Tablets donated to schools in isolated, remote Manitoba communities

·3 min read

Schools in Northern Manitoba will soon receive a tool which would help ease their remote learning process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four hundred and fifty OneTap tablets have been donated to the Frontier School Division which will then be distributed to Grade 1 teachers who will put them in the hands of their students.

These OneTap tablets do not require Internet connectivity to function and is preloaded with apps to help Grade 1 students with their math and literacy.

“Throughout our Division, we have numerous schools located in communities that have very poor to almost no Internet at all,” said Frontier School Division chief superintendent Reg Klassen on Monday.

“On top of that, it does not have Internet capability. It provides a little security, given the age of the children that will be using it, so they are not able to get online and do something they should not be doing.”

The technology is intuitive as it tests the math and literacy level of the Grade 1 student and adjusts their difficulty to meet the student’s current capacity. It will then gradually advance the student over time.

The device has shown to be more engaging than learning packages as students would never be stuck at a certain problem because the gadget will continuously give clues and guide the students to the proper answer.

“It is screen time and young children these days are very engrossed with screen time. Now, this does not replace good teaching. It does not replace students in the classroom from receiving quality instruction by a good teacher,” said Klassen.

“We hope that the OneTap will allow us to keep the learning gap from getting quite as large as it might get, given that many of our students are in a remote learning situation.”

Klassen added that the Division has found that many families chose not to send their children to school due to the fear of their children potentially contracting COVID-19.

Moreover, COVID-19 disruptions throughout the Division are hurting the student’s ability to learn at the earliest stages of reading, writing and numeracy, and are particularly hard on Grade One students.

The tablets were gifted by Timothy Millican and his mother, Susan Millican who wanted to help children in isolated and remote communities that do not have access to technology or reliable internet.

The Division has also purchased and is in the process of providing 2000 laptops and 2400 iPads to students, and 350 laptops for teachers.

“We have taken a significant move towards technology. We know that Internet connectivity is not good in many of our locations, but we are working hard to improve that,” said Klassen.

“The OneTaps are simply an additional piece of technology to make available for our children as we slowly find our way through this pandemic.”

In 2018, an independent study conducted by the University of Winnipeg Professor Linda DeRiviere proved that the OneTap tablets can increase the numeracy and literacy skills for students from Kindergarten to Grade 3.

The devices have been delivered to the Division's five area offices in Thompson, Dauphin, Winnipeg, Cranberry Portage and Norway House.

Next week, Northern Manitoba schools under the Frontier School Division can expect to receive their allotment of tablets. Then, the schools will distribute the devices to their students.

Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun