Bartolo: Technology ‘must be integrated’ in educational system

Education minister Evarist Bartolo says technology is not the solution to all problems in education but it must be integrated with all other aspects

Evarist bartolo addressing teachers at Smart City • Photo by Chris Mangion
Evarist bartolo addressing teachers at Smart City • Photo by Chris Mangion

The biggest challenge in the education sector is integrating the use of technology, such as tablets, with the learning outcome framework, the pedagogy of teaching and all other aspects of education, education minister Evarist Bartolo said.

“Technology will not miraculously resolve the shortcomings in our educational system, however it is a reality which must be integrated into the system,” Bartolo said, adding that today’s children are digital natives and “they look at the world from a different angle.”

Bartolo was addressing teachers undergoing a training course on the use of tablets both in terms of hardware/software and how they can use it as a pedagogical tool in the classroom.

By the beginning of the 2015-16 scholastic year, all schoolchildren will receive a free computer tablet and in a one-year pilot project kicked off in March of this year.

This morning, Bartolo met the volunteer teachers from state, church and independent schools taking part in the pilot project who are focusing on the use of tablets to support literacy, numeracy and digital literacy, in line with the National Literacy Strategy for All that had just been published and the National Curriculum Framework.

Bartolo said that the exercise would also be useful for the ministry to fine-tune the initiative and ensure that all support systems are in place once the tablets are introduced in October.

Bartolo admitted that technology also has its downsides, however “there is no alternative and we cannot turn schools into monasteries for cloistered nuns and keep technology out. But on the other hand we cannot put our guard down.”

13 local and international industry partners have responded to a call for proposals and will be loaning their tablets and providing their software solutions free of charge for evaluation in schools.  

Their investment is calculated at around €200,00 and they are providing such popular brands as Acer, Apple, Google Nexus, Haier, Intel, LearnPad, Lenovo,  and Samsung.

The project consists of 13 Primary classes in 10 colleges in state schools, two complementary groups and one group at a Resource Centre for Students with Special Needs.

The participating State Schools are: Siggiewi, Msida, Gżira, Marsascala, Cospicua, Ghajnsielem-Sannat-Victoria in Gozo, Pieta', Paola, Mellieha, Zurrieq, Bahrija and the Dun Manwel Attard Young Adult Education Resource Centre. 

The participating Church Schools are St. Albert the Great (Valletta), St. Joseph Mater Boni Consiglii (Paola) and De La Salle College. The participating Independent Schools are Thi Lakin, San Anton and Chiswick House School. These six schools, which will participate with a class each, were selected by ballot by the Secretariat for Catholic Education and the Independent Schools Associated respectively.

The Malta Union of Teachers is working hand-in-hand with the Ministry for Education and Employment on the implementation of the Pilot and a Memorandum of Understanding governing the role of teachers in the Pilot is expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

Phase one of the Pilot ends in September when the teachers come back fully trained and fresh from their summer holidays and the tablets are distributed to students in their respective classes in October.

Use in class will continue until the end of March 2015, then the tablets on loan are returned to the suppliers and the evaluation of the whole pilot project is made. This will then lead to the procurement of the tablet solution, infrastructure upgrades and other items needs to implement the national rollout of tablets in all State, Church and Independent School as from Year 4 of the Primary.