Sharing the SMJK Experience -
Braving the storm in ICT for an accelerated contribution in Education
The New Paradigms
The SMJK Schools are turning to the opportunities presented by new School Administration paradigms and new enabling technologies, it is driven by ever increasing demands from the school communities for more efficient, effective and timely administrative services.
Foreseeing the potential of the Internet in improving the performance of education, the SMJK Council had adopted a bold vision of effecting dramatic and sweeping changes through the implementation of various ICT projects. This vision demanded for a breakaway from traditional forms of thinking and doing it with goals and timeframes that will be achieved ahead of all the other school communities in the country.
Breakaway from Traditions
That breakaway began at the best place; at the time when all ICT infrastructures are
matured. To craft a strategy for implementation, the SMJK Council chose not only to rely on its own expertise, but to assemble the web professionals, a group comprising the best minds from the education and private ICT sectors, with a wealth of knowledge and experiences behind them. These minds were tasked with setting new approaches and goals for the SMJK Communities.
Most of the projects started with a conceptual features and operation mode, usually from the strategic partners, the Council members chip in with a much greater focus on the goals and desired benefits for the SMJK communities. The SMJK Council gave technology partners like Perridot Systems free rein to propose the most innovative solutions to meet the needs of the SMJK Communities and how to realize their vision.
The SMJK Schools
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Moving towards various project implementations, the challenges have been by no means any simple. Unlike projects serving a single schoolâ€™s needs, the user base and impact of the SMJK Communities span the entire 78 schools spread all over Malaysia. It includes those users with an understanding of the ICT and web applications that will be able to grasp the enormity of this scope of implementation; it also includes another group who are still struggling with the ICT phobia and with steep learning curves to climb. The scale of implementation, clearly unprecedented in Malaysia Schools and likely with few parallels even in the commercial world, poses enormous challenges for the SMJK Council as well as for the implementation team. From the process of planning for implementation, to the act of mobilising School Administrators across the country to participate in the training boot camps and deployment effort, it has been and continues to be a challenge for all concerned in the communities.
Building the Community
Knowledge and Resource Sharing, Collaboration & Communication
Able to share my History paper with 3 teachers from 2 different schools, get an opinion on my teaching lesson plans and a real life photograph taken at Admiral Cheng Ho landing site for my student project â€¦wow!
Building an ICT-enabled Knowledge communities
Being bold and visionary often means being on the technological leading edge. The SMJK Education Portal is the first nationwide to enforce the use of web technology as a tool for Knowledge and Resource sharing, collaboration and communication. Looking to the future, newer and maturing technologies such as RFID smart cards and wireless networks had been added to complement those already in place. There is, however, a price for being an early adopter as technical complications and mass implementation challenges can be numerous.
The vision of a fully ICT-enabled knowledge school community also poses significant implementation challenges. The implementation teams are learning to cope with the challenges of training and educating a nationwide communities spanning over 78 schools, 7,500 teachers and administrators, 130,000 students and a later stage, 100,000 parents. To appreciate the enormity of this challenge, one only needs to compare this to the private sector where the largest installations in large corporations comprise at most several thousand users online.
The challenges are, of course, much more than technological in nature. In fact, the human and process-related issues often dwarf the technology related ones. For example, enforcing compulsory email accounts for all the teachers were the order of the day for the implementation team. To ensure buy in, training workshops and briefing sessions were conducted both in boot camps and in schools to achieve a shared result.
The many changes and post-implementation enhancement proposed by the council and end-users were a clear testament to the collaborative approach in building the portal, it is a growing improvement day by day.
There is Nothing Wrong with Think Big and Dream Big
In that sense, the journey has clearly been as important and valuable as the destination itself.
Sweeping Changes and the Rewards
Yet another lesson learnt and a principle affirmed is that through the implementation of the various ICT projects, more users in the SMJK communities are aware of the identity and directions of the SMJK schools. The successful implementation of both the Web Portal, School Management Systems and Helpdesks; together with the much improved communication channels make the collaborative projects an easier task. And so, starting from the SMJK Councilâ€™s bold vision, they had catalysed an entire world of activity, powered by significant investments in time and money, but also producing sweeping changes for the better for the entire community.
Looking back, the changes have been profound indeed. The councilâ€™s desire to break away from tradition has seen shifts in operating paradigms and changes in mindsets. In the process, they will see increased inter school cooperation. They had seen sharing of knowledge and collaboration to achieve common goals – educating our children and have already and will increasingly see higher levels of academic achievement.
The Rapid Changes
There have been other â€œside effectsâ€ too, along the way. The schools had been forced to learn and change at a rapid pace. They had been forced to â€œthink big, to dream big, to set big targetsâ€ and have learnt that they can achieve those ambitious targets. In that sense, the projects had clearly been as important and valuable as the destination itself.
