By Abigail Anaba
Alvin Toffler in his book ‘Future shock’ spoke of “children who at twelve are no longer childlike; adults who at fifty are children of twelve”. To me, this quote carries the full weight of the core of the problem between tech and education.
The ‘young’ developers need to sell their ideas to the ‘old’ educationists. The educationists used here to represent the policy makers) need a reorientation. The present system supports learning by rote and is predominantly theoretical. There is a lot of ‘textbook copying’. I have used the word textbook copying to replace ‘note taking’ because the concept of note taking precludes taking down verbatim what is contained in textbooks, sadly most notes I see defy this concept.
The present system also supports cramming. Even though on paper, the Nigerian system favours ‘continuous assessment’ it is never actually practiced. One of the reasons being that the school system either does not fully understand the concept of continuous assessment or they do not find it practical enough. We still have mid-term tests and end of year exams. Continuous assessment means that students should be assessed throughout the course of study as opposed to being assessed at the end of study. What this means is that after treating a topic, the students are assessed based on that topic. The teacher will not wait till end of term before assessing the students on various topics they have treated over the term. The scores of the students are then accumulated over the whole term and then used to prepare their final scores at the end of the course.
And so students read (cram) to pass their exams and nothing more. Students would reel out concepts from memory but cannot explain those concepts. Students are not taught to think. This is why most people who have completed a particular course of study cannot be absorbed into the job market immediately. They simply cannot fit in because they are ill prepared for life outside of the ‘cramming’ environment. At the work place no one is interested in whether you can define what a punch is, they want to know if you can identify and use it.
It is my belief that an incorporation of tech in education will help the students learn how to think. As pointed out in the previous article, there is still a need for an overhaul of the curriculum. Despite the best intents of the creators of the curriculum, the curriculum still needs to be beefed up to reflect current realities. There is a need for students at all levels to see the practical relationship between one course of study and another.
Let us pay a brief visit to a lower primary class of my dreams. The subjects that will be taught on this day include: Math, English, Civic Education, Creative Art, Basic Science/Tech.
Our Topic for the day is: Traffic Lights.
We start off the day with English where we read a comprehension passage about a boy just seeing traffic lights for the first time. The passage helps explain where and how traffic lights are found and what each change of light entails. The students talk about their own experiences with traffic lights if they have had any.
They then move to Math for the day which would involve measurement. The teacher points out that there is a rectangle in traffic lights and asks if they can find any other shapes in the traffic light. They talk about the shapes and how they are measured.
Armed with this knowledge, the students are ready for creative arts. Students are asked to make a picture/painting of traffic lights.
Next is civic education class where we talk about the rules for use of traffic lights both for a driver and a pedestrian. What do the lights say to each person and why the lights should be obeyed?
To get the children to think you ask questions such as “Should we still obey traffic lights when there is no one around to see us? What if the light goes red and you can’t see any vehicles from the other side, should you still stop?”
The Basic science of tech class for that day could be on creating light with a light bulb, batteries and wires. The students then work in groups to create their own traffic lights.
The teacher ends the lessons by having each child talk about the aspect of the days lessons they enjoyed most or she can have them write about it as an assessment.
What role does technology play in all this? At the basic level, the students can watch a short video on their devices. They can draw and paint on their devices. They can watch a video of how traffic lights are made before they begin work on their own projects.
I have shared this ‘dream’ grade class because I wanted to show that it is possible for one topic to cut across various subjects and that a child will gain a comprehensive knowledge of a subject when it is taught holistically. The concept of classroom subjects to me should not just be a matter of each teacher doing his own her own thing but various subject teachers coming together to bring a part of the puzzle to fit into the whole so that as students go from class to glass they are picking a part of the puzzle.
Our curriculum developers need to make a list of all the topics that students will learn for the year and draw an association across subjects for the topic and in developing Teacher’s Guides show in clear details how the teacher can flow from one subject to the other seamlessly. Is there a developer who can come up with an application that can get this done? Perhaps this is an idea that can be pitched to the NERDC. Let me also say at this point that this concept can also be pitched to State Governments. It can be easier pitching certain ideas at the state level than at the national level. I think this idea is one of them.
Tech in education has to be a deliberate policy. The bulk of the work falls on developers to sell the idea of how tech in education will work. Even if the idea does not fly at the national or state level due to administrative bureaucracy and other political factors, initially, it would be great to see the idea tested in the private schools.
As it is presently, private schools borrow from curricular of other countries to beef off the Nigerian curriculum because it has been shown to be empty and uninteresting. It is not new for you to find schools operating the British or American curriculum. While this is not ideal, that is where we find ourselves now. What if a developer can come up with an app that can help make the NERDC curriculum as it is now richer by bringing together all like subjects. This will definitely make the work of the classroom teachers easier. Private schools who are stuck with the Nigerian curriculum and would rather see it beefed up than opt for other country’s curricular will be interested in such an application. With the thousands of private schools in Nigeria, there certainly will be a market for such an idea.
Here also is another idea that can be developed. There are dozens of resources that can be found online that can enhance each lesson already in the NERDC curriculum. What if someone picks the curriculum and searches out links to those resources and adds the link as an appendix or addendum under each lesson. For schools that have a working internet system it will be an uncommon resource for teachers to use.
Of course for any of this to happen, the teachers have to be computer literate. The final installment of this series will look at two ways in which this can be achieved.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @anabagail.
Graphics by Famuyide Olawale