Computer tablets have replaced heavy binders, pens and paper in half of the Grade 7 classes at MEI Middle School this year.
Sixty students in Grade 7 are taking part in the school’s Digital Immersion pilot project this year.
Two classrooms in the middle school are now essentially paperless as students write, edit and submit their assignments online in electronic portfolios in language arts, socials, science, Bible and math.
The school has partnered with Staples to enable families to purchase Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablets.
Students bring their tablets back and forth to school each day.
The school plans to expand the program next year as the current Digital Immersion students move into Grade 8 and a new group of students enters Grade 7.
Principal Heather Smith said MEI Middle recognizes that classrooms and life in the future will involve more and more integration of technology.
She said the school wants to embrace technology, while recognizing the dangers that can arise from giving students access to the Internet.
Smith said digital citizenship is a fundamental part of the program and is reiterated daily as students are guided to use technology with wisdom, responsibility and accountability.
“Interacting positively online, particularly with social media, needs to be taught, as does developing a critical mind and higher-level thinking skills while interacting with text that has been published,” she said.
The two teachers currently involved in the project, Sean Laforest and Jaben Schalk, have seen educational benefits within the program.
They said they are seeing higher quality and greater student output on assignments.
“Students now have the knowledge of the world at their fingertips and are excited to access it during class discussion and lessons,” they said.
They said the student organization of classroom and learning material has also improved significantly as hand-outs and homework are no longer carried back and forth and juggled in paper format.
Smith said feedback from parents has also been positive.
Each parent is provided with a log-in for their son/daughter’s academic calendar and portfolio.
All graded assignments are filed in an electronic gradebook and parents can look at every assignment to view for completion and to review grades and any specific feedback or comments that the teacher has made.
Smith said the program is preparing students for the future.
“This is setting students up for some new and exciting opportunities as we seek to develop 21st century citizens who are well equipped for a quickly advancing world.”