REMARKS BY MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CULTURE
HONOURABLE MYRON V. WALWYN
AT THE LIME AND DIGICEL MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING PRESS CONFERENCE
THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 2016
The evolution of our society has always hinged on improved technology. The development of the printing press allowed more people, centuries ago, to learn to read, to become independent thinkers. Those books and pamphlets instead of being handwritten were printed for the masses and inspired revolutions that advanced our society.
In this modern era, it is the use of computers and the Internet that is allowing ideas and concepts to be developed across borders. The vast amount of information that is now being shared online surpasses the size of the world’s greatest libraries and, most importantly, it is reaching persons wishing to learn more and be better prepared for the world around them.
Consider this, every minute of every day:
• Google receives over 4 million search queries per minute from the 2.4 billion users that are online.
• Facebook users share over 31.25 million pieces of content.
• Twitter users tweet over 347,222 times.
• Instagram users post over 48,611 new photos.
• YouTube users upload 300 hours of video content.
• Apple users download over 50,000 apps.
• Email users send over 200 million messages.
• Amazon generates over $80,000 in online sales.
And remember I just said, this is every minute of every day.
With previously unimaginable speed, we are now connected to the world and a wealth of information. The challenge any education system faces in the 21st century is learning ways to use this technology to effectively serve the educational needs of students.
For many the Internet means exploring Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat. But as education professionals, how do we turn that inquisitiveness into learning new things and connecting with people to make learning fun and exciting? As we continue to seek to make education relevant to the every day life of our students, what better way to do this than to ensure that we have unfettered access to the Internet in our schools?
Can you image the chances are of success for any young person today that cannot use a computer, that cannot use Microsoft Word or Excel, or cannot effectively research without the help of Google or even YouTube in this 21st century?
However, part of our responsibility in this modern era is to make sure that we also teach our students how to use the Internet responsibly. We have to help our young people understand that their digital footprint will follow them throughout their lives; that sending photos and even videos might be private in one moment, but can easily become very public in an instant. Status updates should not display aggression towards their peers, but questions about homework and updating their community about their success at school.
We have to teach them how to use the opportunities this technology brings responsibly; for their education and exploration and not just casual browsing and entertainment. I will be depending on all of our educators, to reinforce the need for this as we further integrate the use of the Internet in our classrooms.
Last school year we introduced a pilot Information and Communication Technology (ICT) programme in Grade 5 of eight primary schools to integrate technology in the everyday learning of our young people. We intend to extend this programme this year to all primary schools across the Territory. The signing of this MOU today will help us ensure the success of this programme.
We have introduced the use of Smart Boards in the Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies and we intend this year to commence the use of Smart Boards in the Junior Levels of our other secondary schools and of course the use of reliable Internet will be imperative for this. We have trainers from Promethean who will be coming to the Territory to train some of our teachers to become certified Smart Board trainers so that our programme of ICT integration can be speedily realized.
I know teachers have been asking for a long time to access YouTube and other web based applications to integrate into lessons and help make theories come alive. Previously it was impossible for our educators and students to connect to the Internet while on campus as the Government system could not accommodate the amount of traffic happening all at once. Teachers will now be able to quickly access the wealth of information on the net to support lessons for our students because the over 100 mega byes that we will get today from this MOU will be dedicated solely for use at our schools. As simple as this signing appears this morning, it is a very significant step in our quest to make education more relevant.
This partnership will also greatly enhance the access of our administrators to Power School to allow parents to see what their children are doing while at school.
The United States of America has nothing on Virgin Islands diplomacy. A few months ago they signed a nuclear deal with Iran to make the world safer, but today here in the Virgin Islands, we have managed to get both Digicel and LIME to sit at the same table, at the same time, to carry out a common cause. If that isn’t skillful diplomacy, then I don’t know what is.
I believe it speaks to the dedication of both LIME and Digicel to practice good corporate citizenship in the communities they serve and I believe it also demonstrates that both companies understand that they too must be involved in the development of our young people through the advancement of a quality educational experience.
I know that LIME’s branding has evolved over time, but somehow I always still think of the Bmobile lime green when I think of LIME. Digicel happens to be branded in one of my favourite colours, red. Today also shows our community that when a green team and a red team put their competitive inclinations aside and decide to work together the entire Virgin Islands benefit.
I want to particularly thank Mr. Vincent Jardine at LIME and Mr. Kevin Carragher from Digicel who have both been working on this project for months. We thank you and the rest of the management team at your respective companies for your willingness and enthusiasm in your approach to providing us with the best service for our schools.
As we continue our journey of creating a culture of excellence in our education system, we will be calling on other corporate citizens to help us further modernize the teaching and learning experience at our schools. We are building the human capital that will be required to help our governments and private companies such as LIME and Digicel to continue to prosper. So again, thank you for your contribution as we work to develop a modern Virgin Islands society for its citizens and residents.
Permit me to also thank the leadership of the Department of Information and Technology and Telephone Services Management Unit for their dedicated commitment to realizing today. I also thank Mr. Arthur Selwood from my Ministry, who led the charge on this project. Mrs. Monica Cills-Hodge and Ms. Lauren Welch have been our able technology experts within the Ministry and I thank them also for their enthusiasm and contribution.
As we continue our journey to create a culture of excellence within our education system, we will endeavour to ensure that our students are prepared for their places in our society. I thank you all for getting us here today, and let’s continue to work together to advance these islands. Thank you.