As the world grapples with challenges presented by COVID-19 contagion which has ravaged the globe and brought down the social services, the education sector has not been exceptional. Children are locked down in their homes, while educators and their parents are working hard to ensure their education continuity. The answer is in remote learning which can only happen easily when technology is put to use, and equipping educators with the appropriate skills to use them. This may not require one to have a computer or laptop, but access to a smartphone. It’s therefore time for educators and parents to face the challenge of using technology.
Educators in developed countries are already conducting online classes using different Learning Management Systems (LMS) like (i) Schoology https://www.schoology.com/ (ii) Classdojo https://www.classdojo.com/ (iii) Edmodo https://new.edmodo.com/?go2url=%2Fhome, iv) Google classroom https://classroom.google.com/h (v) Moodle https://moodle.org/ and more others. With increase in usage of smart phones in Uganda, we can utilise the availability of LMS, M-learning for example. (i).Cell-Ed https://www.cell-ed.com/, (ii).Ustadmobile https://www .ustadmobile.com/lms/ (iii) Kaiostech https://www.kaiostech.com/ among others, some of which like Kaiostaech can be used offline.
Besides, coming up with a website could do the magic. For example, I used doodle kit https://www.doodlekit.com/ on a free account to build a simple website in 45minutes https://tumwesigyemichael.doodlekit.com/. After, upload your subject materials (text, pictures, sound, and motion images/video) or subject content and share the link with your learners depending on the age.
This is almost similar to how NCDC recently shared learning materials countrywide on http://ncdc.go.ug/content/home-schooling-materials. Technology has impacted almost every aspect of life today, and education is no exception. Ideally, the classroom of today should look and operate significantly different from the classrooms of 15 to 20 years ago if we are preparing the workforce for the 21st century workplace. The typical 21st Century classroom should possess various technologies from Interactive Flat Panel Displays (IFPDs), to tablets, laptops and smartphones, all easily connected by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
The current generation of digital-native students prefer being independent in the classroom and technology would be an expected requirement rather than an added advantage. Gone or reduced should be the days when the teacher, is seen as the primary source of information and the students passive learners.
This traditional model of the teacher as the “sage on the stage” is getting outdated, but because of insufficient teacher formation programmes in Uganda like many developing countries, there is general education skill gaps combined with lack of infrastructure. This is a reason why during this period of COVID-19 lockdown there is a bit of panic and worry on learning continuity and a talk of a dead year surfacing. Yet with virtual learning and the necessary infrastructure, this would not be a worrying issue. It’s high time professionals discovered more about the current paradigm shift from didactic learning to ubiquitous education.
Access to learning opportunities today is unprecedented in scope, courtesy of technology. For example, learners can learn about new scientific innovations by reading scientists blog postings, viewing videos on Youtube, viewing photos, emailing questions to scientists or even talking live with them via videoconference. They can share what is learnt with fellow learners through; Wikis, blogs, messaging tools and Google docs. The physical walls of the classroom are no longer a barrier as technology enables new ways of learning, communicating and working collaboratively.
Educators can use a variety of tools-including, video, e-mail, desktop conferencing, online programs such as WebEx, Zoom, Skype, Adobe Connect and Blackboard Collaborate, as well as video conferencing to teach. Thus, it is no longer acceptable for educators to be technology illiterate. Educators in this technology era should at least have basic technology skills which include; Word Processing Skills, Spreadsheets Skills, Database Skills, Electronic Presentation Skills, Web Navigation Skills, Web Site Design Skills, E-Mail Skills, Digital Cameras, Computer Network Knowledge, File Management & browsing software Skills, Downloading Software From the Web (Knowledge including eBooks), Installing Computer Software, WebCT or Blackboard collaborate Teaching Skills, Videoconferencing skills, Storage Devices (disks, CDs, USB drives, zip disks, DVDs, etc.), Scanner Knowledge, Knowledge of PDAs, Deep Web Knowledge, Educational Copyright Knowledge and Computer Security Knowledge.
The way a typical traditional teacher’s day is composed of classroom teaching, assessing learners, guiding class discussions and motivating learners; a virtual teacher’s day is composed of activities like emailing, synchronous lessons using software like Adobe Connect, grading, blogging, messag- ing, phone calls, posting feedback on learners questions, online meetings, collaboration, making lesson materials in text or videos using different tools like Camtesia e.t.c
You may start by setting up a free trial account with WebEx, Adobe Connect Pro, Black board Collaborate, GoToMeeting, Zoom or another Synchronous platform or even attend a meeting or a webinar online. As you experiment, look out for the key features like attendees list, recording, file sharing, webcams, status indicators/icons/emoticons, audio, breakout rooms, polling and chat or texting. Try using such buttons to be familiar with virtual places.
By Tumwesigye Michael
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