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All teachers' colleges in Jamaica to get tablets

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites addressing yesterday’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s head office in Kingston. (PHOTO: ANTONIO GRAHAM)

All teachers' colleges will this year receive tablets under the Tablets in Schools project, which began last year with a pilot in 38 educational institutions, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said yesterday.

"In the pilot, the Ministry of Education didn't choose the schools, but Sam Sharpe was one of the teachers' colleges that got tablets," said Thwaites. "This year, all of the teachers' colleges will, because you can't have the students getting it and the teachers are not," he added.

In fact, the education ministry is moving to have all the needed books, starting at the primary level and including the basic texts at the secondary level, uploaded to tablets.

The minister made the disclosure yesterday while speaking to reporters and editors at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters in Kingston.

"The ministry's decision to make more textbooks available in e-book format is to facilitate the widespread use of computer tablets in schools. In addition to students who receive tablets as part of the e-Learning project, the ministry is encouraging parents to acquire these devices and we will place the e-books on them," Thwaites said.

"Putting the textbooks in electronic format will result in savings for the ministry, by eliminating the need for book repairs as well as the cost associated with transportation," he said, adding that the ministry is now working with publishers.

The ministry, in 2015/2016, intends to provide texts in e-format from both the approved and supplementary lists.

"This will include all books at grade one to three, except for math texts. Some texts at grade four to six and seven to 13 will also be available in e-format," Thwaites said. "The ministry is currently in discussions with publishers, so this number could increase by the start of the next academic year," he added.

The education minister, meanwhile, said more creativity is needed when loading applications to the tablets because there are several other free material that can improve the method and practice of teaching than are being used.

However, while the Tablets in Schools project has been having positive effects, the minister admitted that there was also a negative side.

"...Family members are using the tablets at home to show blue movies for hire, causing us to question the whole (thing)," said Thwaites. "The teachers, by and large, don't understand the system as well as plenty of the students."

The minister said it was, therefore, a "constant process of ensuring that good comes out of what is a tremendous expenditure".

In the meantime, Thwaites said there are many things that have to be done with teacher training colleges.

"One is that every teacher from now on will not be graduating unless they do, not just a module, but a whole course in special education," Thwaites insisted.

"...It is absolutely critical that our teachers, who are the first responders, learn to identify a special need and not run away from it at the earliest stage; and the second thing they have to do is they have to become far more digitally competent."

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