Connect To Learn Works with Teachers to Integrate Technology into Classrooms
by Tara Stafford, Project Manager ICT in Education Impact Study, Connect To Learn
Coming off the heels of the Broadband Commission's recent report on the importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education, writing about Connect To Learn's work with our ICT in Education Impact Study in Kenya and Uganda couldn't feel more relevant. The Study, which addresses several of the key recommendations outlined in the report, was designed to deepen Connect To Learn's work connecting secondary school teachers and students - especially girls - to quality education resources and learning opportunities using ICT. This work grows out of a global consensus that lack of adequate teacher training and access to education resources impedes the quality of and transition to secondary education, especially for girls. Too often teachers receive little if any professional development and rely largely on traditional lecture methods to deliver content, with student participation and achievement suffering as a result. This project aims to identify best practices for developing ICT and pedagogical skills within teachers to redefine the classroom model for improved student participation and achievement.
Since this research project launched in October 2012 in four schools - two each in Sauri, Kenya and Ruhiira, Uganda - Connect To Learn (CTL) in collaboration with partners from the University of Nairobi, Kampala University, Teachers College Columbia University, and the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) staff in Kenya and Uganda have conducted four workshops in each school and provided regular support to teachers as they develop their ICT skills. As I write this, I'm preparing for my next workshop visit to the four schools, and I am excited to see how the teachers have progressed since last seeing them in February.
Workshops to date have focused on computer basics, learner-centered lesson planning using open source office software, and accessing Open Educational Resources accessible via the CTL Online Resource Library. In every workshop we integrate typing and formatting activities throughout to give teachers plenty of practice with the basics, and have begun creating learner-centered lesson plans integrating online resources. Since our last workshop, teachers have been steadily building their skills, digitizing their hard-copy teaching notes and searching for relevant online resources to supplement their existing lesson plans.
It will take time for participating teachers- most of whom began with little if any experience using computers - to get to a point where the technology becomes invisible and they can focus on using it to innovate their delivery of educational content to be more active and engaging for students, but we are getting there. Over the next few months, our University and MVP partners will focus on continuing to build a foundation of teachers' basic skills while also supporting the teachers in practicing facilitation of their learner-centered lesson plans, demonstrating "mini-lessons" that integrate ICT tools such as projectors to show videos and/or photos found online, or collaborative platforms such as Moodle or MyHaikuClass.
The Broadband Commission report emphasizes "teacher preparation and motivation to use this technology are essential for ensuring long-term sustainability and benefits for students. Both intense technical and pedagogical training prior to the implementation of ICT in education and ongoing training and support are crucial factors for success." It is exciting to know that CTL is at the forefront of fostering local University-School partnerships to develop and sustain teacher professional development programs on the integration of ICT in rural areas where teachers are often excluded from ongoing teacher education, preparing the next generation of teachers with the ICT integration skills necessary to sustain and transform education systems for the global digital era. We are excited to keep fostering change as we continue to grow, and encourage readers to follow our progress at www.connecttolearn.org.
Tara Stafford works with Connect To Learn (CTL) based at the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Connect To Learn is a non-profit global education initiative catalyzed by a partnership between the Earth Institute, Ericsson and Millennium Promise. CTL's mission is to help ensure a 21st century secondary education for every girl and boy around the world by providing access to secondary schooling for girls through multiyear scholarships, and access to information and learning resources through investments in computers and broadband connectivity in the schools they attend. To date, CTL has provided 732 scholarships to mainly girls in 12 sites across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.