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02 Dec, Friday
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Montreal Families

Riverview Elementary wins competition for technology grant

Verdun’s Riverview Elementary School is jumping into the digital world with the help of a $10,000 technology grant.

The Power Up grant, from IT company Softchoice, aims to improve access to technology for schools in low-income neighbourhoods throughout North America. Seven grants were awarded this year, two to Canadian schools.

The grant will fund the purchase of 20 iPad minis and 22 Chromebooks to share among the school’s 196 students.

Principal Deborah Dixon said Riverview’s submission stood out to the grant committee because last year the school was on the verge of being closed due to low enrolment and was saved only by fierce opposition from parents, politicians and the community.

“They said it was because of our story,” Dixon said. “They recognized we were getting a new lease on life, so to speak. We were slated to close and we turned that around.”

After the threat of closure was lifted, teachers and administrators recognized Riverview needed to do more to retain and attract students. Because Bill 101 restricts access to English schools only to children of parents who have attended English schools in Canada, schools like Riverview have to work hard to prevent losing eligible students to French public or private schools.

Being in a lower income area, Dixon said the majority of students do not have access to the latest technology at home. A resource teacher at the school suggested Riverview create a STEAM program, incorporating science, technology, engineering, and arts and math into everyday teaching.

“We need to prepare these kids now, because when they get to high school it’s all about technology,” Dixon said. “They need to be given this opportunity.”

In addition to learning how to use iPads, computers, social media and the Internet, students will also be taught about online etiquette, ethics and potential pitfalls of technology.

Staff at the school is now looking at what else they can do to emphasize STEAM. Dixon says she hopes to win more grants to improve teacher training, and to transform part of the third floor into an area where students can create projects or do experiments.

Dixon said she does hear some concerns from parents about the use of so much technology.  “But we have to be current,” Dixon said. “We’re doing our students a disservice if we’re not preparing them for life in the 21st century.”

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