Comparative learning

Comparative learning can be explained as an educational process that occurs through stimulus-reinforcement chains, whereby children learn cues in their educational environment, with specific behavioural responses and rewarding consequences.

Research shows that teachers should focus on positive reinforcement schedules, where correct responses are paired with a desirable consequence.

Comparative learning techniques are just some of the ways that Cayman schools are teaching kids and preparing them for the future. There is also a focus on new technologies in the classroom to predict and evolve with the rapid change in education.

In Red Bay Primary School, teachers took it upon themselves to raise funds for a distance learning course in teaching children with dyslexia. Red Bay Primary plans to screen every new child entering the school in the fall of 2011.

Wayne Roberts, a teacher at the school, said the course will send roughly 40 per cent of the school staff to be trained in dyslexia teaching methods. “This course requires approximately 100 hours study and will better equip our teachers’ work with children identified as having a specific learning deficit,” he said.  “Further to this, we are purchasing resources, which will enable RBPS to begin screening children in our school from January for dyslexia and other learning barriers.”

Part of the money raised will go to specific screening software that allows a child to take a test yielding results that give teachers an indication of learning strengths and deficiencies.

The distance learning course costs US$400 per teacher.  The Caledonian Group has already donated enough for two of the teachers. “As a teacher, you feel frustrated when you know there are children in your class who are intelligent, but you can’t reach them,” Mr. Roberts said.  “You know they need help and it’s really hard to get them the specialist help that they need sometimes, and it’s tough.”

Classrooms on the tertiary level are also being equipped with new technologies like SMART boards, an updated replacement and improvement on the traditional chalkboard. At UCCI, master’s students in the business administration programme are using this technology as part of courses that replicate real boardrooms.

“We have a SMART board in this classroom for our MBA students, and brand-new chairs and desks that simulate a real working environment,” said UCCI President Roy Bodden.

SMART Board interactive whiteboards are used in more than 1.5 million K-12 classrooms, by more than 30 million students globally, according to the SMART website. SMART Notebook collaborative learning software has been downloaded in 175 countries around the world.

More than 51,000 digital resources are available on the SMART Exchange website, an online community and resource collection for educators. Research indicates that interactive whiteboards benefit student engagement, learner motivation and knowledge retention. The technology has been successful in reaching students with a variety of learning styles, including those with special needs.

Mr. Bodden has also integrated a computer laboratory at UCCI equipped with the popular language learning software, Rosetta Stone, because he wants all UCCI students to speak Spanish and Mandarin as second languages, citing the countries’ growing populations and influences of Latin America and China in the business world as his motivation.

Rosetta Stone tailors their content in the pronunciation activities specifically toward helping students improve their pronunciation. They have designed the activities to teach a student to pronounce a word well by providing listening and pronunciation practice on each word segment in order.

For this reason, the Rosetta Stone software breaks down words into segments that make sense phonetically rather than morphologically. The programme focuses on word morphology in the grammar activities.
The Vocational, Career and Technical Programme as part of the new Year 12 Further Education programme offers courses focused on new technologies in creative media production, motor vehicle repair, business, information technology, sport and leisure, hospitality, and medical technology.

Students in the VoCaT programme were also able to participate in the Foundation Studies programme to improve their academic qualifications in core areas.

Another programme that uses new technologies like online learning to prepare kids for the future is Junior Achievement. In 2010, the Junior Achievement Company Programme had 14 sponsor companies and 260 student participants from 10 different schools across the Cayman Islands.

In the programme, students were encouraged to use innovative thinking to learn business skills that support positive attitudes as they explore and enhance their career aspirations while using the latest technologies in the workplace.

Training took place for the achievers who were elected by company peers as president, vice president of finance, marketing human resources and production. “The JA officer training was really helpful because I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know human resources were about. Human resources really is important for a company to have — a certain department that watches and cares for the needs of all employees,” said Catherine Ebanks, one of the student Junior Achievers.

Technology like thumb drives for information transfer and PowerPoint presentations are part of the current essential know-how in real-life work scenarios. JA students integrated this technology as part of their training.

JA student, Lloyd Barker, said: “The Junior Achievement officer training programme equipped us with brief, yet important essentials to allow us to be successful leaders throughout our JA Company and future endeavours.”

One of the recent JA company successes is a Caymanian named Shelly-Ann Barnaby. JA training was instrumental in bringing her into the field of accounting and allowed her to use the current accounting software. “You study something in school and never see how it applies in the real world,” she said.  “In JA, I got to see how accounting worked in business.  I knew what I wanted to do and the company I wanted to work for.”

That company happened to be PricewaterhouseCoopers — which uses Comperio, a search engine software that includes access to global financial reporting and assurance literature as well as a variety of PricewaterhouseCoopers guidance — and the programme led her to meet Trishia Ogilvie, the director of risk management and compliance at PwC who formerly worked in the human resources department there. “I used to volunteer with JA as a company adviser,” Ms Ogilvie said.  “I definitely remember her as a strong participant for sure.”

After receiving her associate’s degree from University College of the Cayman Islands, she went to Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, Canada, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting. She returned to Cayman after graduating. Now, she works at PwC as an accountant with her CPA certification.  January marks three years since Ms Barnaby first started working at PwC. It has invested in her as an employee, she said, sending her to the US to take the proper exams and receive additional technology training. “I can’t imagine working anywhere else,” she said.

Cayman continues to strive for excellence in education, through new and innovative learning techniques, current workplace technology training, and programmes to help children receive education and experience.