Students motivated by hi-tech tools donation
Lecturer for the animation programme Kevin Jackson shares a few animation tips with his students at Vocational Training Development Institute. (Photos: US Embassy)

MOTIVATION was evident on the faces of students pursuing the animation associate degree programme at Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI) in Mandeville on Thursday as they have recently been gifted hi-tech tools to boost their creativity skills.

The devices — eight iMac computers and 30 Wacom drawing tablets — were donated through the Advance workforce development programme, which was implemented by non-profit organisation FHI 360.

The devices were funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at a cost of US$63,378.

Country programme director for Advance Ruth Chisholm told the Jamaica Observer that the initiative is not only focused on the technical part of the animation programme, but improves the skills gap of the students.

Jahiel Jones uses his drawing tablet during class at Vocational Training Development Institute in Mandeville on Thursday. (Photos: US Embassy)

"The VTDI had a strong vision to grow their animation programme, so we helped them to revise the curriculum for animation and expand it so that it is offered not just in Kingston but also in Mandeville," she said, noting that the devices were donated late last year and in the summer of this year.

"We are also doing positive youth development because we want them to get the social and emotional learning skills and those other life skills to complement their technical skills to help them to be more critical thinkers and more confident," she added.

The animation students shared that they found the tools useful in improving their skills.

First-year student Sherina Lawrence pointed out that using the previous device was a disadvantage a she was unable to work effectively.

Country programme director for Advance Ruth Chisholm (right) interacts with Sherina Lawrence while she uses her drawing tablet during class. (Photos: US Embassy)

"With the mouse it is very hard to use; the lines are very straight compared to using the drawing tablet. Now my drawings are more defined and clear, and I feel more motivated to get the drawings done because it's not as hard when using the mouse anymore," she said.

First-year student Romaine Bartley said using the tools have been a "step up" from using the mouse and keyboard.

"It is efficient; instead of having to traditionally draw on paper, upload, and draw them again, but we skipped that step and are able to just draw comfortably," he said.

Sharing what he loves the most about the drawing tablet, second-year student Jaheil Jones said, "It makes things more time-efficient than using normal pen and paper, because it has a monitor of its own so you wouldn't have a problem if you are not too good at drawing. Now you can see what is being drawn while it's being processed on the computer."

Romaine Bartley says using the tools have been a "step up" from using the mouse and keyboard. (Photos: US Embassy)

Lecturer for the animation programme, Kevin Jackson, agreed with the students, noting that the industry standard tools will allow them to be more hireable.

He also noted that the students will provide work with better quality in a timely manner.

"Drawing requires a lot of fine motor skills and a drawing tablet will track those motor skills down to a finer degree. What you could draw in a minute with a drawing tablet might take you five to 10 minutes with a mouse. Imagine if you're a character designer and you have a set of characters to draw for the day, what might take you a day to draw on a tablet might take you a week or two with a mouse. It significantly improves time and even the look is going to be different," said Jackson.

"I expect my students' skill level to increase and they will be able to gain more exposure so that when they go in a professional setting they will be able to operate tools properly and how to be efficient and proficient in that space. It also make practice more fun," he added.

The Advance programme was developed to strengthen second- and third-year tertiary programmes in five key areas – curriculum and pedagogy, professional development of faculty and staff, labour bridging services, admissions and recruitment, and scholarships across the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, and Jamaica.

BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON Observer staff reporter

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