Over the last two decades, Information Communication Technologies have gained substantial recognition in the education landscape globally. Despite the increasing awareness of its transformative value, the understanding, access, usage and application of technologies geared at enabling students’ learning in classroom remains timid and largely aspirational in most African countries, particularly Cameroon. Also, despite the emphasis on school to integrate technologies for learning, very little has been done to support the development of technological literacies among teachers, as the focus has predominantly been skewed towards hardware. Of course, from an African context, there are legitimate arguments for this lapses – particularly arguments that illustrate the reasons for the existing gaps between public awareness, government expectations, teacher preparation and practice that partly accounts for the weak integration of ICTs into every subject and across all classes. For instance, putting aside factors like availability of sustainable sources of electricity, affordance of these technologies, we believe that leadership willingness and teachers’ confidence and competence, remain major constraints to such aspirations. Nonetheless, although technology integration in classrooms particularly is inextricably accompanied by certain challenges and issues, there are significantly benefits to the learners if used appropriately which I would like to share.
Integrating technology in schools and particularly in the classroom gives both teachers and students flexibility to access and interact with learning content and resources, which would otherwise be difficult to achieve with traditional school/classroom settings. Besides this fundamental benefit, here are 5 ways through which educators can integrate and enhance or improve the quality of learning taking place in classrooms.
Use Power Point Slides to Appeal to Different Learning Styles
Although Power Points were predominantly developed to assist corporate presentations, their use as a digital tool for teaching and learning could not escape the claws of innovative educators, who have used the technology for teaching and assessment purposes. Used thoughtfully, Power Point remains an invaluable tool for the 21st century classroom with great benefits to students learning. The tool offers teachers a unique opportunity to roadmap their lessons, integrate pictures, videos, text and audio in their instructional content to increase the attention span of the learners. If properly used (providing segments of the content with bite-size information accompanied by appreciate tasks), the tool can appeal to the diverse learning styles (audio/visual/reading) of students and help reinforce the teacher’s explanation or discussions. Research has shown that well-designed lessons using Power Points enhances learning, clarifies understanding, as well as helps students focus and develop interest in the lesson.
Use Virtual Reality to Enhance the Learning Experience
Although Virtual Reality technology was mainly developed for military purposes, its advancement, development and accessibility has enabled its adoption in other industries like entertainment, training, travel and real estate, medicine and education. The implications for learning and education have predominantly been around the appeal for visualisation and interactivity. Virtual Reality technology offers an engaging and immersive experience to users via a simulation of a “real time interactivity”, which is a realistic –looking world, created by a computer to respond to the user’s input in real time. The fact that Virtual Reality technology offers users a unique opportunity to interact, visualise mobile and static images in real time, would appeal greatly to, and captivate audio-visual learners due to its deep soothing psychological effect. As an educational tool that has already found its way in the training sector, educators can suitably apply this technology in subjects requiring field work experience such as geography or geology.
Using Web–based Tools to Promote collaborative and Cooperative Learning
Appropriate use of technological tools such as Blendspace, Padlet or Voki the classroom can promote student engagement and stimulate a climate of sharing, collaboration and support among learners, especially when students work in groups or pairs with a common objective. While many technological tools offer diverse functionalities, project-based learning activities are usually structured in ways that increase the cognitive and social development of the learner. Of particular note, Padlet (a dash-board like tool which gives users the opportunity to add images, text, documents, and videos or links) works well with activities that encourage collaborative work where students are expected to brainstorm, curate content and engage in group discussions in real time. With respect to assessment for learning endeavours, Padlet, also offers a great way for teachers to check students’ understanding with opportunities to clarify misconceptions. Still in line with assessment endeavours, web based tools like Kahoot are also great interactive tools for assessing students understanding in real time. The tool allows teachers to create multiple choice questions which students are expected to answer within a given time frame, from which a leader-board is presented, highlighting the performance of each student.
Using Smartboards for Smarter Teaching and Learning
Unlike the traditional black or green boards that are static and limited to what’s written on them, smartboards or e-board on the other hand are interactive boards with the capacity of accessing and displaying online resources in real time. With direct links to the web, Smartboards can be a great tool to engage and capture student’s attention, as teachers have the flexibility of changing the screen colour, save students work in sharable files. Although this technology has the potential of facilitating learning and enhancing the learning experience in the classroom, it remains a huge investment for schools in Cameroon.
Regardless of the technology you choose to adopt in your classroom, the foundation of excellent teaching remains a fundamental element for a great learning experience. So, remember that it is really not the technology, but how well you integrate it to the overall learning experience. Also, it should be noted that teachers can only implement such technologies successfully if they have the right digital competencies and technical knowhow, otherwise, all efforts of integrating technology may be a failure or disruptive to learning and a complete waste of time. As educators, we need to be careful and mindful of how we choose, manage and use technologies for learning.