LAST Wednesday, Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited, operators of Flow and Columbus Business Solutions, introduced a Technology Competition for schools as part of its 'Building Leaders Through Technology Programme' in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Microsoft and the Jamaica Observer.
The competition, dubbed the 'Flow in My School Technology Competition', seeks to highlight excellence in the use of technology and share best practices. Participating schools should complete their registration online with a 500-word essay on how they use technology and how they have or will be celebrating Jamaica 50.
The competition is open to all schools that currently use Flow-donated services of high-speed Internet and educational cable line-up.
Participants will compete for the grand prize which will include eight All-In-One HP Computers, an Electronic Mimio White Board as well as individual electronic prizes including a laptop and tablets for the teacher and participating students.
Rev Ronald Thwaites, Minister of Education, who gave the keynote address at the briefing, addressed how technology could be used to enhance the quality of education in schools.
"We are offering a product which does not excite the minds of many of our students... the creative and compassionate use of technology from the early stage allows us the prospect of a bright new future for this land. After all, this is Jamaica 50 and we are on a mission to provide quality education."
Minister Thwaites also spoke about the upcoming e-Learning project facilitated by technology provided by Flow, which would provide for education equity for students across the island.
"...Because of the Internet connectivity by Flow, and the technology sponsored through their partners, the plan is to roll out, on a pilot basis, an option for education which would provide the very best education... to our students in the most remote areas in Jamaica in areas of weakness in mathematics and literacy. This is an entirely different vista for our people, a virtual epiphany for our people," he said.
The competition which will be open for online registration until October 8, is also giving schools that make it to the semi-final round, additional exposure through its television channel, Flow TV. Semi-finalist schools will be featured in a short programme highlighting interesting facts about their schools and showcasing aspects of their entries on technology usage and their Jamaica 50 celebrations.
Michele English, president and chief operating officer of Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited, hopes that this year's competition will set the stage for a national calendar event, in the years to come.
Flow currently offers through its corporate social responsibility drive the Building Leaders Through Technology prgramme that provides more than 140 schools over 10 parishes with commercial grade Internet and cable connections to enhance the teaching and learning environments.
"Our high-speed broadband service and digital cable connections in schools located in both urban and rural areas, has levelled the playing field to enable the kinds of innovations that our teachers and students need to propel us into the next generation of great thinkers, entrepreneurs and nation builders," English said.
The briefing also gave teachers in attendance useful insight on technology trends in the classroom through a presentation by Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee, Director of the Mona Geoinformatics Institute.
Dr Lyew-Ayee explained that students were comfortable with technology and teachers should incorporate them in their teaching methods to be more effective.
"Exposing children to technology at an early stage, makes them comfortable with it. It leads to experimentation and innovation... Technology is an enabler for growth and it should be a comfortable learning tool... Flow has made the infrastructure available. You should [make use of the technology]," he said.
Teacher Mark McKnight of Drews Avenue Primary School thanked Flow for their contribution and for introducing the competition.
"The exposure that the students will receive as a result of the competition is great for them. It will certainly provide them with motivation to push ahead and learn more. Flow is doing a great thing here. They are certainly innovators in technology and providing the school with what the students need to excel, we are certainly grateful."
Schools who wish to check their eligibility and register for the competition should visit Flow's Facebook page and click on the Flow In My School Technology Competition tab. Schools can also email email@example.com for further information.