Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Different Teaching Reality?

The reality of most of my etMOOC colleagues working in education differs significantly from my own. An article in the local newspaper, The Guardian, describes how 80 students share one text book. This is not uncommon in much of sub-Saharan Africa. With one textbook, it often falls upon the teacher to read the information to the students, who dutifully repeat the information back to the teacher later. There are many well-intended book donation efforts, but the need greatly outstrips supply. Furthermore, the used textbooks, which are sent with best of intentions, often do not match the learning levels of those who receive the books. Of necessity, then, my vision is a book-less classroom, similar to the one shown in this YouTube by Cybersmart Africa. A laptop and projector, powered by solar charged batteries, a white sheet against the wall or on a movable stand, and appropriate interactive learning programs, which are downloaded in peri-urban centers where there is more reliable connectivity, would be truly revolutionary. While having current materials immediately at hand would be revolutionary, the more revolutionary aspect would be making the classroom learner centered, requiring an entirely new mindset on the part of teachers and school administrators from the currently predominant "banking" model as described by Freire. This, I suspect, is the reason why these innovations have not taken hold. As I read conversations among my etMOOC colleagues, it's clear that the same pedagogical proclivities exist outside of sub-Saharan Africa, which is more the frustrating given all the digital tools and advanced learning materials available. So upon further reflection, maybe the pedagogical realities across the across the oceans are not that different after all.

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