- The much anticipated smart mathematics laboratory, the first of its kind in a Jamaican high school, is now operational at the Tarrant High School in St. Andrew.
- The lab, which was completed last month and will be officially opened in March, is the brainchild of Principal Paul Hall, who felt that the lab would be a creative way of engaging and helping the students to overcome their challenges with the often feared subject.
- However, the main aim is to use technology to engage students, who, for the most part, are visual learners and technologically savvy.
The much anticipated smart mathematics laboratory, the first of its kind in a Jamaican high school, is now operational at the Tarrant High School in St. Andrew.
The lab, which was completed last month and will be officially opened in March, is the brainchild of Principal Paul Hall, who felt that the lab would be a creative way of engaging and helping the students to overcome their challenges with the often feared subject.
However, the main aim is to use technology to engage students, who, for the most part, are visual learners and technologically savvy.
The beautifully decorated lab, which is painted in a vibrant shade of blue and green and is adorned with drawings of mathematical tools, as well as formulas and inspirational quotes, on its walls, loudly speaks maths on entry.
It is also equipped with smart technology, such as a projector, a smart television and a smart camera that will allow instructors to interact with mathematics specialists from anywhere in the world through smartphones and other devices while they teach and employ the use of teaching aids.
Students will also be able to participate in the class via their smart devices when they are absent. Additionally, teachers can record their presentations and share with other teachers, as well as access online videos, quizzes and other online resources that can enhance their lessons.
During a training session with the school’s maths teachers on how to utilise the facilities, Mr. Hall told the JIS News that the school community is very excited about the lab and that he is very optimistic about the benefits that it will provide.
“I am very big on 21st century learning. And, certainly, I think that technology is the way to go… . The fact of the matter is that we are very weak in maths. And so it’s something that I’m looking at in different ways on how we can engage the students and we are looking at video conferencing,” he said.
Mathematics experts from The Mico University College will also be providing their expertise and will interface with the students in real time via the technology in the maths lab.
“Last week, we introduced it to the students, you know, just to get feedback from [them], and they were really excited about it,” Mr. Hall said.
He indicated that the teachers who participated in the training session were equally excited and pleased with what they had seen.
“The fact that the teachers are excited, I feel very good about it, and so these features that we are putting in place, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will see the results tomorrow, but it’s certainly something that we’re looking at in terms of the engagement for the long-term benefit,” the Principal stated.
Head of the Mathematics Department, Dominique Parnell, similarly shared that the responses from the teachers have been good and they are especially excited about the recording feature.
“So that’s one of the things that the teachers are really buying into because as you know, certain teachers are stronger at certain subject areas, and they bring out more vibes in teaching certain topics,” Mrs. Parnell said.
“And that will be something that’s extremely helpful because when we take down some of the videos on YouTube, sometimes they are not necessarily catered to our students, so for us to be able to do that now, we see where that’s going to be able to help them greatly within the classroom,” she added.
Another great feature of the lab that will be most helpful, Mrs. Parnell said, is the maths lab’s ability to connect with students when they are absent, noting that, from time to time, several of her students have had to spend days in the hospital.
“We had a small demonstration last week with the students and they really liked it, even just to see themselves on the TV, and I know that it’s something that’s going to push maths forward and many of our students,” she added.
Two of the teachers who participated in the training also expressed similar sentiments about the capabilities of the maths lab, noting that it is a tool that they believe will reap tremendous rewards for their students.
They further noted that the lab will reduce the amount of time that is wasted when a teacher is absent from class, as they now will be able to monitor their class when they are not at school.
“I think it is very good because it gives us a chance to interact with the students even when we are not here and lessen the waste time. I am very excited about it because it is something new and it is technology; it is where the world is going,” Latoya Campbell said.
Another teacher, Chloe Martin said, “Most of the students are visual learners, so if they’re not seeing what’s happening, they are like ‘Miss me nuh understand’, so having videos and having all of the things in front of their faces they will better understand.
“Another thing is that they are tactile learners; they love to feel with their hands and if they can’t touch, they like to watch things. For example, my grade-seven students love to watch a lot of videos, so having those videos helps you because sometimes you’re not able to explain to the fullest, and when you have a video along with someone explaining, they can understand better,” she added.
Chief Executive Officer at Resolve It, Almando Cox, who conducted the training session, told the JIS News that based on research it has been found that students gravitate more towards content when it is delivered on a screen.
“We have done tests before and we have confirmed that success, so we have moved that solution now to the maths lab where we have screens right around the classroom, including a projector where persons will be able to deliver content on demand and also get external persons to assist,” he said.
“[Also] students will be able to call into class. So if they’re not able to visit class for whatever reason, if they’re ill or otherwise, they now have the capability to call in and participate in the class,” Mr. Cox added.
In addition, teachers now can employ external experts to interact with the class and to assist from anywhere in the world from any device.
“It doesn’t require any specialised equipment at all. You don’t need to purchase anything; all you need is a regular phone. You just need the Internet,” Mr. Cox explained.
Further to that, he said “another thing that we found is that sometimes you’re in the middle of a presentation and an idea may come up or a student might ask something and right on the demand, you can just go straight to your Internet”.
“You can bring on a YouTube video, a quiz; it’s right there and you can annotate, you can write over it, you can use a digital whiteboard. All of those functionalities are actually available to the teachers and the students here and they can record and share. It is so versatile but yet simple,” Mr. Cox explained.
He added that he is currently in talks with several other schools that have expressed an interest in establishing a smart maths lab. He also commended Mr. Hall on his foresight and his vision.
“I want to congratulate the school and particularly the principal because [this is] the vision that he had explained to me like two, three years ago about where he wants to go with… blended and technology-enabled learning. I was sold back then and that’s part of the reason we’re doing some of these initiatives here. It is different. It’s a different way of thinking,” Mr. Cox said.
In the meantime, Mr. Hall said he hopes that other schools will see what he is doing with the maths lab and be inspired to set up more smart labs in the schools.
In the same vein, he said he is also hoping that the private sector will also buy into his vision for the school and offer a helping hand as the maths lab is still in need of other smart equipment and more teaching aids.