Whitehorse Daily Star

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REMOTE LEARNING SPURS DEMAND – Some of the Computers for Schools Yukon’s supply is seen above, while a dismantled machine is shown below.

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Ean McDonald

Computers for Schools coping with frenzied demand

Mounting demand from students learning remotely is threatening to drain the supply at Computers for Schools Yukon.

By Gabrielle Plonka on August 10, 2020

Mounting demand from students learning remotely is threatening to drain the supply at Computers for Schools Yukon.

“I would estimate that in the next month, we’re going to be out of (laptop) computers if we don’t get any more,” Ean McDonald, the depot manager, told the Star last Wednesday afternoon.

Computers for Schools is a non-profit that collects, repairs and refurbishes donated computers and distributes them for free or low cost.

The national organization is led by the federal government.

McDonald said the Yukon branch receives most of its computer donations from federal and territorial government offices.

This year has been one of the organization’s busiest ever, due to Yukon students learning virtually last spring.

The non-profit is set to have a record-breaking year. The highest number of computers they’ve dealt in one year is 600, McDonald said.

The organization provided 300 computers to students between March and June alone.

They’ve already filled two large orders for the fall semester, McDonald said. He expects an additional surge in requests from Grades 10 to 12 students who will be learning remotely part-time this year.

“I don’t think we have saturation on the market for what’s needed, so there’s probably going to be a lot more requests coming in,” McDonald said.

If the organization runs out of laptop computers, students would be put on a waiting list that could last several months.

Computers for Schools has a surplus of desktop computers, but those are less helpful for students who are moving between the classroom, library and home throughout the day.

“Mobility is huge nowadays for students … I do recognize there’s a barrier there,” McDonald said.

Students who require a laptop from the organization can apply through their classroom teacher, who will reach out to Computers for Schools on their behalf.

McDonald said families who accessed computers last spring were “super-appreciative.” He noted that the pandemic meant everybody in the household suddenly needed a computer.

“You had parents who needed to remotely work, and kids who needed to get their schoolwork done on that same family computer,” McDonald said.

“Any computer that could be given out, you could see the stress melt off of them.”

Computers for Schools is working on developing virtual tutorials to support students and families who are adjusting to using computers more during the pandemic.

Providing technology support is a new aspect of the non-profit’s service this year.

“We realized that there were a lot of people who had a barrier between receiving the hardware and using it effectively,” McDonald said.

“We’ve helped people, they come in and ask us questions and we guide them through various things … so we’re hoping to develop some online guides.”

If the non-profit runs out of computer stock, McDonald said, the team can also upgrade old computers that families may have in storage.

“Older technology can still potentially work for students really well,” McDonald said.

While most of the organization’s donations come from government agencies, it also accepts donations from the public. McDonald said it’s unlikely that enough donations will fill the demand this year.

“It’s not really anyone’s fault, it’s just the flow of how many are getting aged out of government facilities,” McDonald said.

“We’re looking for people who can donate computers that they don’t need anymore; we can repurpose them.”

Comments (5)

Up 18 Down 6

Dave on Aug 12, 2020 at 1:20 pm

@Yukon Supply Teacher. In my decades as a Yukoner living through the territory I’ve seen many families such as you describe and usually marvel at how the parents can afford cigarettes and alcohol but the kids somehow need to be fed by the system. 2 plus 2 somehow doesn’t add up to 4.

Up 15 Down 4

DA on Aug 12, 2020 at 9:07 am

My Opinion,

I would guess that many families do not have laptops/desktops at home, because everybody uses phones for everything nowadays. Good luck researching a term paper and writing a report on a little phone.

Up 16 Down 6

Yukon Supply Teacher on Aug 11, 2020 at 1:52 pm

Reply to "my Opinion"!

There are many Yukon families who are really not that well off.
Many kids come to school without even breakfast - there are many breakfast programs in the schools, also lunch programs for the kids.
Numerous times I have been making cheese sandwiches for these kids in the morning before classes and at lunch.

There are also many, many families that can not afford a PC or MAC at home.
Their only exposure to MACs is at school. This was an real eye-opener to me.
For many families having a PC/MAC is simply a luxury they can't afford when they have to feed and house their families.

Many families don't even own cars and have to use the bus too.

Up 9 Down 15

My Opinion on Aug 10, 2020 at 6:06 pm

How about Parents buy them. Or use the ones they already have. Not many kids without connectivity. If they have Facebook account, Twitter, then they obviously have access. No stuff for you. If they don't have such accounts then help them out completely.

Up 28 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Aug 10, 2020 at 3:51 pm

What would be helpful is to post up info on who to contact for new donations. I have a couple not too old computers I'd be happy to provide if I knew where to take them.

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