Trustees get lesson on wireless network

Trustees with the Northwest Catholic District School Board went online and interactive at their monthly meeting here Saturday morning.
As part of the meeting, trustees got a hands-on demonstration of the wireless laptop network St. Michael’s School, and other schools in the district, have been running since September.
Cindy Glavish, manager of information services for district Catholic schools, said every classroom has access to the wireless network. She felt there are several reasons for implementing the system.
“It’s to bring technology to the classroom,” she told trustees. “It enhances learning and will assist delivery of curriculum content.”
The system came on board with a few lead teachers from each school learning how to use the network. Those teachers introduced it to their classes first and then instructed their colleagues on its use, noted Glavish.
All classes have access to the network now—even the portable classrooms who book the computers when there is a free classroom in the main school building to use for a period.
Before any class was able to use the computers in an educational setting, the students also had to undergo an orientation session. Then they were quizzed on their knowledge of the care, maintenance, and rules of using the computers.
To introduce trustees to the system Saturday, they got to take the same quiz. It was immediately apparent which trustees had used a computer before, and those who had limited experience.
However, everyone quickly got the hang of it and soon were playing word games and taking math quizzes—a testament to how easy it is to use.
Students currently use the computers at their desks for about three hours at a time, though sometimes that is shorter. Access to the network enhances their abilities to do research, prepare presentations, learn about music, conquer math problems and graphing, and to learn word-processing skills, Glavish said.
Each computer has access to the Internet through the wireless connection at about 11-15 megabits per second. The computers—96 in total—also are equipped with software from the ministry to help with reading, writing, and math skills.
Each system, complete with insurance just in case one of the machines is accidentally dropped, costs about $1,900.
Glavish added there are many uses for the network in the future, including online testing, using the equipment during science fairs, and for student projects.
So far, she felt the system has been a real success. “Even in the noisiest classrooms, take these in and you’ll hear a pin drop,” she remarked.
To keep students focused on their studies, Glavish admitted the board was forced to block out some Web sites. She said, including hotmail and chat, was blocked because students were sending messages and chatting rather than doing their work.
They also have a filter to block undesirable sites. However, the Catholic board hasn’t considered blocking as the public one is considering.
Glavish noted the Catholic system is a little different because it has no secondary schools for which that Web site is focused.