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Boosting the ability to learn

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Students at Simon Alaittuq School in Rankin Inlet have a new learning tool in their repertoire with the arrival of 127 laptop computers earlier this month.

NNSL photo/graphic

Grade 6 student Qaritaq Kusugak gives his grandmother, Nellie Kusugak, a demonstration on what new laptops are capable of at Simon Alaittuq School in Rankin Inlet this past week. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

Rankin is one of 13 aboriginal communities across Canada to receive about 5,000 laptops for kids aged six to 12, through the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program.

The Belinda Stronach Foundation launched the OLPC program with help from Vale Ltd., the Bank of Montreal Financial Group and the Government of Ontario.

Rankin teacher Billy Gallant said First Air flew the laptops free of charge to Rankin from Winnipeg, and M&T Enterprises donated the cost of delivering them to the school from the cargo building.

"We applied to the program after word about it came to us from Catherine McGregor in Iqaluit, and we were fortunate enough to be accepted," said Gallant.

"Everyone spent a lot of time familiarizing themselves with the programs, which are designed specifically for these laptops.

"The laptops are uniquely designed for young people, and the majority of their programs are based on imagination and creation.

"Students can create their own music or use one of the drawing, reading or writing programs to enhance their learning environment."

Another unique feature the laptops offer is a program designed for aboriginal designed for aboriginal students by The Belinda Stronach Foundation

The program allows students to plan meals and check their nutritional value, learn dance and aerobic moves on three skill levels, and even read a book by well-known children's author Michael Kusugak of Rankin Inlet, among other applications.

Gallant said the school received enough laptops for each student and staff member to have their own.

He said the staff hopes to, eventually, allow the kids to take the laptops home on a limited basis.

"The students take ownership of the laptops for the two years they're here in Grade 5 and Grade 6.

"Our plans are for the Grade 6 students who leave our school each year to return the laptops for the new Grade 5 students the following year.

"It's still a pilot project, so we don't know if we're going to receive more for the community.

"These laptops can be taken on the land, so students will be able to take pictures or make videos of their land trips, and they will be able to record some of their discussions with elders at the school."

The laptops also feature wireless connections, with most of the programs designed to be shared.

Gallant said that's a valuable feature, especially with class or team projects.

"If a student is writing an essay, for example, they can pair with someone else and both can type on the same sheet.

"They can also be connected with each other while on the land, working to create music or even while playing games.

"Features like this can really help take the creative process to the next level for these kids."

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