EDITORIAL: Use of technology in education

THE internet is often used by younger persons for recreational purposes such as scrolling through social media, to play games, watch films and television shows, reading novels and gossip. However, the time has come where the internet and the associated electronic devices must now be used in order for the same young people to access their primary sources of education as schools remain closed for an extended period of time and they are unable to attend regular in-person lessons. Due to this change of use of the internet; a retraining was necessary for teachers, students and parents. The technology to access education online has been present for several years and is already at an advanced stage. It is widely used in some countries for teaching of students who are home-schooled and teaching extra lessons to students who are enrolled in school. There are also several websites and applications which are used by tertiary level institutions as a regular part of their tuition.

The Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training is in the process of properly setting up online systems through which the classes can be taught. For many schools this process is already operational and students have been able to access their classes. Even before COVID-19 necessitated the use of this technology, some teachers here in Barbados were already using it to send assignments and notes to students, especially those students who were preparing for Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations. The technology, which is supported by Google, allows for face-to-face conferences between students and teachers, allowing them to simulate normal classes and the sharing of video presentations. The use of virtual white boards allows for students to watch the teacher write on the white board in real-time just as they would in a classroom setting. The teacher could also use music media in order to keep students interested and excited about the technology. This might be even more interesting to students and allow for them to better understand topics which they are being taught. This technology, in some cases, may be a more efficient use of a teacher’s time.

Officials from the Ministry of Education have required that all teachers check in for their online classes, however all teachers may not have the necessary access to suitable devices, which could cause difficulties for them in doing their job. Many students also lack devices, however assistance is being provided in the form of devices for such students so that they will not be disadvantaged when other students are able to have access to the work.

CXC examinations have now been postponed until July, in addition to the 11-Plus or Common Entrance Examination. There have been ongoing discussions about the changes which would be required in this pandemic and as such, draft protocols are being established to ensure students’ safety, and Barbados’ Ministry of Education has even considered setting up its own education channel.

Nevertheless, students still have to prepare for such exams in this unprecedented situation, which would be difficult. This is due to the fact that it would be hard to establish a routine and the existence of home distractions, large families, baby-sitting duties along with cooking and taking care of pets, etc.

COVID-19 has substantially changed the role of the teacher, students will need to self-motivate, and parents need to be more invested to ensure their children have the best opportunities at success.

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