Surrey, B.C. school gets a big boost to language arts program through CDW Canada


Newton Elementary School uses technology to help new Canadians improve their English

By Mike Martin

For the Grade 3 students in Manita Gandham’s and Hillary Warner’s language arts class at Newton Elementary School in Surrey, B.C., technology plays an important role in their learning. Many of the pupils are recent immigrants to Canada and are working hard to improve their English skills. Laptops and tablets allow them to listen to books being read in English and are an ideal complement to their classroom exercises. Unfortunately, the school has only one tablet cart and two laptop carts to share among approximately 485 students.

“Trying to book those out is very hard as you can imagine,” Gandham said. “The kids don’t get a lot of access to computer time.”

Many of the students don’t have access to a computer at home, so listening to books outside the classroom is often not an option.

When Gandham heard about CDW Canada’s Digitize Your Classroom Contest, she knew she had to apply. For more than a decade, the contest has been helping educators deploy technology to create more engaging learning environments for students. Each year the contest offers Canadian educators and administrators from kindergarten to grade 12 an opportunity to win up to $30,000 of technology such as laptops, software and projectors for their classrooms.

Gandham and Warner submitted an application and were thrilled when their class was selected as the winner of 2019’s contest. Their prizes included: 20 Microsoft HP Stream Pro laptops; one HP Sprout PC with high-resolution cameras and 2D and 3D scanning capabilities; one Logitech Meetup Conference Camera; and up to 1,000 licences of SonicWall’s Content Filtering Client.

Giving students more access to technology

The technology Gandham and Warner won in the contest has transformed the classroom experience for their students.

Each language arts student has a pair of headphones. When they come into the classroom, they can select books from different programs on their laptop, such as Scholastic Reading Pro or Tumblebooks, check out a book that appeals to them, plug their headphones into their computer and listen to the book being read to them.

“If we have to read out loud in front of the class, it’s one book for the entire classroom,” Gandham says. “That doesn’t cater to their individual passions like the laptops do. We find the students are more engaged when they get to pick their own books.”

Having a classroom full of laptops also allows the teachers to assign books and follow their students’ progress.

“We can select books we want the students to read and the books will appear on the students’ home pages within the programs,” Warner said. “The technology enhances our whole curriculum. We can track how many books they’ve read and whether they’re reading books when they’re at home.”

Students also use the laptops for math and coding exercises.

Creating a more engaged classroom

Reaction to the classroom technology has been overwhelmingly positive. “The students are thrilled,” Gandham said. “When they were doing class selection, some of them said they’d heard a rumour we had our own set of computers and were asking if they could be in our class.”

As the teachers become more accustomed to working with the new technology, they plan to find new ways to incorporate it into their plans. For example, Warner noted, they want to teach students how to stay safe online and may build some lessons around that theme.

Having more technology in the classroom not only broadens the learning potential for students, but it also creates more engaged students, Warner said. “It’s great because when the kids are engaged you have fewer classroom management and behaviour issues. If you give them the tools to be successful, they’re eager to use them and learn more.”