Marc Garneau students were in a unique state of technology need before, during, and after the pandemic.

Many of our students live in the GTA’s highest-density living conditions with extended family including cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents living in small, 2-bedroom apartments.

The nature of newcomer needs for working to support their families meant that many TDSB devices that went home were immediately used by parents and adults, older, ‘nearer to paid employment’ college and university student brothers and sisters, or tech skill upgrading parents, despite their intention to be used by students.

As well, chromebooks cannot always be used with ease effectively outside basic literacy and numeracy programs purposes. It requires additional basic training which is sometimes challenging for beginners who are newcomers with very little basic computer skills.

Many of the broad-based technology programs use more advanced software that needs to be resident with local (non-cloud) on a specific laptop with higher rendering RAM processing power.

So there’s an access and suitability and training challenge to overcome. We’re trying to build ‘technacy’ as well as literacy and numeracy. With the laptops and desktops and printers available from RCTO available to our students, the students are better able to access technology when they need it for online learning, special project work, homework, co-operative education and specialist high skills major program work. They don’t have to negotiate sharing with other family members and are able to verify themselves as deserving of equal opportunity to learn.

RCTO became an equalizing force, a champion, at all my previous schools, ensuring that kids we noticed  that were in need, behind on schoolwork but earnestly and clearly trying to achieve, were able to get access to invaluable support. The social divide now is even more between the have and have not factor of technology.

One trend we saw was that it seemed that young women were not as much of a priority for having technology learning support. I had the unique beautiful experience of helping kids access RCTO computers for learning that wrote beautiful, heart-wrenching thank you letters from the bottom of their hearts.  They tell us of their stories, some brand new immigrants, always in a state of financial need, and that they have not ever dreamed that they would have access to learning with technology.

RCTO’s team were incredible in the way they helped us make connections with kids that engaged them more fully in school and their community and specifically supported success like no other. The relationship that both myself and Todd Larter, the IT teacher at our school have, has meant that we’ve been able to target and solve problems of access that could not otherwise be solved.

Thank you RCTO for now 15 years of a relationship that is still going strong for equal access to education and enabling newcomers to get ahead with dignity.