The Malta Independent 6 June 2023, Tuesday
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22 classes to take part in tablet pilot project

Malta Independent Tuesday, 25 March 2014, 09:50 Last update: about 10 years ago

A strong response to a call for proposals will allow a pilot project on the use of tablet computers in schools to cover 22 classes and groups in state, church and independent schools, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo announced this morning.

The call for proposals, which was made last January, had invited suppliers to provide hardware and software for the pilot project at no cost: the minister had pointed out that they would have a commercial interest in preparing themselves for the national rollout of tablets that is expected to take place in the 2015/16 scholastic year.

The response, however, was greater than the ministry expected: 11 bidders provided hardware or hybrid hardware/software solutions and two provided software solutions.

Mr Bartolo noted that the ministry was not impressed solely with the numbers, but also with the quality. In fact, all 13 bidders – AID Ltd, Computer Domain, Energy Investment Ltd, FGL IT Ltd, Google for Education, Infantium-Telefonica, Klikk Computers Ltd, Micro Technology Ltd, Mosta Electronics Centre, Samsung Consortium, SG Solutions Ltd, Smart Technologies, and Vodafone Malta Ltd – met the minimum requirements and were accepted.

The bidders have provided around €200,000 worth of equipment and software, and various brands of tablets, including leading brands, will be utilised in the pilot project: nine proposals are based on the Android operating system, one on the iOS, and another on Microsoft Windows. The pilot project will also see Google and Apple make their first foray into Maltese state schools with their educational solutions.

While the plan is to launch tablet computers in Year 4 classes – and most participating classes will be in Year 4 – the strong response will allow a few Year 3 and Year 5 classes to take part to widen the scope for evaluation, and to determine whether it is best to introduce tablets in another year.

The 22 classes and groups include 13 state school classes across all 10 colleges: the participating primary schools are Siggiewi, Msida, Gzira, Marsascala, Cospicua, Ghajnsielem-Sannat-Victoria, Pietà, Paola, Mellieha, Zurrieq and Bahrija, with other schools on standby.

The pilot project will also be extended to three complementary groups in state schools and to the Dun Manwel Attard Young Adult Education Resource Centre in Wardija, which caters for students with special needs.

Three church school classes and two independent school classes will also be taking part: they are to be selected by the Secretariat for Catholic Education and the Independent Schools Association respectively.

The first phase of the project, will see the teachers – and learning support assistants – who will be involved in the chosen classes familiarise themselves with the technology and with the software.

The selected classes will then use the tablets in the next scholastic year, and the first results of the evaluation process should be available by mid-2015.

A tender for the national project should be issued in the summer of 2015, in time for the national rollout of tablet computers.

Mr Bartolo confirmed that children will be able to take the tablet computers home, although their use will be evaluated and monitored. Emanuel Zammit, the ministry’s director of e-learning, stressed that teachers would retain full control of the tablet computers.

The minister took care to point out that the initiative was an educational project, and not simply a technological one.

“We are not handing out candies, although that was the impression both political parties gave during the election campaign,” Mr Bartolo observed.

He noted that the project could only succeed if teachers felt ownership towards it, and said that he was hoping to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Malta Union of Teachers over the matter. Mr Zammit similarly emphasised that while several factors could make or break the project, the main focus was on teachers.

As the press conference drew to a close, both Mr Bartolo and Mr Zammit emphasised the need to ensure that the use of tablets does not affect children’s socialisation, with the minister stressing that it was still important for parents to find the time to talk to their children.

Mr Zammit, on the other hand, pointed out that during school breaks, it was important to ensure that children played – but not with the tablets.

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