Project Genesis

Cuts to Capital Budget for Education Technology

Peter Rukavina, 2011-2012 President of the Prince Street Home and School, is also the PEI Home and School Federation representative on the Minister's Advisory Committee on CIT, a provincial body that advises the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development on technology matters.

At the January 2012 meeting of that Committee two items of concern related to this project were on the agenda:

  1. The cut, for the fiscal year 2012-2013, of the capital budget for information technology in education from $500,000 to $0.
  2. The challenges of implementing a pilot project for the Ooka Island literacy application at Prince Street School related to the high cost of installing wired Internet into classrooms.

Discussion of the second item, especially in light of the first, made it clear that although wireless Internet would be a mechanism for avoiding the costly network drops, wireless Internet roll-out in the education system, while being evaluated, was not imminent.

Subsequent to this January meeting, the PEI Home and School Federation had discussions with the PEI Teacher's Federation about the cut to capital spending for education technology, and together we arranged to bring our concerns forward to Premier Robert Ghiz.

Meeting with Premier Robert Ghiz

On February 22, 2012 the PEIHSF and the PEITF met jointly with Premier Ghiz and his Chief of Staff. The clear messages from the Premier were:

  1. The capital budget for education technology would not be restored for 2012-2013.
  2. In lieu of financial investment in technology, there would be need to be an increased reliance on innovation, creativity and thrift in the short term.

Planning a Pilot Project

Following from the January meeting of the Minister's Advisory Committee on CIT and the later meeting with Premier Ghiz, Peter Rukavina prepared a report on the state of the education technology landspace for the board of the PEI Home and School Federation.

During the consideration of this report, we became aware of pilot projects, under the aegis of the French School Board, to install low-cost wireless routers connected to the community office Internet feed, to support both community users and educators in French schools. 

Inspired by the French School Board project, with the Premier's words in mind, and after discussion with educators and Terry MacIsaac, principal at Prince Street School, the notion of a similar wireless "pilot project" to test the viability of a low-cost parallel Internet network at the school was raised by the Prince Street Home and School. The principal encouraged the Home and School to pursue the project, and educators in the school were enthusiastic in their embracing possible uses of such a network in the school, so the decision was made to proceed.

Shape of the Pilot Project

The proposed wireless Internet pilot project that emerged consisted of the following:

  1. Installation of a closed wireless network, for use by educators and staff (but not by students) at Prince Street School.
  2. Using low-cost Open Mesh wireless routers ($79 each), based on positive experiences in the French School Board with the same technology.
  3. Not connected in any way to the existing education computer network: wired workstations would not be connected to the wireless network, and any equipment would be installed in a separate area of the school.
  4. Seek donation, for a trial period, of services from an Internet Service Provider.
  5. Funded and maintained by Home and School.

Because of the educator focus of the network, it was decided to dub it "TeacherNet," with the anticipation that the project, if successful, might be adopted by other schools under the same name.