The Minister for Education (MOE), The Honourable Juliana O'Connor Connolly, announces the arrival of 2640 laptops for distribution to primary school students across the Cayman Islands.
"Last July, I announced Cabinet's approved funding for the One-to-One Laptop programme that would provide all Government school students with laptops for use at home and school. Today, I am pleased to announce the arrival of almost 3000 of these laptops, symbolising the start of an exciting new phase of our educational landscape wherein our students will have equal access to a world-class education supplemented by the use of technology,” Minister O’Connor-Connolly stated.
The new laptops will be distributed to schools in the coming weeks. An additional 762 laptops have been ordered; the first batch of which is scheduled to arrive by the end of this month.
MOE Assistant ICT Manager Mr. Nicholas Mclean explained the extensive but vital process that takes place between the arrival of the laptops and their distribution to students. "Once our team receives the laptops, they begin to prepare them for distribution to students. This process includes imaging the machines, setting up the relevant software and installing any programmes that may be required on the device itself. We also enable the machines with tracking software to make sure that we can recover them if they go missing. Platforms for remote access are also installed. Additional packages such as content filtering ensure that the laptop is functional and provides a level of e-safety by preventing and deterring any access to inappropriate content. Once these processes are completed, the laptops are ready to be issued to our students,” he said.
Mr. Mark Ray, Head of Business Services in the Department of Educational Services (DES), outlined another integral step that must be implemented before students can gain access to their assigned computer. "Understanding that the Cayman Islands Government has made a substantial investment in these laptops, parents are asked to sign an acceptable use policy upon receipt of a laptop to encourage the responsible use and proper care of the device and encourage accountability among students," said Mr. Ray.
In addition to the distribution of the new laptops, the DES will continue to roll out its connectivity programme in conjunction with the schools. Through this programme, 145 LTE modems and 170 4G LTE connections, valid for 12 months, will be made available to families that have demonstrated a need for internet connectivity for their children's continued education.
DES Acting Director Mrs. Tammy Hopkins expressed her appreciation for the new devices. "Having the right resources and the skills will equip our children, and we are so grateful to the Cayman Islands Government for their continued support. Our schools are well-resourced; whether it is laptops, computer software, textbooks, technology, we are at the cutting edge."
Mrs. Hopkins further explained that the newly acquired technological tools are essential for creating a broad and balanced curriculum that prepares school leavers to compete in the local and global digital economies. "A broad and balanced curriculum encompasses several facets at all levels, for instance, technology integration, community-based learning, such as the work experience, and also cross-curricular activities."
MOE STEM Specialist Stephen Tabois further outlined how the devices would enable technology integration. "There are many fundamental elements to integrating technology. Technology itself and laptops themselves are simply tools. Being truly computer literate allows students to utilise devices, create content, develop content, and develop their understanding of content. Computer literacy allows our students to learn that and allows our educators and educational institutions to teach those skills whether as a standalone subject area of ICT or computing or integrating across various curricular subjects."
Mr. Tabois continued, "The one-to-one project allows students to continue their work and to learn outside of the school context. It provides real opportunities to close any gaps that may have formed as a result of last year's school closures. Integrating technology is a key function of what we do and what we've started to do with the One-to-One project. In addition to the project, we have implemented a number of other measures that help support that integration of technology, including equipping all of our classrooms with interactive whiteboards and allowing students to interact with that type of touch technology."
One thousand four hundred twenty-six of the 1650 laptops received through the public/private partnership-led 'Education for Everyone Initiative' in 2020 have already been distributed among government schools. The majority (1,090) was entrusted to secondary school students who sat external examinations during the 2019/2020 academic year.
Seven hundred fifty of the secondary school students who have already received laptops are enrolled at the John Gray High School. Principal Mr. Jonathan Clark shared how these students have benefited from the programme. "It is still very early days to evidence the impact of this program on student outcomes, but we are seeing a very positive response from staff and students. Our eldest students have benefitted from having individual devices to complete school-based assessment (SBAs), and students are getting very creative with both classroom lessons and online prep sessions. Our science team have said that uptake to prep sessions has increased dramatically by offering them online with teams teaching to sometimes over 100 students,” Mr. Clark stated.
The school's Head Girl, Keanna Kelly, a recipient of one of the new laptops, had this to say, "Having a school laptop has made me feel significantly more prepared for exams as I feel like my productivity has increased. Research is made easier, so the completion of my work has essentially been made quicker. The laptops facilitate excellent communication with my teachers, which gives me access to them for querying and receiving feedback on assignments."
To learn more about the Student Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Use policy, visit http://www.education.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/13078512.PDF.