Virtual learning at St. Ignatius

 

St. Ignatius Catholic School in Grand
Cayman has begun the launch of a virtual learning environment project.

Project 121 allows students and teachers
access to laptop computers and social networking geared toward strengthened
learning.

The project is in the initial phases,
with wireless technology being installed now, training for students, teachers
and parents taking place over the summer and a delivery of 450 laptops set for
1 September.

A new, personalised (and monitored)
networking site – a communication portal – will be added to the St. Ignatius
website to allow parents, teachers and students access to up-to-date lessons,
homework, school projects and a variety of other tools, all meant to help the
learning process.

“The first thing about the project is it
isn’t just an IT school project, it’s a community thing,” said Mick Whyte, St.
Ignatius teacher and director of technology. “It isn’t simply something that is
a slight move forward for us. It is the most exciting education innovation that
the Island has seen.”

Mr. Whyte has brought back former St.
Ignatius student Jordan Jennings to work as part of the new Internet technology
and laptop technician support team.

“It is a step forward. Students with
technology – it’s a booming thing. It’s always there. They love it. They’re
always going to have a need for it. They’re always going to use it,” added Mr.
Jennings. “And fusing education with technology is a good step to involving
students with education.”

One of the other benefits of the new
technology is that students don’t have to carry or purchase new textbooks.

“Information is such a growing and
evolving thing, that it is also important that our students see that,” said Tom
McGrath, head of the school.

Another benefit of the technology,
according to Mr. Whyte, is it allows parents to become more involved with their
children’s lessons in class in real time.

“My child loves the technology aspect of
education, but I need to know how my child is doing in school,” said Valerie
Mullen, parent of a St. Ignatius student.

Project 121 is meant to harness
teenagers’ love of technology.

“Teenagers interact with everything they
do. An education is traditionally passive,” Mr. Whyte said. “Young people now
don’t want to learn just that way. They want to interact with what they’re
doing.”

The wireless and laptop are a means to
an end, according to Mr. Whyte, with the ultimate goal of better learning for
students.

Every student in Year 7 and above will
receive a laptop with an eight-hour battery to be used in class, at home, in
the field, or any place with a wireless connection. Younger students and their
parents will also have access to the virtual learning environment.

The fee for Year 7 to 11 students will
rise from the 2010-11 cost of $8,121 per year ($881 per month, if paid in
monthly instalments) to $8,845 ($952 per month, if paid monthly) in the
2011-2012 school year. The additional costs will go toward laptop maintenance,
software, servicing and upkeep. At the end of the three-year lease, the student
owns the computer.

Along with the laptop, students at St.
Ignatius will be on the cutting edge of learning, Mr. Whyte said.

“What it does is it gives teachers the
ability to put the awesome power of technology at the heart of learning,” he
said. “And it gives students the ability to take ownership of
their learning.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I believe this is progress.

    I trust, however, that consideration is being given to providing recommended internet sites to the students to ensure quality and credibility of material – as is done when choosing texts to support courses.

    Also, I hope that parents will be called in and given adeqate instruction about how the system is to work. Let’s not assume anything.

    Good job…

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  2. As a student of what was once Our Lady of Perpetual Help (now St. Ignatius) it is so very exciting to see this development, especially in this, our school’s 40th Anniversary. Congrats to the whole team past and present that has been a part of making this happen.

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  3. @ElizQues

    Just to confirm that no matter where in the world the laptop is used, all Internet searches etc come back through the St Ignatius firewall before going out on to the net.

    In other words, students are under exactly the same restrictions that they would be at school.

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