STATEMENT BY THE
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION & CULTURE –
HONOURABLE MYRON V. WALWYN
at the Second Sitting of the Second Session of the Third House of Assembly
October 13, 2016
Update on the MEC Technology Integration in Schools
“…learning in this modern age cannot be done without the integration of
technology in our classrooms”
Madam Speaker the Territory of the Virgin Islands has entrusted the Ministry of Education and Culture with the responsibility to educate our youth and prepare them to be model citizens who will in turn, work and advance the Virgin Islands. Within the Ministry we have realized that to effectively do this, we must pivot when necessary to ensure that we are providing our students with a quality education, fitting the times, opportunities and circumstances of this modern age.
We started our journey towards a culture of excellence in early 2012 and began to strategically make investments to modernize our education system and ensure the young people of this Territory have the learning opportunities to prepare them for bright futures. Without a doubt, learning in this modern age cannot be done without the integration of technology in our classrooms.
To this end, the Government of the Virgin Islands has made significant investments as it relates to the integration of technology in our schools. Our efforts over the recent two years and at the completion of this integration process will be the single largest investment in technology made by any government in our schools and we look forward to our students and thus our Territory being the benefactors of this investment. Our aim Madam Speaker is to create motivated life-long learners through the use of technology to enhance and extend learning and teaching across the entire curriculum. Technology is captivating and fun to use, integrating technology into the curriculum facilitates learning in new, active, engaging and collaborative ways.
During the 2014/2015 school year we piloted our first ICT programme in eight primary schools at the Grade 5 level. At the start of this school year we set about and successfully expanded the programme to all Grade 5 students in all public primary schools across the Territory. To successfully do this, we acquired a total of 350 laptops for students and have in place an active three-person itinerant ICT unit with teachers Mrs Monica Cills Hodge, Ms Lauren Welch and Mr Elvon Pope. These teachers have been busy training our educators and providing hands on support in the classroom to ensure the smooth integration of the programme in the teaching and learning environment for both educators and students.
In addition, earlier this year, Government entered into a partnership with telecommunications providers Flow and Digicel who have provided 145MB of dedicated and unfettered internet access to all of our primary schools in the Virgin Islands. To capitalize on the additional bandwidth provided by Flow and Digicel, it was mandatory to improve our primary schools current Wi-fi infrastructure.
As result Madam Speaker additional access points were purchased to ensure accessibility within classrooms. The Department of Information Technology (DoIT) has already installed and configured new access points at all our primary schools on Tortola and are currently working on completing installations and configurations at our sister island schools. It is our intention to have access points installed and configured at all our primary schools by the end of next week.
This level of connectivity has noticeably increased internet speeds at our primary schools, making it much easier for teachers to get online in the classroom, accessing interactive ICT resources to enhance the delivery of their lessons. Moreover Madame Speaker, our students have benefited as they are now able to get online while in class, during lunch time and after school to conduct research and reinforce their learning with the use of their laptops, as well as being able to easily and quickly get online. It is our intention for teachers and students to access and utlise resources such as Khan Academy, YouTube, Teacher Tube, TED, Educational Podcasts, Learning Management Systems such as Moddle and Edmodo and other engaging resources to teach their classes
Madam Speaker it is intended that the ICT programme will be expanded and fully implemented into all other grades incrementally over the next two years. It is our hope to see students in every classroom have internet access for interactive lessons in all classes.
We could not have achieved the level of success that we have had thus far had it not been for the support from Flow and Digicel, but also from the Government’s very own Department of Information Technology. In addition to preparing the infrastructure at our schools for this integration. They have been working to sort out the appropriate content filters and setting up bandwidth allocations to ensure that the bandwidth provided through FLOW and Digicel are directed and dedicated fully to these schools. During this week all schools should have access to ESCHOOLS which is the new access point name to which schools will be connected.
An ICT resource website has also been created by DoIT to provide teachers with access to available resources in all subject areas. The website is being populated by our ICT Coordinators and they are responsible for familiarizing teachers with the use of this website.
Madam Speaker we have also purchased and received 20 Promethean Active Panels for our Grade 7 classes at our secondary schools. These panels will be placed in the lower classes and these are to be installed shortly. Our ICT unit has already planned our training curriculum for teachers to ensure that they are fully competent in utilizing the panels and also integrating this technology in their teaching. We have already begun work on securing an additional 40 panels to be distributed accordingly to other classes.
The Ministry of Education is cognizant that we must work fast and diligently to get our students into a 21st century education system if they are to have any chance of competing on the world stage. I therefore want to underscore Madam Speaker how important technology is for today’s classroom. To continue the teaching learning process without fully engaging the technology is to hold back the development of this Territory. We must change with the times, we must pivot to the new and ensure that as the minds of our students change, so too must the classroom, teaching experience and curriculum change to reflect the times. Thank you Madam Speaker.