If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last five years, it’s that the key factor in determining the success of technology in schools is the teacher. And every time we put tablets in schools, we realise we need to increase the amount of teacher training. Even the best technology won’t work if teachers don’t have confidence, or can’t see how it helps their students learn faster, or help them become better teachers.
As well as teaching 45 students in a class, for 8 hours a day, and 9 months of the year, teachers have to prepare schemes of work, lesson plans, lesson notes and mark sheets. If they think technology in the school is a plaything for students instead of a tool for teachers, they will leave them in the store. But, if they can use them to do their administration, to prepare engaging lessons, to make their lives easier, and make them better teachers, then they will become leaders in the use of technology in the classroom and in the community.
It’s taken us at eLimu a long time to realise just how central teacher training is to our mission, to work out what topics we should be training, and how to package it into one comprehensive programme.
Back in 2011, we took eLimu tablets to an informal school in Kawangware, and trained the teachers in a few days on how to use an android tablet and our KCPE Revision app. We ran the training together with the students, and immediately it was obvious the students were more confident experimenting and playing with technology than the teachers. The teachers saw how quickly the students picked things up and began to feel intimidated. When we went back a few weeks later, we found the tablets locked up in the cupboard. It took many follow up visits to gradually build the teacher’s confidence and get them using the tablets in class.
So in 2013 at Embakasi Garrison Primary School, we trained teachers for a whole week. We gave them more time to get used to using android, and time to practice doing familiar tasks, and time to play with different apps and the camera. By giving teachers more time on task, and providing backstopping from our facilitators, they began to feel more comfortable and even started trying new things. We also worked on the logistics - cutting the time taken to get the tablets into the classroom students on task from 15 mins to 5 mins.
Since then, we have gone back every term to teach new topics: core tech skills - like troubleshooting and adding new apps; core teaching tasks - like lesson planning, creating quizzes for students, and making scoresheets; and finally soft skills - how to use technology not just in a teacher-centred lesson, but in a learner-centered lesson, with the teacher acting as a facilitator, letting students take control of their own learning.
Every time we take tech to a new school, we learn something new, and we discover something we want to show all our schools. So this year, we designed a full year programme with 4 weeks hands-on training and 12 months support. It covers all the topics that teachers in different schools have found useful and asked us for since we began.
We ran the first 3 week training (in partnership with Qualcomm Wireless Reach’s program, the Power of mTeaching) with 6 schools. The goal was not just to show teachers how to use educational apps, but how they could develop their own lesson content. They can store these lessons in the cloud, and share them with other teachers, building up a whole library of lessons created by teachers, for teachers.
Here are some of the teacher’s reactions to the training, and what they hope to achieve in the coming year:
I was afraid of using tech because I thought one needed training. After learning that I can use the internet to learn anything, I am now confident and looking forward to integrating new methods of teaching next term.
Alice Akinyi, Embakasi Garrison Primary School
It's easy for me now to do my administration work and professional documents using my phone or the tablet. Learning how to shoot and edit videos was the best thing I learned. I never dreamt I could make a video for my students to watch.
Grace Githogori, Kawangware Primary School
I realized that my phone is a very powerful tool that I can use for teaching. I can make lesson notes and lesson presentations straight from my phone.
Lawrence Kamau, Riara Primary School
I have bought laptops for my children but did not know how to use them. Now I can teach myself slowly having had practical training on how to use different applications. I also know how to teach children with individual differences.
Joyce Muigai, Riara Primary School
It always amazed me when my friends told me that they do exams online... Now I can set exams and deadlines for my students using EdModo and Google forms. That is soo cool!
Martha Ondieki, Embakasi Garrison Primary School
In our school we have video content with foreign voiceovers which is very difficult for our children to understand. Now we can make our own videos or request to edit the videos using our own voiceovers. This will add value to my students.
Lilian Luka, Jogoo Road Primary School
My students love pictures and diagrams, learning how to make a photo story was my best lesson. Choosing relevant images, taking pictures and creating a well organized lesson was really interesting. Cutting parts of a video that I don't want will help me select just the parts my students want.
Margaret Nguli, Milimani Primary School
Samburu is a long way to Nairobi, it was a great opportunity for me to make friends with teachers from other schools and exchange lesson ideas and methods of teaching. Using my phone I can keep in touch with them and get updates.
Sylvester Lengamunyak, Kiltamany Primary School
It was inspiring and motivating to learn together with other teachers, and having facilitators who were always willing to help out. Figuring out how a feature works together made me want to learn more.
Jacinta Mburu, Jogoo Road Primary
Now I view ICT as a tool, I have learned that the only way to be good is by practice. With the knowledge I now have, I will keep practicing and using ICT to make my lessons interesting to learners.
Prisca Mwikya, Embakasi Garrison Primary School
When I joined the training I had a Nokia! Having seen how much I can do on android I bought an android phone. It will also be a good way to keep in touch with other teachers. I am hoping that I can be sending assignments at least once a week to my students.
John Bosco Otundo, Milimani Primary School
When we got laptops last term I was not sure on how to use them with our students. Do I teach them what I was taught in college: how to write on word and excel? Having attended the training I have learnt about all the different things I can do as a teacher. Next term I will be developing digital lessons for my students as well as giving them quizzes and learning the areas of difficulty using Edmodo.
Pius Mungai, Bohra Road Primary School