SPHS students step up to ICT gear with DigiLearn

Friday, July 12th, 2019

The first form students of San Pedro High School are speed-surfing the Internet to a bright future, with brand new tablet computers and 500 megabytes/second fiberoptic Internet provided by the new Digi Learn pilot project.
Digi has partnered with Microsoft to set up the learning platform, which the SPHS students have been using for the past four months, to get lesson notes from their teachers, submit homework assignments, quizzes, tests, and exams, for totally paperless learning. They use One Note, PowerPoint, Excel, and other apps in Microsoft Office to prepare for tomorrow’s job market.
Coincidentally, Digi’s outgoing chief executive officer Rochus Schreiber joined the Chairman Nestor Vasquez Sr of Belize Telecommunications Ltd board of directors, and Ministry of Education officials to celebrate the SPHS kids’ new intellectual and learning independence, at the Belize Best Western Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City on the Independence Day of the United States, last Thursday, July 4th.
Schreiber said DigiLearn is an idea which will give the SPHS kids and first formers at eight other high schools in Belize, hands-on experience of the latest information and communications technology, equipping them with the skills for tomorrow’s job market. They are preparing for jobs which may not exist today, but which will certainly be created tomorrow, as Belize’s industrial and commerce sectors move forward toward computerized, digital and automated processes and transactions. The manufacturing and transportation industries are also shifting towards robotics, which will require service personnel who understand the workings of a computer inside out.
Schreiber pointed out that the Digi Learn platform also offers solutions to many of the problems confronted by high schools today, such as textbook costs, teachers’ availability and salaries, schools transportation costs, and will speed the extension of distance learning. Digi Learn invites Belizean students to enjoy their learning experience as they explore the vast world of knowledge available on the Internet.
He gave credit where it was due, to Pallotti High School principal Sister Clara and the Belize Association of Secondary Schools Principals (BAPSS) other schools principals who helped make the idea become a reality, as well as the spiritual guidance of Maria Zabaneh who helped make it happen. He also thanked the BTL Board of Directors for approving the finances to make this investment possible, and the Ministry of Education, which helped to bring Microsoft on board. Kudos went out to all the Digi technicians on the ground who helped install the hardware and the software and provided tech support; it was a team effort, Schreiber said.
This first pilot phase of the project began in April, with over 400 students in the first forms at nine high schools participating, and Digi has now signed a Letter of Intent with the Ministry of Education on June 19th to roll out the program to other students. Digi equipped each student with a tablet or laptop and 500Mbps internet access with Digi footing the bill. Digi’s deputy chief marketing officer Janine Salazar said the project provided each school with 500 Megabytes per second Internet, and this will be extended to all the 1st and 2nd Form students - over 3,000 children, at these nine high schools, in the coming academic year: September 2019-20. Digi will also buy thousands more tablets to equip the 1st and 2ndformers at 25 more high schools, yet to be selected, bringing the total to over 16,000 students who will benefit from the program.
Minister of Education Hon. Patrick Faber was not present for the launch, but via a video recorded speech, he said the DigiLearn would extend to over 16,000 students at 34 high schools in the academic year September 2020-21, and to over 28,000 students in nationwide rollout of the program at all 43 high schools in the DigiNet area for the academic year, September 21-22.
Chief Education Officer Carol Babb Ph.D. explained the other eight schools already participating in the pilot are the Anglican Cathedral College, Belize High School, St. Catherine Academy, Pallotti High, Corozal Community College, Edward P.Yorke High, Ladyville Technical High and Muffles College in Orange Walk.
Ladyville Tech principal Diane Westby noted happily that the project has reduced truancy, as delinquent students are now taking an interest in learning and their daily attendance and punctuality have improved, along with their academic performance. DigiLearn is already helping to salvage students at risk of falling through the cracks. Sr. Clara was happy to note that paperless lessons and exams, also helped save the trees, and was in harmony with the environment.

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