Will laptops keep them in school?

Last week 62, seventh graders from Westwood Jr. received their new Mac laptops as part of Lester B. Pearson School Board's pilot program called The Matrix. For the next couple of weeks students will receive training on the laptops before being allowed to take them to classes and bring them home. (Gazeete, Julie Cadieux)



Last week 62 seventh graders from Westwood Jr. received their new Apple laptops as part of the Lester B. Pearson School Board’s pilot program called The Matrix.
“I was approached by the new director of educational services, Michael Chechile, last November about it,” recalls Westwood Junior principal Hans Bulow. “He had been to seminars and done research and said it was unbelievable what kids can do when they have technology.”
Bulow bounced it off his teaching staff before he agreed to allow a pilot project at Westwood Junior. “They were very positive and jumped on board right away.”
The enrichment program is one of many initiatives that LBPSB has committed to in order to boost graduation rates. The partnership agreement signed by the ministry and the LBPSB in 2010 states that it has 10 years to increase its graduation rate from 80% to 88%. Although Canada currently ranks second out of 17 peer countries for its high school graduation rate, statistics Canada reports that for the 2008-2009 school year Quebec’s graduation rate was 71.9% while our neighbour, Ontario had 79%.
“The dropout problem is black and white,” says Bulow. “More girls graduate than boys…our education system doesn’t do enough to properly reach boys.”
Bulow and others agree the Matrix pilot program is a step in that direction. “Today’s generation learns differently,” he says. “I firmly believe adolescent brains of 20 years ago are are different than adolescent brains of today…Kids need to be stimulated by touching, seeing, interacting in all kinds of ways.”
And what about the remaining 344 Westwood students who are not in the Matrix program? Bulow realizes how this looks to outsiders: “two solitudes…eliteness…kids with parents who have money” but he insists that isn’t the case. “I will work hard to work against that perception,” he says and hopes that over time, every Westwood student will have a laptop.
For now, the school has purchased seven new laptops identical to the ones the Matrix students have, and once formatted, they will be available to the entire school in the library and resources room. Bulow would also like to eventually loan out the laptops for students to take home.
Meanwhile the 62 seventh graders at Westwood are just excited about their shiny new laptops. “They are all going to get proper instructions and training before they can take them home,” said a Matrix teacher. The students will also be expected to find an organization to volunteer for and log in a minimum of 10 hours. Along with maintaining a 75% average in all of their enriched classes, which include English, Math, Science and Sciences Humaines, they are also required to join a team sport and a school life activity in order to keep their spot in The Matrix program


The Hudson St-Lazare Gazette/September 14 2011/Julie Cadieux


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