Trinidad and Tobago's Ministry of Education recently co-hosted the second Virtual Educa Caribbean forum, a two-day workshop which explored different ways in which Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can have an impact on education. The intent is to better prepare students for future economies by incorporating innovative technologies into their current learning experience.
A couple of local bloggers thought the concept was interesting enough to pay attention to, especially against the backdrop of widespread criticism about the country's education system – specifically, the fact that the entire primary school curriculum is geared towards the sitting of a grueling examination, the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA), in order to stream youngsters into secondary schools based on academic performance.
T3CHTT prefaced his review of the event by saying:
According to an event press release Trinidad and Tobago has been a leader in the infusion of ICT into education with the distribution of laptops. [The current government's ‘A Laptop for Every Child’ programme has not been as successful in practice as it seemed to be in theory]. 20 pilot virtual classrooms are expected to be rolled out to secondary and primary schools.
Demokrissy thought that the Virtual Educa mission seemed noble:
Preparing for the future: Need to get inside ICT-driven minds of preschoolers +MOE Minister Tim Gopeesingh tells parents/principals and leaders at #virtualeducaTT2014
T3CHTT's blogger, Hassan Voyeau, actually checked out the Samsung Virtual Classroom himself and reported:
The devices being used are the Note 10.1 tablet, tablet charging pack, Note PC and interactive white board with touch support and supporting tablet and server software. The devices are connected via WiFi and no internet connection is required. Students and teachers are provided with their own login. The tablets that the students will use are equipped with the s-pen. The teacher can monitor students and control their tablets.
During the demo I saw how easy it was to administer quizzes. After the pilot period and by the end of the year Samsung's education solution will be gradually expanded across the entire school system. The virtual classroom is intended to increase classroom participation and collaboration and student focus and interest.
He found a key support element of the technology especially interesting:
Also being talked about is the KNOX EMM solution that will allow school IT Administrators to manage student devices.
On social media, the response to the symposium was understated – not even the Ministry of Education's Facebook page posted anything current – although a handful of Twitter and Instagram users posted updates about aspects of Virtual Educa that they thought were cool:
— Martin Raymond (@MiceRaymond) May 20, 2014
— Seon Thompson (@seon_thompson) May 21, 2014
Admitting that the technology aspect of the Ministry of Education's plan was impressive, T3CHTT was careful to express his reservations about the methodology:
I am a sucker for everything technology. It's the future. It betters our lives. We just have to make sure that our approach is right and that we implement in ways that give us the most benefit.