Exponential technologies in the Caribbean landscape


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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Nano technology, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, block chain technology, robotics 3-D printing are all 'relatively' new concepts, and all are certainly on the educational agenda in global learning spaces.

Unfortunately, not so in the Caribbean.

Though still relevant, we continue to have in our vocabulary outmoded terminologies like digital media, IT, digital technology. These new technologies are not even on the tongues of the education leaders.

We are still debating if the Queen's English and penmanship should be high on the agenda in the Caribbean classroom. Holistically all of this makes for a well-rounded Caribbean citizen, but if we don't update our vocabulary and our curriculum, we are going to be progressing to outdated systems only to have to catch up again once the bureaucracy gets us to that point.

Exponential technologies are those which are shaping our industries in a rapid accelerated manner which in turn are creating major impact in our lives. Not only is it allowing rapid solutions to modern-day challenges, it is also creating solutions that are becoming cheaper and more accessible to the public.


This shift can only happen if we create the learning spaces for students to experiment, innovate, test, pitch, make mistakes, fix the mistakes, and take risks. These must also be articulated in an environment that encourages risk and not admonish them for making the mistake. In other words, they should not get an 'F' for failing.


These learning space must also be uniquely outfitted for such experimentation to take place. This means serious, hard cash investment in education which brings modernity to the classroom. There is a romanticised ideal of Caribbean spaces which embraces post colonialism in architecture and design. These, unfortunately do not fit well with modern tools and spaces. So, working around that cultural shift may mean stepping out of our sense of self.

However, if we are to exist in the 21st century, we have to shed those old, outdated ideals. This investment must be seen as a critical component of our future and not just cosmetic.


For too long we have worked with the layout of the old traditional classrooms. Teachers desk, students seated theatre style, whiteboard, with the occasional projector — teacher in front of the class lecturing to students.

We need to break that up as the dynamics of the teacher-student relationship is changing. Managing that exchange is critical.

This is a somewhat awkward realisation but, if managed and approached in a pragmatic way, can make the learning experience for all extremely beneficial and effective in the classroom.


So how do we catch up with these exponential technologies out here in the Caribbean? I suggest that first we start the conversation in the classroom. Add these new terminologies to the vocabulary. Even though we may not be able to delve into the technology immediately, by making students aware of the magic of the future this may challenge their thinking and encourage innovation.

Our University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Digital Media Arts is fortunate to have the support of the university and a staff prepared to take the leap. Located in a state-of-the-art campus, and working hand in hand with industry, these are all the ingredients needed to challenge traditional methodologies.

We are proudly guided by an astutely selected international advisory board from all sectors of the global industry.

Lastly, if we are to go by the understanding of exponential technology, then that in itself can allow us to take the risk and innovate more in order to get in alignment with our international counterparts. This is a game changer.

The BFA in Digital Media Arts is set to start at the UTT in September 2018. We are excited about the future of the Caribbean.

Camille Selvon Abrahams is programme leader of animation studies at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, a consultant in digital and trans-media and creative director of the Animae Caribe Animation Festival. This is one in a series of articles focused on emerging technologies to be published by the Tech Beach Retreat Community, ahead of their next summit, Nov 20-Dec 1 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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