Implementing technological assistance tools in disadvantaged areas: the experience of a secondary 1 French teacher

Ms. Dominique first integrated a student entitled to a laptop in her class in 2007. “At that time, I had thirty-two students! »Recalls the teacher. "I could hardly see how I was going to take care of it…". Here is where it is today.

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Ms. Dominique first integrated a student entitled to a laptop in her class in 2007. “At that time, I had thirty-two students! »Recalls the teacher. "I could hardly see how I was going to take care of it…". Here is where it is today.

By Pierre-Yves Longval, orthopedagogue
Henri-Bourassa High School

The class changes, evolves, transforms over time. Teachers must constantly renew themselves to stay in tune with social changes, whether by using teaching methods adapted to their clientele or constantly reinvented teaching tools. The integration of digital tools is one of the great challenges of the teaching task. Each teacher experiences this transition in a way that is specific to him and that is influenced in particular by the socio-economic context, the resources offered by the school, the difficulties of the pupils having to be the subject of compensation measures and, also according to its own relation to IT tools. Success stories rub shoulders with the less enviable, to the rhythm of the combination of variables that are sometimes difficult to control. Here is the story of professionals from Henri-Bourassa high school, in Montreal-North, and their experience of integrating technology into teaching.

 . . .

Dominique Patenaude teaches French in first secondary. This year, it has three small groups (approximately 10 pupils per group), made up of pupils with learning difficulties without having behavioral difficulties. She uses digital tools mainly to compensate for learning difficulties in reading and writing of her students (automatic correctors, virtual dictionaries, speech synthesis, word predictors, etc.). Dominique has been teaching for twenty-one years. 

Dominique integrated for the first time in her class a pupil entitled to a laptop computer in 2007. At the time of the intervention plans written by hand and the communications "paper" in a dovecote, this young girl of the first secondary came to class as an ambassador, with her three-centimeter-thick laptop. “At that time, I had thirty-two students! »Recalls the teacher. "I could hardly see how I was going to take care of it…". She remembers being supported by a specialist remedial teacher who would pick up the student from class to take him to his office to help him perform tasks requiring the use of the computer. "I washed my hands of it a bit!" She admits, remembering that time. 

Today, Dominique no longer washes his hands of it. On the contrary, she now plunges them, without restraint, into the digital soup. In some of her groups, she may have to use the technological tools for more than half of the students in the class, depending on the task they have to perform.

According to the teacher, and in her specific case, the transition to the use of adapted software and various tools was done quietly, without too many obstacles. Each year, she always saw one more student for whom she had to consider using a digital alternative related to a learning disability. "I wanted to understand the difficulties that the students could experience", launches Dominique passionately, specifying that before knowing what software can do for the student, it is necessary to understand the difficulties which justify its use. “Otherwise, we apply without knowing what we are doing. "

Take the time to empower students to save time

While she appreciates the undeniable and increasingly essential contribution of technologies to her teaching, the first-secondary school teacher nonetheless names obstacles to the integration of the latter. The main irritant, she says, is the addition of work time to an already crowded schedule. “We're always in the action, it's going fast! ". She estimates that she needs double the preparation time to build a business. Indeed, integrating reading and writing assistance software does not happen by itself: when it is not already, it is necessary to digitize the documents, organize them, make sure that the computers work well. and ensure that the student is able to access it.

And despite impeccable preparation, we must anticipate that the student may need help with computer manipulations. Dominique therefore often finds himself in front of students who may have the capacity to perform a task, but who are held back by a lack of technical skills. “They often do not master the basic functions, such as creating a folder to save their texts. We often have to explain it again, ”she says. “I give recovery capsules because in class, I can't do it,” she adds.

The teacher therefore invests time to increase the autonomy of her students in connection with the use of their tools, and this, explicitly during recovery periods that take place at noon or after school. . Fortunately, this strategy works.

A socio-economic context to consider

Another challenge that Dominique Patenaude faces comes from the complex socio-economic context of the neighborhood in which she works (Montreal-North). Coming from all over the world and often struggling to meet their basic needs, poor families entrust their children to her so that they can learn. “Parents work hard and are sometimes in 'survival' mode. Several of my students, mainly those from the hospitality sector, have never had contact with a computer, ”she says. “We live with a language barrier and a lived barrier. She considers it very important to highlight the direct influence of context on the success of a digital plan. It is impossible, in his professional reality, to ignore it.

That said, the teacher is encouraged by the positive effects of using technology for students who need it. Reading difficulties are therefore very well compensated for by text-to-speech software, and the different types of digital dictionaries and automatic correctors promote the production of coherent and readable texts.

Cohesion between teachers and staff: factors for success

According to Dominique Patenaude, we must continue to promote the integration of technological aids by working together, between stakeholders, to make the process universal and cohesive. “You have to have a solid routine. Not just with the students: between us, between teachers, ”she said. “If students developed the same routine of using the computer in the same way, in all classes, they would learn it much faster. "

In addition to the concept of participation and cohesion between teachers in digital practices, the teacher also includes school organization in her reflections and wants the time invested in developing computer skills in students to be recognized. As a tip, she adds for young teachers: “Let your principals know how much time you are investing in these adaptations and ask them to support you. Ask the school workers for help so that they get involved with you for the students who benefit from these tools. Do not remain alone with this management. "

Finally, she reiterates the importance of taking the time to read the help files and consult the intervention plans before attempting to integrate any help tool whatsoever. It also underlines the relevance of consulting the stakeholders responsible for these files and inviting them to get involved in concerted and concrete actions.

This is how Dominique Patenaude perceives the evolution of digital technology, in its context, in his school. For her, the success of the digital switchover, of this inevitable social project that all teachers will sooner or later face, lies in the ability of an environment to work as a team.

We will bring you more visions of teachers from this school over the next few months!

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