Canadian schools increasingly utilize classroom computers

A rising number of Canadian schools and universities are utilizing classroom computers.

University of Toronto students now have more technology resources available to them in the form of a new computer lab where individuals can learn about the current financial market.

The university opened the BMO Financial Group Finance Research and Trading Lab at the end of October, 2013. The lab contains rows of classroom computers available at all hours of the day and night for students needing financial technological resources.

The computers and classroom software are comparable to the technology of the TSX and contains the most current financial information from Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters. These resources are made available as a model and avenue for students to gain real-world experience in the financial sector, stated university finance professor Tom McCurdy.

The classroom computers and software was a gift from BMO Financial Group, which totaled $1.75 million in refurbishing the space and providing technology. Company CEO Bill Downe said the lab would expand upon lessons taught in the classroom by providing hands-on experience.

“Talent drives Canada’s reputation as an innovator and leader in risk and portfolio management and financial analytics,” Downe said.

Increased widespread utilization of classroom computers
The University of Toronto isn’t the only educational institution to increase its classroom computer resources. According to Statistics Canada’s Information and Communications Technologies in Schools Survey, more than 99 percent of elementary and secondary schools participating in the study utilized classroom computers during the 2003-2004 school year. This translated to more than 1million classroom computers being made available to students and educators, 90 percent of which were Internet connected.

While the financial lab at the University of Toronto utilizes specialized classroom software called Rotman Interactive Trader, the study found that most students use popular programs, including Internet browsers and word processors, to complete tasks and support lessons taught in classroom.

The programs most integrated in Canadian teaching practices were word processing platforms. More than 78 percent of schools utilize this kind of program on classroom computers. In addition, 34.4 percent utilized an Internet browser and 29.1 used applications for special needs students.

Hindering grades?
As more students utilize classroom computers for a variety of purposes, some wonder how this utilization is affecting productivity and grades in schools. A new study found that technology use in educational institutions can possibly hinder students’ grades.

The study asked two subjects to sit in on a university lecture and complete a multiple choice quiz afterwards. The first experiment included laptop use during the presentation, and researchers also asked half the participants to complete online searches for certain data as a way to model the habits of distracted students. Half the students utilized pencils and papers in favor of classroom computers during the lecture in the second experiment.

Study co-author Faria Sana said that she was somewhat surprised by the results of the tests given after the classes.

“We really tried to make it pretty close to what actually happens in the lectures,” Sana said. “We found that lo and behold, the students who multitasked performed much worse on the final test and those who were seated around peers who we multitasking also performed much worse on the final test.”

However, Sana said the purpose of the study was not to completely rid schools of classroom computers, but encourage students to utilize them appropriately as well as push educators to better supervise technology use in class.

In order to help students better use classroom computers, educational institutions can utilize classroom management software, which allows administrators to filter what online resources students have access to. This way, educators can be sure that students use classroom computers for educational purposes associated with the lesson and are not distracted by multitasking activities.

Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.