Grade 7 students in Catholic Division receive laptops through partnership with Ontario philanthropic group

Prince Albert Catholic School Division Photo St John Grade 7 Students and Teacher Caitlyn Thalheimer.

The Prince Albert Roman Catholic Separate School Division announced this week that each grade 7 student in the division will receive a laptop courtesy of ComKids.

The school division has also partnered with ComKids to start a computer literacy and online safety course for all Grade 7 students this year. Students from St. John Community School, St. Michael Community School, St. Francis School, École Holy Cross and École St Anne School participated in lessons, activities, and videos from the ComKids program created in partnership with the Toronto Police Service.

Education director Lorel Trumier said not all schools ran the entire program, but ComKids still offered the laptops to all Grade 7 students. Almost 200 laptops will be provided within the coming days.

“We are pretty excited by that, obviously,” Trumier said. “It looks like they may have been able to support us for next year as well.

“Our staff has done a great job of trying to support the project,” she added. “We really appreciate what ComKids has done for us.”

ComKids reached out to the division after seeing a news article about PA Catholic’s goal of providing technology to every family who needed it during the pandemic. Trumier said they wanted to know if students would benefit from the use of the computers and online safety education experiences.

They started working together and it became a great educational opportunity for the division.

“Not to mention that the students get the benefit of having some technology for them to keep,” Trumier said.

“Of course our aim was of course for families in need.”

The schools took part in the pilot, which runs from January 2022 to June 2022. The program’s core principles are to develop digital literacy skills and learn to use technology safely and effectively.

The ComKids’ masterclasses have connections to the Grade 7 curriculum within Health Education, English Language Arts, Career Education, and Social Studies.

Topics included Online safety and maintaining digital footprints, computer literacy, becoming engaged and educated citizens in a digital world, computer tools and how to use them and becoming a responsible person online

“(It is) definitely a benefit for students,” Trumier said. “It became even more prominent in and during the pandemic that those kinds of lessons are very important.”

Throughout the five masterclasses, students were provided with opportunities to learn technical skills and instruction while maintaining a digital footprint.

Principal Mark Cantin of St. John Community School credits the classroom teacher, Caitlyn Thalheimer, and the Grade 7 students for their efforts at making the pilot project a success.

“The partnership and the course offerings were extremely worthwhile,” Cantin said in a press release. “Ultimately, the students developed digital literacy skills and learned how to use technology safely and effectively.”

The Board of Education thanked teaching staff, consultant Jordan Carriere and IT Manager Sean Kenny for their dedication to participating in the pilot program.

ComKids is a philanthropic group that aims to improves student understanding around online safety.

“We couldn’t think of a better partnership to get started and we know that we are going to continue to refine it,’ Trumier said.

“We are certainly celebrating the successes,” she added. “There were some challenges along the way because you are bringing a lot of students onto a project or a program and we didn’t have a lot of lead time.”

In a release by the division the Board of Education thanked ComKids for their support, 200 laptops, and resources for this initiative. The School Division is excited about the program and expects to extend the program to the new group of Grade 7 students in the next school year.