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‘Tools in the hands of fools can be dangerous weapons’

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17.DEC.10

Editor: Let me be one of the first to congratulate the Comrade for a 3rd successive term in government. His party has achieved substantial strides in the first two terms, and staying in power, albeit with a narrower victory, makes it necessary for him to ‘listen to the masses more’, as promised during his first official speech to the nation on election night.{{more}}

My piece is directed at an election promise which I know will materialize very soon. Therefore, action must also be swift to avert evil coming out of good … universal access MUST be restricted on all laptops given to students … one cannot assume that all children will exercise the same restraint as others. All game sites that are not educational in nature should be blocked, as should be all porn sites!

Facebook, Twitter, and other common chat sites like MSN should also be blocked. These laptops are educational tools and should be designed and treated that way. Additionally, learning to type software should also be loaded on all computers, a decent encyclopedia, as should be links to seismic alerts, volcanic and hurricane warning sites. Do not depend on the students to do these things … all these little applications should be pre-loaded.

I would not be so naïve to exclude students from chatting on line. As a matter of fact it is an interaction that I recommend, of course with some restraint. Right here in SVG we have the expertise to create an educational chat room, or several chat rooms for that matter; one for primary school students, another for secondary and another for tertiary level institutions, with the ability to chat from one level to another. For example, a nurse may want to let her son preparing for common entrance know that ‘he must take the bus and not wait for her today as she has a meeting to attend’. When that boy checks his Inbox during the lunch hour, he will note the message from his mother at the nursing school …. The scenarios are manifold. Having our own Vincy chat room among our school students must assist greatly with the sharing of information and research data.

Notes or research links prepared by teachers can also be quickly transferred to students’ computers if all these devices are Bluetooth ready, so consideration is also required here. If the first set of laptops are not BT ready, then these units can be installed into students’ computers as a supervised project, as most modern computers come with space to accommodate Bluetooth and similar add on devices. Although a BT device is not absolutely necessary, there are great possibilities with this development.

As a necessary adjunct to this programme, students will also have to be provided with digital still and movie cameras. These photographic devices are absolutely necessary for field research, as well as the making of documentaries. The theatrical, and sporting prowess of students can also be filmed and shown on local TV. Educational soap operas with students acting can also be filmed, edited and aired on weekends using their own laptops or editing suites, giving our students several extra curricula activities to keep their active minds occupied as well as developing other important skills.

Digital cameras with underwater housings should also be made available to record our riverine creatures, as there is no scientific document recording in any detail what our rivers possess. This is a project to which I can give some assistance. Students can engage in similar projects for our birds, insects, coastal marine life and flowers/plants. So a lot can be achieved with these tools if used properly. More can be said, but this short discourse will, of course, generate some lively debate, but swift action is needed to ensure that these tools if not taught how to be used can be dangerous weapons.

Let me explain from a personal experience. I almost lost one of my children to an addiction … computer games, especially the ‘gameboy’ and PSP types which can also be downloaded to computers !!! It robs children of sleep, and instruction time at school, grades plummet as a result. Computer games are important to help with motor skill development including eye hand coordination, but please do NOT get hooked on games. Here again we should be able to organize chess, draughts and even domino competitions among schools using our intranet, quizzes, spelling contests, so the entertainment aspect can be enjoyable, rewarding and ultimately a learning experience. And yes, a student in Union Island can play dominoes via the Internet with other students in Fancy, South Rivers and Chateaubleair… However, slamming the mouse or touch pad is not advisable!

To all students, use these tools wisely.

Donald A. De Riggs

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