SASKATOON -- The Athabasca Denesuline Education Authority (ADEA) is buying computers for 1,300 kindergarten to Grade 12 students in northern Saskatchewan.

Students in high school will be allowed to take their devices home to work on assignments. In the event of a school closures, students will use the computers to stay connected to their teachers through Google Classroom and other programs.

“It's a tool. It's not a replacement for our teachers but it's certainly a tool that they need - that they require. Certainly for their future, to be up to speed in term of the use of technology and the application available to them,” said the CEO and director of education for the Athabasca Denesuline Education Authority, Gerry Guillet.

The ADEA used grants from Indigenous Services Canada and other federal government programs to purchase the Lenovo Chromebooks for students and laptop computers for teachers. The computers will be stored in backpacks with a mouse and headphones and assigned to individual students.

IT Coordinator Ryan Chapman says the computers give students access to the internet and unlimited online resources.

“The pandemic caused some serious learning issues where students were forced to stay home and teachers were taken out the classroom environment. And we needed to come up with a solution to provide a virtual platform,” said Chapman. “It’s very large learning curve to train teachers and students to leverage this technology.”

Providing each students with their own device helps overcome many pandemic related stresses, says Chapman. He says students living in isolated northern communities have difficulty accessing resources and instructors. The computers provide them with link to outside teachers and information.

Wollaston, Fond du Lac, Hatchet Lake and Black Lake Denesuline First Nations are in the ADEA. The four schools also use the Connected North Program sponsored by Cisco Canada to video conference to places around the world.

“They can travel to different places - to museums, to zoos, to artists, to see storytellers and amazing organization and it offers up a unique learning experience which is in real time and interactive,” said Chapman.

Guillet says students need computer to prepare for future careers even without the pandemic.

“Our children need to have this technology the knowledge, the use and the exploration of all that technology can provide for them. Now they're open to the world, versus just their own community,” said Guillet.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education helped the ADEA gain software licensing agreements for student computer for software like Microsoft Office and Microsoft Team.