Digital Pedagogy: American Center partnering with Yaaka and TOD Idea to train and encourage teachers

On 24th May, 2019, members of the ICT Teachers Association of Uganda attended an event entitled, ‘A Digital Classroom: Teachers of the 21st century workshop.’ According to the invitation letter (download here), this event was organized through the American Centre, to encourage and empower teachers with interactive learning tools as a key to student engagement in the digital classroom. The workshop entailed activities and presentations from attendants with guidance from the trainers. It was aimed at encouraging the teacher to appreciate and use technology in collaborative ways to get the most out of digital education.

Personally I boarded a safe boda from my home in Kyebando which dropped me at U.S. Embassy Kampala at Plot 1577 on Ggaba Road. From there I was told to proceed down to the Embassy Plaza building at Plot 1188/1190 on Ggaba Road which houses the American Center on 5th floor.

Despite the fact that members of the ICT Teachers Association were notified on short notice, they did not disappoint – even the early morning drizzles in Kampala could not stop them. I found may of them already at the venue.

Some of the workshop participants waiting at the American Center before the workshop started

Note worthy among the teachers I met was Mr. James Kwera, an ICT Teacher from Kitgum. He told me that he saw a post about the digital teachers workshop in the Nothern Uganda ITAU WhatsApp group the previous day , he boarded a night bus at 9pm in Kitgum and arrived Kampala at 4am, and was among the first to check in at the American Center.

Mr. James Kwera (Right) with the author at the American Center. He traveled all the way from Kitgum just to attend the workshop

After the drizzles had reduced, the workshop kicked off. The workshop’s facilitators were introduced to us. They included a team from Ultimate Media Consult, TODIDEA and the American Center which was the host.

  • Ultimate Multimedia Consult (U) Ltd is a non-profit multimedia company which developed the Yaaka Digital Network and many other digital solutions. Yaaka is a media platform/ social network for students and trainers in University, tertiary institutions, high school, primary and pre-primary school to learn/train, mentor and share in academics, social and extracurricular activities of their interest, and to especially share and access digital learning materials in text, audio or video as well as hold or attend classes online and on mobile digital gadgets.
  • TODIDEA Limited is an organization founded in September 2013, aiming at integrating ICTs in education in Uganda, with a vision of having teachers and students using ICTs to foster deeper understanding of learning concepts. TOD stands for “Teachers on Devices”, and in line with this, TODidea limited have developed several devices such as the the EduTab and the MwalimuTab (click on those links for more details).
  • The U.S. Mission’s American Center is a reference/research library that provides comprehensive, accurate, and timely information about the United States, its policies, its social and political processes, and other related topics. You can become a member of this American Center by registering here for updates.

Last year, the American Embassy entered a collaboration with Yaaka digital learning network and TODidea to conduct digital pedagogy trainings at the American Centre in addition to outreaches at remote venues. The embassy chooses and invites the trainees and advises on the venue from which the training takes place. This workshop was one such event.

Mr. Gerald Businge, the lead developer of Yaaka DN, explains a concept as teachers look on during a training last year.

What is Digital Pegagogy?

According to Wikipedia, Digital pedagogy is the study and use of contemporary digital technologies in teaching and learning. Digital pedagogy may be applied to online, hybrid, and face-to-face learning environments.

To introduce the concept of digital pedagogy and its relevance, facilitators played some videos for us. Some are embedded below:

21st Century Education Technology Trends
More explanation on 21st Century Education Technology Trends
Listen to the voice of a digital student
Explaining Digital Pedagogy

What do you learn from the above videos? This is the exact question which was posed to the members after each video.

From the discussion, the following points were raised by the participants.

  • First, teachers needed to have the right perception and embrace the use of digital pedagogy in their classes.
  • That technology is changing so fast, and teachers need to change the way they teach.
  • It was observed that collaborative learning between the students and also between the teachers, was the way to go.
  • Teaching and learning should go beyond the classroom, and students should be tasked to research more on their own.
  • It is important to embrace the use of digital media and content e.g. video, audio, etc, instead of using traditional textbooks alone.
  • We should be prepared for tech-savvy students (digital natives)– and avail them devices with educational content to engage them.
  • It was noted that in the current era, many digital students and teachers prefer to use a keyboard more than a pen – they prefer reading soft copies on their mobile devices instead of reading books.
  • Teachers should be in position to play the key role of guidance, therefore they should not be left out of the digital revolution, otherwise their students will be ahead of them.
  • With digital pedagogy, we need a different approach represented by the ‘4 Cs of making teaching and learning fun’. These are: (i) Conversation instead of content – instead of simply giving notes, we should build a discussion with a clear feedback plan from our students. (ii) Creation instead of Consumption – instead of simply using the available content, we should also be ready to put something on the table, (iii) Correction: Mistakes are fine and we should be ready to correct our learners to learn better (iv) Chaos instead of Control – Instead of dos and don’ts, we should be flexible and allow more freedom during teaching and learning, so long as the pedagogy is right.
  • Is was concluded that ICT is a friend of teachers and the teachers should use the opportunity to develop the content and learning experiences, and that is why the American Center and the facilitators were encouraging the teachers embrace digital pedagogy.
  • A samples of the digital content available on the Yaaka Digital Network platform were demonstrated to the members for various subjects cutting across from pre-primary, primary, secondary up to university level. Mwalimu Tabs pre-loaded with several apps including the Yaaka App were passed around for members to try them out. Members who came with their laptops were given a free offer of installing an offline version of Yaaka Content for a trial of 3 months.

