July 2020 Volume 16

KC Old Boy Darien Francis Brings World Class Online Learning to KC

Staff reporter KC Times
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When the Ministry of Education closed Jamaican schools in April 2020 due to the coronavirus, it threw everything into chaos. Luckily, one KC Old Boy knew of a solution.

An online learning platform was soon operational at Kingston College. It serves some 2000 students and 120 teachers covering 17 subject areas.

This platform uses the robust Microsoft Azure cloud, which also powers a high percentage of Fortune 500 companies and supports 150 million students, teachers and educators around the world. It enables remote classes run by teachers from any location to students in any location using smartphones, tablets, desktop PCs or laptops.

Darien Francis is a graduate of KC – class of 1964. He attended in the famous Douglas Forrest era, many decades ago.

After KC, he attended UWI while working as Data Processing Manager at Kaiser Bauxite Company in St. Ann. Migrating to Canada in 1979, Darien worked in large Canadian Corporations in Toronto as a manager and then as Chief Architect (Information Technology) at the government crown corporation , Canada Post.

He was recruited by AT&T to New Jersey USA to work as a Management Consultant. His other moves took him through Fortune 100 companies including Price Waterhouse Coopers in the NY Metro Area with stints at AIG on Wall Street.

Darien would later form his own Information Technology company, Kwanzaa Technologies Inc.

Always looking for ways to give back to his beloved school, he responded to an email from the KCOB Association. The request was for donations to replace aged computer equipment for the proposed Douglas Forrest building being built.

His response was to go further and address the future of KC and the whole learning process in a more strategic manner.

With his company being a Microsoft Business Partner, he was able to acquire the Microsoft O365 Teams for Education platform for Kingston College.

With the consent of the Headmaster, he developed a roadmap for implementation of the platform.

The platform has the flexibility to blend on site learning with students who are remote. In fact, there were teachers located in faraway places like Falmouth in Trelawny, St Thomas and St Catherine teaching students all over who had to stay home after the Covid-19 pandemic dictated school closure. With the power of the Teams platform, KC can now accommodate students who are sick, injured, disabled or physically unable to attend school. There are also built-in functions for the sight and hearing-impaired population to learn at a similar rate as others at school.

According to Microsoft, parents and caregivers have found themselves part of the new teaching team, having students navigate schedules and new systems, ensuring lessons are accessible and distractions are minimized—all while balancing their own responsibilities.”

Online training of the rest of the school’s teaching staff and students on the effective use of the all-powerful platform to take advantage of the scores of applications on the platform is in progress.

For the new school year 2020-2021, work is underway with designated KC staff to streamline what was formerly a complex yearly transition.

After reviewing the CXC Syllabus for Information Technology and Computer Science, Darien felt that students will do well in the exams but would fall short of meeting the trending technology business requirement’s elsewhere.

He is running a mentoring teaching program in the summer for the Grade 9 and 10 Info tech students. Without disrupting the CXC programs this will expose the groups to trending technology areas all conducted in an interesting interactive team environment online.

Darien is reaching out to any KC old boys who would like to join his team. Also for anyone interested in installing the platform in his local schools, he can be reached at DarienFrancis@KCJAmaica.org.

Darien is offering use of the Live Event feature of Microsoft Teams implemented in KC for fund raising events by KCOBA Chapters. This newly implemented feature can be used instead of the more costly platforms used recently. Chapters that are interested may contact Darién as above.

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