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Manx Telecomputer Bus moves up a gear for 10th anniversary 23 January 2008

The new-look Manx Telecomputer Bus was unveiled at a special open day at the Department of Education’s headquarters in Hill Street, Douglas, today, having undergone a complete revamp to celebrate its 10th year of educational service.

Resplendent in its smart new livery and fitted out with 23 of the latest Apple iMac computers and educational software, the former passenger transport bus was admired by Members of Tynwald, teachers, students, and members of the business community.

Minister for Education tye Hon Mrs Anne Craine MHK welcomed guests, including Chief Minister the Hon Mr Tony Brown MHK and President of Tynwald the Hon Mr Noel Cringle OBE MLC, before handing over to Chris Hall, Managing Director of the bus’s main sponsor, Manx Telecom.

Mrs Craine said the bus was ‘one of the finest tools we have in promoting ICT in primary schools’ and added that with the ongoing investment of Manx Telecom and its upgrade, it would now play a bigger role in delivering ICT to secondary schools too.

Mr Hall said the company had sponsored the bus to the tune of £145,000 since it came ‘on board’ with the project following an approach from then Department ICT head John Thornley in 1997.

Youngsters who received their first IT lessons on the bus as primary school pupils were now joining the staff of Manx Telecom, so the company was reaping the rewards of the knowledge they had gleaned.

Mr Hall praised ICT Advisory Teacher Alex Townsend and the rest of his team and fellow sponsors Protours, who have also been involved since the bus became a mobile classroom with a difference.

To mark the beginning of the new era, Mr Hall invited the Chief Minister to cut a ribbon tied around the bus and then everyone was invited on board to have a look.

On board were students from St Ninian’s High School and pupils from Sulby and Rushen Primary Schools, confidently showing off their wide ranging ICT skills.

Manx Telecom’s Marketing Director, Andy Bridson, added:

‘We are proud to continue to support the Computer Bus – and indeed to have been involved in such a ground-breaking educational initiative right from the start. As a company deeply committed to the local community and to investing in the sort of world-leading technology that is one of the Island’s key strengths, this exciting project is very close to our hearts.’

Mr Townsend said:

'We are delighted to be sending the Manx Telecomputer Bus back on the road with its great new look and state-of-the-art technology, which gives teachers and students around the Island a cutting edge learning aid. The last 10 years have seen the bus mainly used in primary schools, but we now have the equipment and software to appeal to all ages. We hope that in its new guise, the bus will become a common sight outside secondary schools too, supporting cross-curricular ICT around the Island.’

It was in September 1998 that the Department of Education launched the Manx Telecomputer Bus, with the help of sponsorship from Manx Telecom and Tours Isle of Man – now Protours.

Since first hitting the road, it has made hundreds of school visits, involving thousands of children.

Just a few of the highlights from its last 10 years of service are:

• April 1999: the Manx Telecomputer Bus is used by US database giant Oracle to secretly trial, the global community for learning

• June 1999: students from St Ninian’s and Ballakermeen high schools accompany the bus to the BBC Tomorrow’s World Live Exhibition at Earls Court in London

• June 2003: the bus is runner-up in two prestigious awards – the Vodafone e-Well Being award and the New Statesman New Media award

• October 2003: the bus is nominated for an Isle of Man Newspapers and British Airways CitiExpress Pride in Mann award

• April 2007: a milestone is reached – 30 years on the road, as passenger vehicle and teaching aid alike

• January 2008: Now-retired ICT Adviser John Thornley, pioneer of the Manx Telecomputer Bus, receives an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

Going back still further, the bus actually started life more than 30 years ago. Its first two decades were spent with Isle of Man National Transport, right up until December 27, 1997, when, as the last Leyland National in service in the Island, it took enthusiasts on one final round trip.

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