KAMPALA/KABALIE – Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, an education official in the neighboring region of Kampala, Uganda, issued a decree that teachers should not be allowed to bring computers, mobile phones or tablets into the classroom.
Frederic Kienge said that phones and ICT tools distract students and jeopardize their learning and concentration.
But William Mowazi, a teacher who recognized the importance of using ICTs in teaching, tried to argue otherwise. “With this smartphone, I can see the whole world around me at the touch of a button and at the same time make my classes attractive, like a very exciting movie,” he told IPS.
In the end, Musaazi decided to keep digital tools out of the classroom for fear of violating guidelines and reprisals.
Then, in March 2020, when a decree was issued on the pandemic, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced the complete closure of classrooms, bringing learning to a standstill. Schools and universities have been closed for two years, leaving 15 million students without an education.
The Ministry of Education and Sports in this East African country of about 45 million people has proposed teaching lessons via radio and television, but they have not been effective. Then the ministry enlisted the help of Belgian Development Agency (Enabelle).
A distance learning strategy, known as TTE Sandbox, was developed and launched to ensure continuity of learning through teacher training at the five National Teacher Training Colleges (NTCs).
Teaching with Sandbox
The teachers in training had to go through an extensive program to learn how to use technology in teaching rather than traditional methods.
They were taught, among other things, to use digital tools such as screen cast (Videography), which records what is seen on the screen, a file audio notation (files with audio content), video conferencing and e-books.
Ironically, Enabel proposed using technology to teach at NTCs in 2019, but veteran teachers were reluctant, remembers Virginie Hallett, sector leader at the Belgian organization.
They said, remember, things like: “We were born before computers, we know nothing about computers. Why would you want us to use ICT in classroom teaching?”
Andrew Tabora, a senior official in charge of teacher training in graduate and secondary education at the Ministry of Education, told IPS that while schools are already equipped with ICT tools, teachers suffer from a fear of technology.
After training, they now know how to use ICT. The arrival of the pandemic forced teachers to think. They said “Well, we have these facilities, but how can we use them to reach our students?”
According to Hallet, 62% of students staying at home in different parts of Uganda were able to follow classes through TTE Sandbox. The sandbox An access limitation mechanism defines an isolated computing environment in which users run programs or files without affecting the application, platform, or system on which they do so.
“For us, the sandbox was a shift in mentality, from resistance to complete acceptance,” he said. “For us, this is a huge success,” he noted.
At the Kabale National College of Teachers, 400 kilometers south of Kampala, IPS found that teachers were still using TTE Sandbox and other online tools to educate trainee teachers nearly a year after schools reopened.
Teach teachers to use ICT
Early in the morning when IPS is taking part in a class at Kabale NTC. The bitter cold of the nearby Rwenzori Mountains makes its way into the room, but the students seem not to be deterred as Mauli Nakimira gives her lecture.
The room has a projector and speakers. Several cables were seen connected to a laptop. Nakimera shows a role-playing video on education management, then students are invited for comments.
Nakimera later told IPS that it was taking more than three weeks to complete this course module, but the use of ICTs, such as videos and podcasts, makes it less time consuming and results higher.
“I teach very large classes. However, I couldn’t find a way to help me work with large numbers (of students). I used to yell a lot as a teacher. Sometimes it seemed to me that I was trying too hard. Sometimes I couldn’t complete the curriculum the way I do. With a sandbox,” he says.
Nakimira adds that while she knew how to write Word documents before, she knew nothing of podcasting and teaching video production. For her, the smartphone was used to make calls and check email, but she realized that it was actually a small computer, which is also a major tool for teaching and learning.
“These are new things that made me feel more interested, made my job easier, and made me feel like I should be more serious,” the teacher confirms.
Physics and mathematics teacher Mojongo Herbert told IPS that before the pandemic, all teachers used what he describes as traditional teaching methods, which included talks, lectures, and sometimes lab equipment or basic materials.
“With TTE Sandbox, I have noticed that students are more active during classes. Teaching is more student focused than teacher focused.
On why he did not adopt ICTs until the pandemic, Herbert acknowledged that he and other teachers did not see the reasons for its use and that current pedagogies do not include how to teach using ICTs or how they apply to online learning or teaching.
The only option during lockdown
“I only had access to a computer at the time of preparing or preparing for the test. I hadn’t heard of Zoom before the pandemic. But while we were locked in, we realized the students were away from us. The only way to access it was to use ICT tools,” Herbert explains.
With these tools, teachers were able to register students to attend virtually and take tests and assignments as papers. The classes were interactive.
But the professor acknowledged that some students who could not access the Internet lost classes, while those who did not invest in smartphones or tablets had difficulty accessing online resources.
France Ruhuma, a biology and chemistry student at NTC Kabale, is one of a group of students who trained at the TTE Sandbox and continued to use it after schools reopened.
“Now most of my lifestyle has moved online. I don’t have to carry a lot of books. I have to go to the Sandbox, click on links and access interactive videos.”
He added that videos filled with illustrations and diagrams are much better for learning than the old whiteboard and teacher illustration methods.
When I spoke to IPS, Ruhuma had just returned from teaching training at a school near Kabale. There he found that most seasoned teachers had not yet adopted ICT, while not all students had access to mobile phones.
“So, as a future teacher, I will leave school when I am equipped with ICT skills. But the challenge is that teachers in most of these schools are not good at using computers and the school environment is not ready for ICT in teaching.”
Tabboura, an official at the Ministry of Education, told IPS that the ministry is working on developing policy and guidelines for integrating ICT into education. “Schools will be instructed on how to use ICT facilities, because there are concerns that teachers or students will misuse ICT devices,” he said.
According to Tabora, TTE Sandbox was a small innovation developed to reach students during lockdown, but it has opened many doors for educators. “I know you, for example, need the Internet. And that can be a challenge. But if you have the Internet, it is something that can be replicated all over the world.”
T: MF / ED: EG
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