By Kemi Olurinola
Expert Educator Columnist, Nigeria
Recently I read an article on Mind/Shift titled Think Big: How to Jumpstart Tech Use In Low-Income Schools. The title did get my attention and so I decide to read the article, I am always interested in adding to my bank of ideas aimed at helping low income schools. The article was about Daisy Dyer Duerr, Prek-12 Principal of St. Paul Public Schools in St. Paul, Arkansas. While it did make an interesting read and I would readily recommend it, my focus of interest was at the point where the technologies available at her school were listed. When Duerr started at St. Paul Schools three years ago, the technology available to teachers was limited to a:
- few smart boards,
- two computer labs with shared PC desktops
- and a laptop cart with 10 Mac Books still in their boxes.
What is amazing about this is that, this is meant to be a public school with “limited technology”. Where I come from or live and work a school that boast of such access to technology would not be referred to as one having Limited technology but a school to be desired, cause most the schools having such access or more to technology are mainly private owned schools with high paying fees.
Most public schools in my region , if at all can only boast of a computer Laboratory with a few desktop computer, to which students have little or no access to, except for computer science classes when they need to be taught about computers. Most of our public classrooms are built without the plan for technology use. In most of my interventions with this schools, a power generating set and extension wires where used to bring electricity to the classroom because no functional sockets where available. Should our government be doing more for public schools to help bridge the gap between the quality of education of the private schools and public schools? Yes I would say. But that is a discussion for another time.
So the question is “how would you define Limited Technology”? I guess the definition would vary depending on what part of the world you live in, from country to country and region to region even in the same country. Based on my experience, I would define Limited Technology as a few computers seated on some computer tables, lock away in a computer laboratory. Recently, I have been asked by a school to help integrate technology into their learning system. What technology do I have to start with?
- 2 desktop computers
- 13 mini laptops ( 8 not functional, have one problem or the other)
Is this limited technology? Yes and No. Yes if you are counting hardware, but no, if you are considering ways in which this few computers can be used in the classroom. I have come to know that having technology in schools doesn’t translate to using technology in the teaching and learning process. I believe limited technology is not how many computers or laptops or devices a school has but in the limited ways this devices are used in the teaching and learning process. I know of schools that can boost of over 100 devices but yet the students have little access to them. That to me is limited technology. It is not in ‘how many we have’ but in ‘how well we use what we have’. “It’s not about what you have, it’s about being awesome,” Duerr says.
According to Duerr, the No.1 step to jumpstarting technology use in schools is ‘JUST START’. My personal ‘Think Big’ idea for low income schools, especially those schools without any technology at all has been to encourage the schools to get at least a laptop or two and a projector. This is then rotated periodically through the classes, more like an ‘ICT in the classroom’ period on the weekly timetable for each class. In instances like this PowerPoint can be used to present multimedia contents. With a little more income, purchase of some mice to enable the use of mouse mischief for more student engagement is considered.
For schools with computers locked up in the computer laboratory, I consider a ‘one computer per class’ plan. So how does a one computer per class work? This will be the focus of my next article on this column. So feel free to add your voice. How would you define “limited technology? Please share your ideas or experience in jumpstarting technology use in your school.
A Merry Christmas to you all, my fellow MIEExpert 2015, and the entire Microsoft family. May the joy of the season remain with you. A Happy New Year in advance. See you all in 2015, an awesome year ahead.