Students and teachers at Peacock Collegiate will soon have better and easier access to learning in their classrooms.
“The biggest thing is having the ability to have quick and uninterrupted service,” Peacock vice principal Ward Strueby said. “I know at Peacock in the past we've had problems with technology that's lagging, or things weren't opening because we didn't have the bandwidth.”
Strueby added that when the speed of processing technology lags, students and teachers are not as willing to try new things, or new strategies to enhance learning.
Teachers and students throughout Saskatchewan will also reap the rewards of faster Internet access after Premier Brad Wall’s Oct. 25 announcement that SaskTel will be investing upwards of $5 million in capital investments – over two years – to upgrade CommunityNet.
A provincial initiative, CommunityNet is a dedicated, wide-area network delivered by SaskTel that connects executive government, health and education sectors in the province.
According to Greg Miller, the assistant deputy minister of education, schools will start seeing faster Internet service within the next six months. He added that work on the project has already begun.
“As technology has increased, access to the Internet is expanding, and school divisions are interested in providing more opportunities to their students to use Internet as part of their learning,” stated Miller.
“There seems to be an ever increasing demand for Internet resources and this is an important step to ensure that there is better connectivity across the province for kids.”
Strueby doesn’t know exactly when Peacock will start to experience the CommunityNet upgrades, but expects them to be implemented before the end of the school year.
He was, however, part of the discussions where concerns about the current system – without significant upgrades for over a decade – were aired. This occurred after the ministry of education asked for feedback from schools divisions across the province.
“This is the most significant increase in bandwidth for students since the inception of the program since 2001. (However), we've been making upgrades since 2009 in CommunityNet.
“There have been significant upgrades made by SaskTel and the ministry to provide, for example, fiber optic connections to schools across the province,” Miller noted. “Now when you do things like that – when you put fiber optics in the ground – the options that are then available for service provision grow as well.”
Deployment of resources to expand the bandwidth available to schools will be a challenge, admitted Miller. But he noted the ministry is working with school divisions on the best way to implement the changes – upgrading to 10 and 100-megabyte connections in schools.
From an administrator’s perspective, Strueby said he is looking forward to students having Internet access that is as fast at school as it is at home.
“It's an integral part of learning and it just took educating and working together to identify and let others understand how important this is to students' day-to-day learning.”
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks