My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Ministry of Education Select Content for Jamaican TIS Project - How Tablets will Empower Interactive Learning and make Students Aim High

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ministry of Education Select Content for Jamaican TIS Project - How Tablets will Empower Interactive Learning and make Students Aim High

“We will ensure that as far as it is possible, books that are available electronically, and that we would have provided for schools, are uploaded on the tablets ; instead of providing students with hardcopy books especially at the lower primary level, students will be able to access these materials online”

Chief Education Officer at the Ministry, Dr Grace McLean, while addressing a JIS Think Tank on Thursday August 14th 2014

The TIS (Tablet in Schools) Project, slated to start in September 2014, is the other big event on my Calendar.

To this end, the Ministry of Education is in the process of selecting the digital Material i.e. e-books and *.pdf documents and Apps, both Free and Paid that are representative of the curricula to be taught across all the 38 Schools, 24,000 Students and some 728 Teachers.

This as reported in the article “Education Ministry will monitor course content for tablets”, published Thursday, August 14, 2014 8:12 PM, The Jamaica Gleaner as well as from the Horse’s Mouth, the Jamaica Information Service in their article “Education Ministry Will Monitor Course Content for Tablets”, published August 15, 2014 By Judith A. Hunter, The Jamaica Information Service.

Good to note here that the 38 schools that will be a part of the Tablet Test Pilot were selected based on their level of Security, as initially, the Tablets will be kept at the school and not given to the students to carry home.

That's a future concept when the Pilot Project ends and some 400,000 Tablets are rolled out islandwide over a five (5) year period as explained in my blog article entitled “Ministry of Science and Technology yet to announce Tablet Contractor - 400,000 Tablets for E-Learning II Project in 5 years as Test Pilot to end June 2014”.

At which point it’s anticipated that parents will be able to purchase a GOJ Tablet under the TIS Project at a subsidized price of JA$5000.

TIS Project – Largest Distribution of Tablets in the Caribbean to empower Interactive Learning

Jamaica is possibly the only Caribbean country and possibly in the western Hemisphere that's implementing a Tablet in Schools Project of this scale as noted by Chief Education Officer at the Ministry, Dr Grace McLean “Overall, the Ministry is really very happy for this innovation in Jamaica as this may be the largest one within the Caribbean. We have done our research across the entire world, so we know the weaknesses and the strengths. We have put systems and procedures in place to account for those weaknesses”.

For now they'll be used at a select set of Primary, Junior and High Schools that will have Free Internet provided so as to allow Students to access the Internet. This Internet Access will be provided under the E-Learning Project I as described in my blog article entitled “LIME, FLOW and the $JA543-million Internet plan - Ebony and Ivory”.

Chief Education Officer at the Ministry, Dr Grace McLean basically gave a pep talk on Thursday August 14th 2014 at the JIS Think Tank, basically briefing the audience on what the TIS Project is expected to achieve.

She was especially careful to avoid creating the idea that Tablets were basically a magical electronics cure-all for problems associated with Education in Jamaica, quote:  “We cannot attribute any improvement in academic performance say in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), which is only six month away, as that would be impossible. Instead, we will monitor to see how well the students are able to use the tablets and look at the gains that would have been made especially in literacy and numeracy, and to see how we can gradually encourage this kind of environment within the education system”.

As mentioned in my blog article entitled “Tablet In Schools Project launched for September 2014 – How Teachers Benefit as Female interest in ICT Industry Blossoms”, the four (4) Contractors that were chose in March 2014 will be supplying the Tablets for the TIS Project. Thus the Teachers are being trained on how to use the Tablets in an Interactive Learning session in Classes with students instead of the usual instructive method of teaching.

Having Students with Internet access in a classroom with students will result in the students having a lot of questions to ask. This is natural and should be expected, as they do have access to Google. This of course will challenge Teachers, as they'll have to not only navigate the usage of a Tablet in the classroom but also field questions for students now armed with the ability to basically Google and learn anything they desire at will.

Teachers who prepare themselves before going to classes i.e. do lesson plans and can upload content to the CMS Platform that the Tablets will access will find the system a relief, to quote Chief Education Officer at the Ministry, Dr Grace McLean: “They will be able to use the tablet to create their lesson plans and teach, so while they are using their tablets, students are also using theirs so there is communication that is taking place”.

Tablets in Schools – Improved Student engagement who’ll be inspired to Aim High

Thus, the Four (4) contractors involved in supplying the Tablets may be responsible for the CMS (Content Management Service) as it relates to blocking harmful content from being accessed on the Tablets. This can be easily enable on any smartphone or Tablets as I'd pointed out in my blog article entitled “How to Lock down your Child’s Tablet or smartphone and Apps to Block, Protect and Notify you of your Child’s whereabouts Online - Defense Against the Dark Arts”.

Once the CMS System is in place to deliver the e-books, videos, Apps and other Content that will be used in the Teaching of the curricula to students and Students and Teachers are in synch with using the Tablets in class without being distracted, the magic is expected to happen. This will manifest in students slowly realizing that not only is it easier and convenient to Google than going to the Library but they'll also learn how to locate and distinguish valid information from information that's not valid.

This takes practice!

In so doing, it's expected to boost their knowledge base as the restrictive cost of books will be removed. The Tablet with its content will basically be the only book they'll need. In the process they'll also learn about computing and hot to care for a Tablet as explained in my blog article entitled “How to care your Tablet from the TIS Program – Batteries are included and you’ll need a Portable Battery Charger”.

and start realizing that they can save their work on the Tablet or in the Cloud Platform for the Teacher to check and mark.

The need to write information in books will no longer be an issue, thereby getting them mentally prepared for a world where everything will be presented in this format i.e. located on a Tablets and also in the Cloud, Star Trek Style.

Hopefully, with this early exposure to computers, not only will it lift the spirits and the consciousness of Primary and High School Students and make them desire to go further on to do Tertiary Education, but it should also encourage more males and especially females to consider careers in ICT (Information and Computer Technology) as hoped in my blog article entitled “International Girls in ICT Day - How Women can jump-Start Jamaican ICT Industry from Call Centers, Telecom Providers and NDA's”.

In short, these children, many of whom will be owning and using a computer for the First time, will realize that truly, in the Future, Everything is Possible.

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