The state government of Quintana Roo announced in August that 27,000 tablets would be distributed to fifth-graders throughout the state, that includes the island of Cozumel. This is a great opportunity to put technology in the hands of public school students, many from families who cannot afford to purchase tablets or computers.

The tablets are a generic brand but have Windows, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Students are increasingly required to learn these programs and turn in homework that has been completed using these programs. Their homework requires a way to copy the files from the tablets to a USB drive. Some teachers are requesting fifth grade students obtain USB drives as well as an “OTG” cable to connect the thumb drives to the tablet. The term “OTG” stands for “On The Go”. These cables are frequently used to share music, files, or devices (ie. flash drives, mice, keyboards, game controllers) with cell phones and tablets.

We were recently approached for help by a local family to whom we provide school supplies. They didn’t understand the teacher’s request for an OTG cable, how to find it, how much it would cost to purchase the required cable in addition to a USB drive. We gave Rosalita (in the photo) a small flash drive as well as a cable that we acquired in a cell phone store. The computer stores and retail stores we checked did not have these cables so we ordered some additional ones via Amazon as they now deliver to Cozumel.

Rosalita is thrilled to be able to take the tablet home with her and show her family. She can access her learning materials that are saved on the tablet so she doesn’t have to tote books. However, it creates a new set of challenges for families. Many parents do not have experience using technology nor do they have a way to learn about the technology. Many families with limited resources do not have internet access at home so they have to go to a public park with free wifi or other location. Providing fifth grade students with tablets is a wonderful learning opportunity, but if families can not find or afford to buy the cables and/or USB drives required for assignments, it is frustrating and a huge barrier to learning.

This example increases the need we anticipate for USB drives next year. Previously Friends of Cozumel provided USB drives for prepa (high school) and university students. However, learning and using technology is not just focused on the tablet project for fifth grade or in high school. More and more families are sharing with us that secundaria (middle school) students are assigned to do investigation via the internet one or two times a week. The frequency of technology based homework for prepa (high school) students is normally three times per week to access the internet and often a weekly individual or group project. It appears we should try to have USB drives available for secundaria (middle school) as well as upper primaria (elementary) students. We’re collaborating with Chrysalis to purchase a quantity of USB drives at a very reasonable price but we also welcome donations of USB drives of any storage size.

The focus on technology has created another critical community need . . . finding solutions for students to have free access to computers and the internet for their homework. ~ Larry in Cozumel

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