We hope that this success story will give some insights into some of the lessons we have learnt, and some deeper knowledge about the challenges we will faced. The journey has certainly been an interesting experience for everyone. We sincerely hope that you too will gain from our sharing of that experience.
We would have to thank the long list of contributors whose combined effort helped shape the final completion of the various ICT projects. We are truly indebted, for without them some of the projects would not have been made possible. They include all members of the SMJK Council, all Principals, School Administrators, Teachers and Students from the 78 schools, the fund sponsors, the support team from My Directory and Perridot Systems, for responding to the SMJK Council’s call in splendid fashion.
A Glance At The SMJK ICT Projects
In the last few years, the following ICT projects were being implemented in the SMJK schools, while most projects were available in majority of the schools, some were implemented only in selected schools, depending on the funding available in the individual schools.
Wireless School 2002
SMJK Dindings in Perak is the first school in Malaysia to deployed the 3Com Access Point in 2002, linking up to their newly completed fully wired classroom block, and the fibre optics connected backbone in the school. Students can access the school ICT facilities like email, content and shared files on servers from anywhere in the school, with their WiFi equipped notebooks. The Wireless capabilities only become a norm in school
SMJK Education Web Portal 2003
In 2003, the SMJK council had obtained a RM100,000 funding from Hua Education Fund, a foundation headed by Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, for them to commission the development of their Education Web Portal, where every SMJK Schools have their own content management powered school site, together with hosted email services and Online Resource Centre for all their teachers. http://www.smjk.edu.my
Smart Card 2003
SMJK Sin Min in Kedah was the first school to introduce a smartcard for multiple use, its functions are similar to the Touch n’ Go Card used by motorists to pay highway toll. The students are required to “Top-up” some money before using the cards in quantum of RM5, RM10 and RM50. The smartcard contains information such as the students’ name, photograph and other personal details like examination marks and points for discipline. Students only need to scan the card in seven card-readable computers around the school and the details would appear on a computer screen, including the credit balance.
SMJK Dindings in Lumut, Perak, became the first school to implement the e-Attendance system with their integrated School Management System using radio frequency identification (RFID) Mifare technology that enables it to record, access, report and manage performance records and data of students and staff in real time. Each student has his own RFID tag. The student is required to scan it at readers within the school to keep track of his movement. The school and parents can confirm what time students arrive and leave, and their attendance at each classroom session. Similar RFID systems were also implemented in a few other schools like SMJK Jit Sin and SMJK Sam Tet.
Linux Boot Camp 2005
All the schools that eventually took part in the School Management System project were being given special trainings for Linux Operating Systems, where every ICT teachers were trained to perform a full system installation on a school server. Networking basics, together with installation and troubleshooting of routers and switches were also covered, so that the teachers would be able to support their own network in their school, and to identify problems.
Internet Monitoring Systems 2005
With the wide deployment of Internet access in schools, the need to safeguard the school network from abuse, while protecting the students who use the Internet for legitimate study purposes, the Internet Monitoring Systems provide details such as the top Internet users on the school network and the amount of time they spend online. Furthermore, reports show the most frequented Web sites visited, e-mail transactions, top virus and spam mail received, and print accounting.
School Management Systems 2006
After lobbying for 4 years, the SMJK Council finally received a funding from the Hua Ren Education Foundation for the implementation of Perridot Systemsâ€™ School Management System (SMS). Under the project, 62 SMJK schools received the funding to implement 5 of the SMS modules, with features ranging from Curriculum Management, Timetable, ID cards, Examination & e-Report Cards, Student Discipline, Co-curriculum and Library Management.
Microsoft Helpdesk 2006
In 2006, the SMJK schools were given a Helpdesk system for them to manage their day-to-day operation and internal support problems in schools, ranging from task assignment, maintenance of equipments, PCs and networks. A centralized training were given to all participating schools.
SMJK Education Web Portal 2.0 – 2007
With the exploding growth of Web 2,0 applications, the SMJK Council had decided to upgrade the existing Web Portal with Web 2.0 features, to take advantages of the many benefits and to improve further their administrative, collaboration and social community efforts among the teachers, students and parents. The new Web Portal will provide templates for individual schools, together with all News RSS-enabled, with audio and video streaming capabilities, where teaching contents can now be provided through the Podcast services.
Google Apps for Education – 2007
The SMJK Schools also partner with Google to use Google Apps for Education, which includes the Gmail, with features including indexed email search, enhanced spam filtering, calendaring, tagging capabilities for tracking emails, and a two-Gigabyte quota per student for email storage. There are around 129,000 students, 7,500 teachers & administrators in the 78 SMJK Schools spread throughout the whole of Malaysia, and looking at the new intakes of 20,000 students annually, a total of 200,000 accounts, each with 2GB of mailbox, which make up a whooping 400 Terabytes of disk space for the SMJK community, when the total numbers of users eventually sign up for the services.
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