Chief Executive Officer of e-Learning Jamaica, Keith Smith, says Cabinet has approved the procurement of 40,000 tablet computers for students and 25,000 devices for teachers, under the Tablets in Schools Project.
“We are now finalising contracts with the vendors,” he said.
A new phase of the project, which is to be renamed ‘Technology in Infant and Primary Schools Programme’, will start in the upcoming 2020/2021 fiscal year.
Mr Smith said that under the initiative, schools will be outfitted with charging carts, which will allow for the tablets to be stored and recharged overnight.
“We’re also going to be providing the schools with offline servers, so where there isn’t good quality Internet connection to support classrooms, teachers can connect and download the content materials, which can be used offline,” he said.
“E-Learning Jamaica will be putting in place mechanisms to support the schools to get better use of the technology.”— Keith Smith
Mr Smith said the commitment was for the devices to be distributed to schools within the next 15 months. However, “in light of COVID-19, we are trying to expedite the process to facilitate greater online learning.”
As it relates to the 25,000 tablets for teachers, he said that the rolling out of these devices should start mid-April, and assured that international suppliers are working to meet the timeline.
Mr Smith said that e-Learning Jamaica will play a long-term role in the maintenance and upgrading of the tablets for both teachers and students.
“One of the challenges we’ve had was that it was primarily focused on implementation during the introductory stage, so when the devices went out there was not much maintenance support.
“We are putting together plans to provide service assurance. This will include both e-Learning Jamaica resources along with other resources, which will be brought on board to provide field support to the schools while they utilise these devices,” he said.
He explained that all the tablets that are being procured will be under a 12-month manufacturer’s warranty.
“We are buying Samsung- and Logic-branded tablets, which are two of the world’s leading technology brands with global support reach. The tablet manufacturers will also be providing spare parts up to three years after the end of their warranties.
“E-Learning Jamaica will be putting in place mechanisms to support the schools to get better use of the technology. We are going to collaborate with our partners, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, to ensure that under this operation, we are providing the technical support to keep the devices running,” Mr Smith said.
The pilot of the Tablets in Schools programme saw the distribution of individual tablets to students.
This time around, e-Learning Jamaica will provide shared classroom sets; one tablet will be issued per three students over the life of the project and the schools will treat the tablets as shared resources, like a computer room.
Mr Smith said that the project “is part of the Government’s effort to enhance teaching and learning skills through global digital inclusion, with the goal of increasing digital literacy”.