Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mud moving in Africa

A few weeks a go we ran a 2 day workshop for ESCAPE module leaders and some of their team members. It was really useful to consider the modules in details. The module leaders used a fishbone analysis to identify areas for improvement and the actions required. The activities were then transfered to a time line. With the support of the ESCAPE team it will be really exciting to see the changes occurring.

Much of the discussions involved consideration of the use of technologies to improve effectiveness whilst ensuring efficiency. We talked about the use of video with students, using Camtasia and Cam studio, podcasts, an assessment managment/marking tool, WATS, online submission, tablet PCs ... all sorts of options that we are lucky enough to have access to.

I have just returned from visiting friends who are doing voluntary work in Ghana. It was a very humbling trip. I took a tour around a technical college (16-19yr) (Cape Tech- see video) and Cape Coast University. The lack of faciltites shocked me and trying to teach practical subjects e.g. buidling techniques, biology, optometry and physics, with little, if any, equipment must be incredibly difficult.

My friends, Vicky and Steve Ager are teaching at HE and FE, respectively. These are their first teaching roles so it was fun to sit with them and to think about how then can encorporate active learning and collaborative activities within their sessions and how to improvise practical classes with basic and cheap alternatives to the equipment we are accustomed too (e.g. using drinking straws to simulate scaffolding). The basis for our discussions were Chickering and Gamson's (1987) Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. My friends soon started identifying where they could meet the priniples within different activitites.

'Encouraging contact between students and lecturers' and 'Developing reciprocity and cooperation among students' will be achieved when students gain valuable work experience within community projects e.g working in the local eye clinic. The students from the technical college will literally do some mud moving when they help with the construction of a mother's union building.

Visiting Ghana reminded me that we don't always need the latest technologies or equipment to ensure a valuable learning experience. Our intention is always to focus on the learning primarily and then to consider how we can use technologies which are fit for purpose and enhance efficiency. I am incredibly grateful that we live in a country where we have access to the equipment and resources we need.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Hi Helen

Sounds like you had a sobering but inspiring trip. The classroom video is shocking when thinking about what we have here in the UK, especially as this is for a technical college. I imagine that your friends will become very inventive teachers!

For info, I've posted a summary of the fishbone activity that was used at the ESCAPE workshop, along with an example of one of the fishbones that was produced. This was a low-tech approach for a workshop about delivering the curriculum using technology, but it did seem to get people thinking. (