Pupils’ Chromebooks delayed by US trade embargo on China
The delivery of $580,000 worth of hi-tech Chromebooks for high school pupils has been delayed for five months because of a Chinese trade embargo imposed by US President Donald Trump, the education minister revealed today.
Diallo Rabain told the House of Assembly that the anticipated August delivery had been pushed back to late December.
Mr Rabain said Bermuda had joined a queue of orders for the Chromebooks behind US school districts, one of which had asked for 500,000 of the devices.
He added: “The world’s three largest computer companies have advised these larger school districts that the delay had been exacerbated by the Trump administration’s sanctions on Chinese suppliers.
“So we wait patiently for our devices to arrive on the island.”
The 1.600 Chromebooks were paid for with a massive donation from the Hasso Plattner Foundation.
Mr Rabain said a total of 44 Chromebooks had already been issued, with most used to pilot a hybrid learning programme in Somerset Primary’s P6 class and the Gilbert Institute’s P4 class.
He added the on-order Chromebooks would be distributed to Primary 4 to 6 pupils and middle school 1 pupils first.
He said earlier: “Chromebooks are ideal for use in a school system.
“They are widely popular in the US school systems and gaining acceptance worldwide due to the robust student user experience and the ease of managing the devices.”
Primary and middle pupils – about 3,100 children – will get Chromebooks and their teachers will be equipped with laptops.
A total of 350 primary and middle schoolteachers who teach the core subjects of maths, English, science and social studies have already been supplied with laptops.
Teaching assistant and education therapy assistants will also be equipped with Chromebooks.
Mr Rabain added that the ministry also planned to distribute Hatch iPads to preschool pupils.
He said: “The Hatch iPad is a mobile device used by 99 per cent of all preschool systems around the world, as tablet use encourages good hand and eye coordination for kindergarten age students.”
Mr Rabain added: “We will be looking to secure donor funds for the purchase of these tablets.”
Mr Rabain said that at the senior school level, the Board of Governors at the Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy will be responsible for equipping their teachers with laptops.
He added: “However, the Department of Education will now step in to ensure that all 1,100 senior school students have Chromebooks for use, as students were previously required to purchase their own mobile device.
“The donor organisation Lighthouse Connect has already committed to providing 100 Chromebooks for senior schools.
“We invite further donations to fund the purchase of Chromebooks for all students.”
Mr Rabain said: “The provision of Chromebooks … will enable both teachers and students to have increased access to use PowerSchool, Schoology, Google Classroom and other online platforms and, if necessary, to engage in remote learning.
“Additionally, our teachers will use the laptops for the development of digital resources and lesson plans and digital grading.”
Schoology is a web-based learning system bought by PowerSchool, the company that provides the Department of Education with its pupil information system.
It was designed to allow schools to administer educational courses and training programmes and to track the progress of users.
Mr Rabain added: “Schoology is also a one-stop shop for students to view their courses and complete any assigned class work.
“Schoology allows for a wide variety of input formats, so that students are not limited to producing traditional word documents, but they can provide audio or video recordings to teachers as evidence of their learning.
“Once their work has been graded, students can view their grades at any time. Schoology also allows parents to track their child’s progress easily and communicate with teachers directly.”
Teachers were introduced to the basics of Schoology in June 2020 and will continue training throughout the year.
The Schoology platform has been added to the remote learning strategy, along with guidance principles and a revised remote learning plan.
Mr Rabain said the global pandemic had accelerated the changes to the education system that involved the use of mobile technology for teaching – but that the increased pace of introduction had not been budgeted for.