Home Letters Embracing technology during the pandemic and beyond
Prior to the pandemic, I created WhatsApp groups just to connect with friends and family, Google Classroom was merely a concept and Zoom meant an American educational TV series I enjoyed watching as a child (I’m a 90s kid). Now, these forms of communication (amongst other online platforms) serve as lifelines for me to engage my students who would have otherwise been left to their own devices (no pun intended). Speaking of devices in the technological sense of the word, I do realise how fortunate I am as an educator to have a majority of my students’ own devices as well as have access to the internet to connect such devices.
Without these prerequisites on the part of my students (and truly their parents), my facilitation of any semblance of virtual learning would have been in jeopardy, despite my best efforts. More so, my willingness to accept change and adapt to shifts in methodology has allowed me to navigate the uncharted territory of distance learning.
The advent of virtual classes requires the delivery of education in novel ways. What has worked in a physical setting cannot always be replicated to meet the demands of an online platform. I’m no expert in instructional design and technology, but I’m open to change. Change is the first step. Change is inevitable. As such, I propose the following recommendations for educators who may be apprehensive about the use of technology.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education should not be reserved for distance learning, but must be incorporated in traditional settings. Truth be told, those teachers who were already using their school’s portable projector, creating PowerPoint Presentations for their classes, and emailing handouts to their students prior to SARS-CoV- 2 have been better equipped for pedagogy during a pandemic.
In all honesty, many of us have never been trained adequately to integrate ICT in our subject areas. A course or two during our teacher-training years is wholly insufficient. Workshops sponsored by the Ministry of Education are scarce (and even then not everyone gets to attend).
So what should a teacher who is a novice when it comes to ICT in education do? He or she must seek out opportunities and assistance. There must be no embarrassment in the acquisition of skills that would make one more efficient at his or her job. After all, education is a life-long pursuit and we should not subject ourselves to complacency in the workforce, especially since the business of education waits for no one. We have to be humble enough to seek assistance from those who are versed in utilising educational apps and manipulating others for pedagogical purposes. Assistance can be sought from colleagues. More so, our greatest source of help comes directly from our students.
Our students are “digital natives” who can help us set up our projectors before the start of a class, show us how to share our screens on Zoom and attach documents using Google Drive. Interestingly enough, by allowing our students to teach us, they develop a sense of confidence in their own abilities and respect our efforts to cater to their own interests and learning styles.
Furthermore, there’s a wealth of information online with the sole purpose of educating teachers on how to use educational platforms. You don’t know how to use Google Classroom? Having difficulties creating a quiz on Edmodo? There are YouTube videos that can assist. I’ve even heard of Facebook groups dedicated to providing tutorials for teachers. Do not worry about being overwhelmed by it all. Based on my experiences, I learnt a lot as a result of trial and error. It takes patience and you can only get better.
Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to encourage your school’s principal to help organise professional development sessions for teachers to learn new ICT skills. Even if a specialist from the Ministry of Education is unavailable or it’s difficult to invite an educator who has the expertise, there are others who can assist such as a businessperson from the community, a past student, or even the parent of a current student who uses application software that can be manipulated for educational purposes.
In conclusion, it may be second nature for some of us to fear what we don’t understand and technology has been no exception. As such, the only match for the fear of technology is to develop an appreciation for it and then learn to understand it. If there’s anything the pandemic has proven, it’s that technology is not an option for teachers and neither should it be a luxury for students. Its place in the educational landscape is cemented. The same can’t be said of educators who refuse to welcome it.
High school teacher