Tablets for teachers commendable, but long overdue


Tablets for teachers commendable, but long overdue

Monday, July 22, 2019

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It's beyond debate that as Jamaica battles to get its society and economy in good order maximum use of modern technology is a must.

For the country to evolve to First-World status, and if the majority of ordinary people are to do more than eke out the barest of existence on low-wage jobs, training in cutting edge technologies of all sorts must become a matter of course.

It's obvious also that the fight to combat crime — increasingly being recognised and accepted as Jamaica's biggest problem — won't be won without integrated use of high-tech methodologies.

For all those reasons, and more, responsible people will applaud the announcement that 15,000 Jamaican teachers are to receive tablet computers under the ongoing e-learning project.

We are told by JIS News that the initiative is part of an agreement between the Government and the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) to provide each teacher in public schools with a 10-inch tablet computer as part of their compensation package.

The tablets will be for personal use as well as to help teachers deliver the Ministry of Education's schools' curriculum.

It could be argued that such a project is long overdue. Indeed, we recall that when the landmark 'tablets in schools' programme was first introduced in 2014, a criticism then was that there was need to first target teachers to ensure proper implementation.

Of course, there has been much water under the bridge since then.

Today's cellphones are, in fact, hand-held computers, meaning that the great majority of the teachers receiving tablet computers under the new programme will already be acquainted with the technology.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at e-Learning Mr Keith Smith says the first phase of the new programme will address infant and primary schools, with the second phase focusing on high schools.

“We are now in [an era] that is being called the fourth industrial revolution, and we have to train our students in how to use these tools to get them ready for the workplace,” Mr Smith is reported as saying.

“Therefore, e-Learning is focused on ensuring that students in public schools have the right technology and tools to improve their learning experience,” he added.

Related projects include the previously mentioned 'tablets in schools'; 'technology integration for primary schools', intended to give all primary schools basic information technology (IT) infrastructure; and an IT infrastructure overhaul at some high schools.

Mr Smith said that upon completion of these projects there could be upwards of 400,000 devices operating in public schools.

It seems to us that crucial to all this must be greater Internet availability across the country, but especially in deep rural Jamaica where there are still far too many communities — and schools — where Internet service is unavailable or is too unstable to be functionally useful.

Jamaicans are still some distance from fulfilment of the pledge by then minister of technology, now Opposition spokesman, Mr Phillip Paulwell, for every Jamaican in "every nook and cranny" to have access to the Internet.

That needs to be fixed at the speed of light.

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