St Catherine’s Academy has taken proactive steps in the preparations for the arrival of COVID-19. Today, the secondary institution had a Cyber day for first and second form students. It is a pilot project of sorts that allows students to stay at home and utilize laptops and an internet connection to have classes online. How this works is by using Microsoft teams to group everyone from the class into one voice chat server where they can interact with the teacher. The teacher would then proceed with their classes as per normal and content would be displayed via PowerPoint. In the case of presentations, the students would then use their webcam to live stream their content. According to Literature Teacher, Tanya Wade, the class was a success with only a few technical issues.
The question that remains, however, is how classes online compare to the traditional classroom setting and its effectiveness. According to Wade the class was extremely effective and proven so when the students were quizzed on the material taught today.
Tanya Wade, Literature Teacher, St.Catherine’s Academy: “Our team has been hands on in ensuring that all of us on staff whether we have had experience with using online education platforms before or not that we all have access to the information for professional development in order for us to disseminate the information. Having the experience with UWI yes gives me an advantage but I was thoroughly prepared in the sessions that we had for our staff for us to do some in service training we had Digi coming in and team Digi they were able to explain and walk us through how to use this specific program which again is Microsoft Teams. When I did my educational preparation I did not have Microsoft Teams so this is new and they are actually training teachers to use that platform so anybody can learn you just need to be open minded and the students they are definitely ready for it and they are receptive and they want to learn so we need to bring the information to them.”
The Prime Minister’s daughter was among those students at SCA that engaged in online learning today. According to the Prime Minister, the idea is applauded but unfortunately would not be able to roll out to all schools around the country.
Rt.Hon Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well indeed I know of that I am the proud father of an SCA student, I have a daughter at SCA and she participated I think the cyber day was for first and second forms. The thing is though that they were able to do that at SCA because they are part of the DigiLearn project that government is paying for but it has not yet been rolled out to all the schools and it’s not as though – we’re rolling out as we go along but there’s a cost and so at this juncture and certainly not within the next three months or so we’re not able to in fact reach enough additional schools to be able to say that cyber learning can be a complete substitute for the lack of the physical classroom teaching that would take place if indeed we had to close down schools.”
In speaking with the principal of the school, Salome Tillett, a survey was conducted that showed only four students not having access to an internet connection. She explained that for those students DIGI had given them a custom package for the day. There will be another Cyber day for third and fourth form students to be held next week Tuesday.