The National School Book Distribution Programme has seen a slight change this year as no new textbooks were purchased in preparation for the introduction of eBooks in schools.
The Ministry of Education revealed in a press release that the Fortuna Pix E-books are being introduced this school year as supplementary resources. Parents and guardians who utilise the schoolbooks programme are therefore advised to obtain hard copies of books in accordance with completing the booklists requirements, since only books already in the system, will be re-issued to students.
Some Principals and teachers, have been distributing books within the last few weeks; while others may choose to facilitate book collection in the planning week at the end of August 2020, before the reopening of school.
As a result of the limited curfew for the COVID-19 pandemic, there were challenges in the regular collection schedule as it was difficult for some students to return books. However, the programme continues.
Additionally, the Ministry is securing eBooks for students and this requires some degree of adjustment in the way books are treated. This newspaper has learnt that the fine details are not yet finalised.
While the programme is operational, it is a period of accommodation and adjustment to appropriately incorporate eBooks.
“Rather than a transition to eBooks, the introduction of eBooks is in keeping with this Ministry’s commitment to promote technology integration in the classroom. Given that there are many limitations to the extent to which persons can interact with electronic devices, there is nothing on the horizon to indicate that eBooks will ever replace hard copy books,” CEO Angela Findley told The Grenadian Voice.
The Ministry of Education said that it continues to work towards introducing eBooks, to meet the audio-visual needs of students, who benefit from blended learning strategies.
The eBooks will provide access to a vast array of relevant, subject-related supplementary content that will assist learning, at all levels, for both primary and secondary school students, with secondary school students first in line to benefit from this initiative.
According to the press release, “It is expected that the content on the eBooks — visual demonstrations, videos and interactive material, et cetera — will be used to solidify students’ understanding of their course material; eBooks have been licensed for 20 subject areas. The e-learning devices come equipped with interactive, CXC-related material, for test preparation.”
It is important to note that the e-learning devices can be used offline, which means that no internet connection is required to access the pre-loaded material.
When in an environment with internet access such as the classrooms, students will be able to access and download content from any other source that is approved by the Ministry. Parents and teachers will also be provided with a list of approved websites.
Additionally, the devices have a very long battery life, which will generally allow students to use them for at least one day.
Students, particularly those without, or with limited access to a laptop, tablet or desktop computer at home, can now have a reliable device to access needed information and the means to communicate remotely with teachers and fellow students, in the interest of learning.
The MSTAR platform, a Grenadian learning platform, which was commissioned in 2020, is currently zero-rated by DIGICEL. This means that there is no data access cost and, with the use of the new devices, students will be afforded easy access.