Wednesday 30 November 2011

MOE to equip 360 schools with faster broadband connections

By Tan Weizhen, TODAY, 30 Nov 2011

About 360 schools across the country will have their current information technology backbone overhauled, as they look set to tap into the new super fast broadband network in five months' time.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education (MOE) awarded a S$32.6 million contract to SingTel to outfit primary, secondary schools and junior colleges with the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN).

The network services "will benefit teaching, learning and assessment applications as these can be bandwidth intensive", said an MOE spokesperson in response to queries from Today.

As broadband speed at these schools gets ramped up drastically and capacities become standardised across the board, analysts felt this would level the playing field among schools in terms of technology adoption.

Mr Frank Levering, a research manager in research firm IDC, said that the effect, though not immediately obvious, would be the "catalyst" for innovative technologies - which often requires high speeds and much bandwidth - to change the educational landscape.

He said: "Many schools have selectively kept up with technology and a select few have embraced it fully to maximise the potential advantages of new technologies. Introducing nationwide enablers such as national broadband will narrow the gaps between them in any case, and assist the schools who desire to do so in leapfrogging to the front of the pack."

Principals Today spoke to said that there had been teachers who had wanted to explore new teaching tools, but were hampered by slower speeds.

Mr Zach Ong, principal of Tech Whye Secondary, said that, with 1,400 students in his school, the current bandwidth is not sufficient for even simple activities like viewing Youtube videos. "Currently, we do innovative teaching, such as gaming, in pockets. But after the rollout, we will explore it on a larger scale. It will revolutionise the way we teach, but it will take time."

In some schools here, this new broadband backbone will ease congestion, as often, having a thousand students in a single school session mean that not all are able to log on using the current network at the same time.

Schools also say that, with higher, more stable speeds, learning has the potential to become a lot more collaborative - in line with MOE's third master plan - and with more content creation.

Mr Adrian Lim, principal of Ngee Ann Secondary, said that NGNBN will provide an environment stable enough to support greater levels of collaboration between teachers and students and their peers overseas, using video conferencing. This will cut down on costs incurred by the many study trips that schools undertake now, teachers say.

According to analysts and educators, other possible, innovative educational tools include more stable virtual classroom conditions for e-learning - which are increasingly common in schools, as well as using games to learn.

Learning materials will go beyond mundane text. Mrs May Tang, principal of ChangKat Primary, said: "I'm thinking along the lines of using teacher prepared resources that may come with video, audio and picture files which require a faster Internet speed for smooth streaming. As these resources are teacher prepared, there is definitely greater customisation."

Overall, this project may possibly cut costs for schools. In the United Kingdom, a similar project undertaken by Virgin Media to provide over 2,000 schools with broadband, cut connectivity costs by two-thirds for schools.

No comments:

Post a Comment