Practical / Hands-on group training sessions

The participants were broken into several groups to do some activities of creating digital content using several tools. 

Group 1, 2 and 3 were introduced to Piktochart, a web-based infographic software. Piktochart is similar to Google Slides and PowerPoint, but it allows users without intensive experience as graphic designers to easily create Presentations, Printable designs and Infographics (graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly). The designed files can be stored online and shared with ease.

Group 4 did a project of creating lesson videos. Teachers came up with different topics and used cameras to make recordings of lessons which were being delivered by their colleagues. Windows Movie Maker 10 software was used to edit the videos and convert them to suitable formats which can be uploaded to YouTube or saved on DVDs which can be given to the students as they go for holidays to keep learning or revising at their own pace. It was demonstrated that Windows Movie Maker is easy to use, with buttons at the bottom to import, crop, add transitions and export the videos in various formats.

Within a short time, the groups created media-rich presentations having text, graphics, embedded YouTube and Vimeo videos, interactive maps, shapes, etc. Each group was tasked to practically explain who they came up with the amazing presentations in a short time. Shortened URLs of the presentations were used to load the presentations online. A teacher noted that if teachers embrace using online/ cloud based applications like Piktochart, they can be guaranteed that their work is auto backed up on the cloud and will always be available, and can also be exported and downloaded for offline use. Below is a photo gallery of showing some of the workshop participants and facilitators who made presentations during the workshop.

Teachers were encouraged to create digital content and videos. It was noted that when you search for tutorials on YouTube, you hardly find local content. Teachers should open up YouTube channels and start producing videos – even if they are not of high quality or edited, it is better that nothing. The learners can be involved in these content creation projects. For example, some teachers are very resourceful, but their resourcefulness ends within the walls of their classes. There are very many benefits of publishing content online. Digitizing our knowledge creates more impact and exposure. When you sleep, you don’t sleep with your knowledge. It can be shared across several platforms and can earn you income as people watch your content.

Digital Pedagogy Challenges in Ugandan Schools

As we concluded the workshop, teachers raised a number of challenges they are facing in implementing digital pedagogy.

“We have a challenge of our head teachers who are opposed to digital pedagogy. There are bosses who are completely analog and don’t want to understand. ”
“Also, we have teachers who started teaching in the 70s, but when they see you with a computer in the staff room, they despise you saying that you are showing off. “
“We also lack the devices. You can requisition for something like a mouse of 10,000/= but the boss will not allow! He will tell you that he will buy it by himself! “

These were some of the challenges raised by the teachers.

A teacher shared a testimony of how he was punished by his director of studies because he had delivered some lesson from home using video conferencing.

Members also noted that there has been digital pedagogy advocacy over the last ten years but even when the head teachers are invited for workshops, they don’t comply.

In conclusion, the teachers were advised that the challenges will always be there, but the opportunities are more than the challenges. The teachers should take an initiative to sacrifice their funds and acquire the basic requirements and strive to excel and inspire the rest of their colleagues. The bosses will naturally come on board so long as their perception in changed. The teachers were also urged to look at the success stories for inspiration. Start acting the right way step by step until they see a change in their schools. There are some schools like Gayaza High school which have build a name through providing e-resources on their websites and videos on their YouTube channel. So teachers can start by opening up YouTube channels and websites and start publishing content – next time some organization will be looking for teachers teaching digitally, you will be in that list.

Mr. Gerald Businge advised the teachers that whereas they may find it difficult to start on their own, they can decide to embrace collaborative platforms like Yaaka. Yaaka promotes digital learning. Teachers can join Yaaka Digital Learning Network and put up their own courses and sell them, because even mobile money payments are integrated. You can decide to set a charge of your courses to any fee and the Yaaka team is there to give the necessary support.

There are very many tools and partners promoting digital pedagogy, lets take advantage of this.

This workshop comes at a time when the ICT teachers association is planning Regional Capacity Development Workshops in all regions of the country during the course of second term, and this message of embracing digital content and technologies in teaching and learning is now one of the suitable topics teachers could ideally share about during the workshops.

Article by Mukalele Rogers
National Coordinator – ITAU 2019 -2020
0776960740 / 0706060740