The laptops are part of a pledge Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak made during the Sarawak election campaign.
While I am happy for the students and teachers, my immediate thought was the failure of the Smart School and Chromebook projects.
Similar projects elsewhere, such as one in the Los Angeles public school system three years ago, failed miserably.
The Los Angeles Times labelled the mega-technology project “ill-conceived and half-baked”. What were the issues?
There was poor planning in upgrading schools’ Internet access and teachers who reluctant or not trained to use and integrate the technology into the classroom.
Similar projects in Kenya and Peru have also failed to deliver. I am a strong proponent of technology but I’m also fully aware that technology is not a silver bullet for problems in education.
Success depends very much on what the teachers and students can do with technology.
I’m always reminded of the axiom, “A fool with a tool is still a fool”.
Teachers need to be trained so that computers can be used for innovative pedagogical approaches that engage and enrich students’ learning experience.
In addition, the computers should only be used for the creation of learning resources. I look at technology as part and parcel of the academic ecosystem.
The other components are Internet connectivity, cybersecurity, maintenance, applications (software), curriculum, students, teachers and administrators.
It boils down to the state of readiness of the whole ecosystem. If any of the components are not ready, a technology project of this size and scope is bound to fail.
Having access to technology and state-of-the-art devices will not guarantee a positive impact on students’ learning. New technology often looks promising but when introduced to schools, the net effect can be negative.
Schools need to develop a solid plan that allows them to move forward and leverage technology as a tool to improve the teaching and learning process.
As taxpayers, we need to ask who will ultimately benefit from the project and whether resources invested in the project could have been better spent. Profesor Dr Abd Karim Alias, Director, Centre for Development of Academic Excellence and Students Development, Universiti Sains Malaysia NST Opinion You Write 2 September2016 @ 11:00 AM