Teachers go high-tech
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Three hundred and forty-one teachers graduated from the very first Technology Integration Course of the e-Learning Project on February 11.
The project, which should mark the start of a revolution in how students are taught, using technological tools, was implemented by e-Learning Jamaica Company Ltd, which contracted the Mico Foundation to deliver the integration programme to 4,000 high-school teachers and teacher-college lecturers.
The training, which began in May 2009, places special emphasis on the practical application of those principles and practices directly related to the effective use of digitised material and information and communication-technology resources to enhance the teaching-learning process.
Training covers digital devices, using the Internet for research and teaching, creating digital stories, creating 2D and 3D animation, using Internet communication tools, web quests and treasure hunts, wikis, blogs, podcasts, and really simple syndication (RSS) feeds.
For the teachers, it was a worthwhile experience.
"It was excellent in terms of starting a revolution of the teaching process," said Kamilah Miller-Kennedy, teacher at Edith Dalton James High School in St Andrew.
Miller-Kennedy was among the top graduates. She believes the project will have enormous benefits to students and teachers alike.
"Basically, we were trained to master the seamless integration of technology into the teaching-learning programme," she said.
Miller-Kennedy added that the training was tailored to embrace the different ways children learned.
"The regular chalk-and-talk doesn't always reach all children. Using the different learning methods, it makes it more fulfilling for both teacher and student."
The teachers were taught how to use iPods, instant-messaging applications, DVDs, CDs, DVD players and other electronic devices to teach students. They were also shown how to design their own websites and how to use chat rooms and tools like digiweb texts to communicate with parents.
"This will redefine the role of a teacher, teaching them to use the different technological tools," Miller-Kennedy continued. "It makes teaching more exciting and I believe it will bear much fruit."
For math teacher Nickesha Grandison, her new skills are already having an impact in the classroom.
"Now the kids want to go to the (computer) lab all the time," she said, laughing.
Grandison, who teaches at Yallahs High School in St Thomas, completed the course with an A grade and 98 percent average. She explained that at Yallahs, a non-traditional high school, many of the students come in as non-readers, so it was always a challenge. However, her new skills are making the learning experience that much better for her students.
"The students will be more independent learners," she said, oozing excitement. She mentioned how she has been creating movies to teach math and the students have shown a lot more interest.
The kids, she said, enjoy the PowerPoint presentations and she has been even using podcasts as tools of learning. The kids are very excited about going out and making their own recordings for podcasts, Grandison said.
While at Mico, she had three-hour classes two nights a week. "It was very tiring," she said.
Grandison added that now that she has seen the benefits, she has no regrets. "It definitely was a worthwhile experience," she said.
Junette Grandison, who teaches English language and literature, as well as Caribbean studies at St Jago High, was also among the top graduates. Junette Grandison said she had previous experience using computers before the e-Learning programme, but learnt many new things. She did well, she feels, because she gave it her best shot.
"I decided to go all out. I was not going to submit to mediocrity," said Junette.
Among the skills she learnt was how to incorporate the use of PowerPoint presentations in her lesson plans and how to use podcasts in her English classes while teaching diction and rhythm, especially when it related to the teaching of Shakespeare.
"Being able to use the new technology means being able to get the students involved," she said.