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Modern technology changing education

Jamaica Observer 2020-03-25 13:58:40

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The importance of research as a driver of change and a tool of problem-solving in national development, found consensus among representatives of academia at the 5th annual Research Day conference and workshops of Church Teachers' College (CTC) at its Mandeville campus, earlier this month.

Held under the theme Meeting 21st Century Demands Through Research, the day-long event began with an opening ceremony at the CTC chapel, which gave way to workshops, panel discussions, academic presentations, and educational displays highlighting research as a means to improve the quality and reach of education in Jamaica.

There were suggestions that the country's education was lagging behind modern technology when projects and research officers of CTC, Samantha Radway Morrison and Althea Campbell — who shared the podium as keynote speakers — took a futuristic leap into the several ways that modern technology can disrupt traditional concepts of teaching and learning in Jamaica.

Radway Morrison, the research day coordinator, described how online learning can circumvent the limitations of the physical classroom. She provided as example, the difficulties faced by students pursuing studies across disciplines and suggested that this challenge could be overcome by combining online or distance learning with campus-based education.

Similarly, she said, the time may come when assessors in teacher education will not need to journey to the school location to assess the teacher in training, but would do so remotely, through instructional and interactive software tools, employing audio-visual technology.

She said that education as the driving force behind national development was no longer limited to the teacher and pupil paradigm. Alongside the traditional classroom instruction were now educational technologists, who design and develop teaching content, the CTC researcher said. Modern concepts of education, she opined, were not only about preparing people to work for other people, but preparing people to work for themselves.

Her colleague researcher Althea Campbell lauded the role of technology as a transformative force in education, noting that what was once dismissed as “science fiction is now science fact”. She spoke also of the upending of old truisms such as, “If it isn't broke, don't fix it,” asserting that in the current dispensation “we have to break it and then fix it” to have it suit the desired purpose.

Dr Winsome Gordon, chief executive officer Jamaica Teaching Council, said that the digital age was changing the conventional norms of the teaching profession. She drew attention to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, where policies of social distancing have emerged, forcing families into online schooling as schools are shut down and people are quarantined at home to curtail the spread of the virus.

Dr Gordon saw these new developments as an indication that “the school, as a building to go to, may be coming to an end”.

Meanwhile, Dr Clover Hamilton Flowers, deputy chief education officer, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, was of the opinion that “every aspect of education is influenced by research”.

She said that research was no longer the domain of the lone investigator, but was now a collaborative effort involving the community as partner.

The impact that communication and other digital technologies is having on education, was also reinforced by other speakers, including CTC's Principal Dr Garth Anderson. He noted that for educators to be positioned on the cutting edge of technological progress, it will require “constant introspection, that must be informed by research, [as] the work we do here, has far-reaching implications for the development of our country”.

The Rev Fr Charles Danvers, chairman of the board of management of CTC, said the movement away from music as a teaching tool has meant a loss to the education system. He has, therefore, called for its return to school curriculum.

He cited the adaptation to music by late reggae artist Peter Tosh, of Psalm 27 “The Lord is my light and my salvation” as an example of how music can be used to invoke moods.

He viewed the discontinuation of the Education Broadcasting Network programming of yesteryear, was another break in the education link. He noted that the programme, at the time, as cutting-edge technology in distance learning.

The board chairman blamed policymakers for what he saw as lapses in the education system, and named the education ministry as one of the “biggest humbugs” to education, adding that they were no more than “paper pushers”.

Another area of concern to Danvers was the shelving of research projects on their completion. He insisted that completed research must be published and used to justify its value to society.