Smart math lab for Tarrant High

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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TARRANT High School in St Andrew is on a mission to become one of the nation's secondary institutions of choice.

The non-traditional institution, which has faced some disciplinary challenges but has been on a path of transformation and image rebuilding in recent years, is set to become the first high school in Jamaica to have a smart mathematics laboratory.

The lab is being established at a cost of $400,000, and is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Pro-chancellor of The Mico University College, Professor Neville Ying, is partnering with Tarrant on the initiative, with teaching aids costing $200,000 being provided by M&M Construction Company.

Principal of Tarrant High, Paul Hall, tells JIS News that the lab will be equipped with the latest technology.

Instructors will be able to interact with mathematics specialists from anywhere in the world through smartphones and other devices while they teach.

Halls says that the lab will contain manipulatives, which are teaching aids, “that will assist in the whole teaching and learning of maths”.

“We have a smart projector and we are also installing a smart camera with a microphone, so what is going to happen is that Professor Ying will be able to stay at his desk at The Mico University and have a conference with our teachers. If it is that we are teaching a particular topic, he will be able to stay right there in his office and assist in teaching that particular topic. So this is what we call 'flipping of the classroom',” he explains.

He adds that “the smart maths lab is about collaboration, so we're going to be looking at professionals who are very good at a subject and bring them on board to help us dissect what is happening, and we'll be able to share ideas in real time”.

According to Hall, Tarrant High, like many other schools, has a challenge with mathematics, and the main idea behind the creation of the lab is to use technology to engage the children, who for the most part, are visual learners and tech-savvy.

“I am cognisant of what is happening in the 21st century and so we realised that technology is the way to go,” he notes.

Hall tells JIS News that he is hoping that the laboratory will help to improve the school's mathematics passes in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and City and Guilds examinations to at least 90 per cent in the next two years. CSEC passes are now at 30 per cent.

Hall says that Tarrant is already making use of technology to improve learning outcomes through the institution of smart classrooms at grade seven last September. The initiative was funded by the school at a cost of $980,000.

“Children like television, so I was thinking 'why not leverage a smart television (TV)',” he tells JIS News.

The smart TV, Hall explains, functions like a projector and is equipped with a mouse that is used to navigate and type.

He notes that with the smart TV, the child is able to sit in the class with a laptop or a tablet and participate in the lesson through screen mirroring. The wireless technology allows for persons to switch the media that is playing on a smaller device to a larger one for a better viewing experience.

“The child will be able to, for example, type in something about the lesson and you see it come up on the screen. So that child is participating in the lesson and at the same time, the teacher will also be able to upload a video from YouTube to enhance the lesson,” Hall points out.

“So, this is what we're taking on board, and I'm sure, probably not tomorrow, but certainly for the future, that with a smart classroom… you will see an uptick in terms of the passes,” the principal says.

He notes that already there have been improvements in the performance of the grade seven students.

“When we look at the grades for this year and compare them with the grades for the year before, we realise the movement. In real estimates, we're looking at about a 25 per cent increase in terms of the pass marks,” Hall says.

He tells JIS News that there are plans to extend the smart classrooms to grade eight, noting that a contract is being worked on to facilitate the process.

In the meantime, Hall says work is under way to improve the school's infrastructure, with a multi-purpose court being erected.

“We are...a non-traditional high school but the resources must be the same as any other high school, and so the plan for the future is also to put in a swimming pool and to create an area where my students can go and sit and feel comfortable,” he adds.


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