Singapore schools get iPads, gaming consoles

Xavier Lur

More schools in Singapore are quickly adapting to the global technology revolution with some even bringing Apple's iPad and Nintendo's Wii gaming console into their curricula.

Ngee Ann Secondary School is the latest Secondary School to jump onto the "1:1 Learning Programme" bandwagon, equipping each student in a class of 36 with a personal learning device to not only boost student engagement, but at the same time to keep up with today's wired society.

According to the principal of Ngee Ann Secondary School, Adrian Lim, the Windows Slate tablet PC used in the pilot programme is a convenient and portable alternative to the usual bulky laptops, and he chose the Windows platform for its compatibility with most software, making the creation of teaching materials a less daunting task. Students will use the tablet PC for most subjects -- from English to History.

With the $28 million PRIME Project budget from the Ministry of Education, the new campus features a state-of-the-art information and communications technology (ICT)-enabled library, two ICT Experiential Studios, a mathematical modelling studio, two design and technology studios, and an artscapade (an ICT Art studio and Exhibition Gallery).

North Vista Primary School has integrated a high level of technology into its physical education (PE) classes. With an objective to hone pupils to become independent learners, the PE department has started using polar heart rate monitors specifically developed for the young. It allows students to record the duration of exercise as well as the level of intensity during a PE lesson, and the data is then used by pupils themselves to plan for their own exercise programme to achieve the maximum positive effect on their health and fitness.

Moreover, the school has chosen to adopt video game technology to teach pupils about health and fitness. Students spend part of their PE lesson learning about different sports such as tennis and bowling and "working out" on a Nintendo Wii video game console. While the Wii games are no substitute for real physical outdoor activity, they help to simulate environments and places like tennis courts, bowling alleys or boxing rings.

It also harnesses the use of interactive whiteboards in all classrooms to facilitate interactive learning, and has an iMac lab where students get to use the Apple desktop computers during ICT lessons.

Crescent Girls' School is one the six pioneer schools that first embarked on IDA's FutureSchools@Singapore programme in 2007. All of its 1,300 students use the tablet PC during lessons, where they participate in the production of videos with chroma key technology for drama classes and the crafting of authentic math questions with the use of blogs. The girls are also taught essential ICT skills for software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Adobe Premiere Pro.

In addition, the school is taking part in a project that's testing an artificial intelligence-based automated way of marking English exam essays. The WriteToLearn program will calculate a score telling students how they fare in content, accuracy of writing, grammar and spelling all within seconds. It also points out students' mistakes and provides suggestions for improvement.

In 2007, Crescent Girls' School was appointed as a mentor school in the Microsoft Innovative Schools Program, mentoring 12 schools around the world.

According to MOE, the school will launch its Crescent Academy for Digital-Age Learning (CrADLe), which will facilitate conversation and professional sharing among schools that are keen to embrace digital age learning for the development of 21st century competencies, two weeks later on the 16th.

Maris Stella High School has created a digital learning environment that prepares students for the 21st Century where every student is required to purchase a MacBook for school assignments and projects.

While the school still embraces the conventional pen-and-paper teaching and learning method, teachers also upload assignments onto the school's e-learning portal, and students can access them via their MacBook while at home or at school. After the completion of their work, students then send them as an e-mail attachment to their teachers.

Microsoft Office for Mac, iMovie, Comic Life, and GarageBand are some of the Mac OS X software Maris Stella adopts.

A visit to the "21st Century Classroom" will see teachers conducting multi-touch interactive lessons using Nintendo's Wii Remote and Samsung's flatscreen TVs.

Nanyang Girls' High School gained international recognition when it began rolling an iPad pilot project earlier this year. Students from two Secondary 1 classes and two Secondary 3 classes are involved in this programme, and iPads are used in the teaching of all subjects in these classes.

The girls' portable personal learning device must include apps such as Keynote, DropBox, DocsToGo and eClicker, which the institution thinks "will effectively engage students by facilitating asynchronous interactions with their peers".

Each student is issued a 32GB Wi-Fi iPad model, and the cost of the tablets are fully absorbed by the school.

The writer is a 17-year-old technology blogger who loves social media and gadgets. He is also Singapore's No. 1 Twitter user, with 192,000 followers.