and will also be displayed in the school’s library from viewing by future classes.

Other schools in the Western Region are using their tablets in history-oriented projects.

Such an application of tablet devices is only one way technology can be used to enhance education, according to Cheryl McGrath, enterprise district manager for EMC Canada. She said EMC hardware and software products and services are used throughout the Canadian education space.

The PlayBook tablets provided to the TDSB, however, do not contain any EMC software. Tablets are typically employed as personal and productivity devices in many companies with BYOD (bring-your-own-device) polices, said McGrath, however, such devices are very applicable in the child education space as well. She also said the size of the PlayBook and its ease of use was ideal for grade school children.

“We wanted the school and the children to freely explore the potential of the PlayBook devices on their own,” she said. “When we were considering a tablet for this project, we went with the PlayBook because we believe it has the features that lend itself very well for this application and it was only appropriate to have a Canadian technology product enhance Canadian education.”



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