(CMR) The Minister for Education Hon. Juliana O'Connor-Connolly recently announced the arrival of 2,640 student laptops through the One-to-One laptop program and the continued roll-out of the Department of Education Services (DES) connectivity program in conjunction with schools.
Minister O'Connor-Connolly said, “The arrival of these laptops and the continued roll-out of DES connectivity program are part of the initial phase of the ministry's overall digital strategy to facilitate effective home learning and provide equal access to a world-class education for all students enrolled in government schools.”
MOE Chief Officer Cetonya Cacho outlined other fundamental steps that the ministry has taken to bridge the digital divide and ensure equal opportunity for all students. Cacho said:
“Providing the hardware such as the laptops, desktops, and other digital devices, is the first step in equipping our students with the necessary technology to learn. Another critical part of the process is having the correct software that allows us to reach student targets aligned to the curriculum. The third part is having the teachers who are trained and able to utilize that technology effectively with our students.”
“As such, we have moved to ensure that each student laptop is equipped with the appropriate learning platforms. We have also undertaken quite a lot of professional development with teachers to get them trained with technology and in the use of technology, more specifically technology for learning, because you can buy all of the equipment, but if it's not being used effectively, if it's not being used to target students' learning, then you are not optimizing the advantages of using technology to facilitate excellent student outcomes,” remarked Ms. Cacho.
Also underscoring the need for the appropriate learning software, Acting DES Director, Tammy Hopkins added, “The DES has worked closely with our schools and the ministry's Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Unit to ensure that student laptops are equipped with the learning platforms that are aligned to the curriculum.
“Each of the new laptops is equipped with ZOOM and a range of other vital, age-appropriate remote learning platforms. Accordingly, SEESAW and Microsoft Teams have been installed on computers assigned to primary school students and Everest on those that have been assigned to secondary school students.”
Hopkins continued, “These platforms are not new. In fact, they have been tried, and their effectiveness has been proven particularly in 2020 during the height of the COVID 19 pandemic when they were used extensively by our educators and students.”
As part of the MOE's strategy, every year, teachers' knowledge and skills are enhanced by providing professional development opportunities. Also included in these professional development opportunities are those that enhance the educators' use of technology and the recommended learning platforms.
MOE Head of Professional Development, Kiva Powell, provided insight on how teachers are trained in the use of technology.
“To support professional development and use technology throughout, we have utilized several training platforms, chief among those is the Ed Tech training platform. This platform aims to guide educators on using technology to improve teaching and learning through the use of several short modules. Participants’ progress is also assessed at the end of each module,” Powell said.
“This platform also allows teachers to feel safe while changing their usual practice. As such, they can choose the most suitable pathways and access information repeatedly so that the learning becomes sustained until it is embedded in their practice in their classrooms.”