Almost every school in Uganda now has a computer lab, thanks to government’s introduction of compulsory ICT education at A Level. Compter labs started to be come to secondary schools at the close of the century with Busoga College Mwiri, Kings College Budo and Gayaza High School being among the pioneers. By then, ICT/Computer Studies as a subject was not yet on the syllabus.
It was not until 2004 that students sat for the very first paper of computer studies at O Level. By this time, only a few schools had computer studies on their list of subjects. There were no computer lessons at A Level until 2011 when government decided that ICT had to be compulsory at that level. The government, through the Uganda Communications Commission went on a nationwide program to install computer labs in all government aided secondary schools.
For primary schools, computer studies is not yet part of their curricular although there is a growing number of them with computer labs. While government is yet to gazette a curriculum for them, I, together with Mukalele Rogers, Emmanuel Tumusiime came up with the first ever prototype that can be used at primary school level. This was done after a series of meetings and deep research from references across the globe. The proposed primary school ICT curriculum can be accessed here.
Computer labs in Uganda schools are mainly used in instruction and therefore majorly used by teachers and learners of ICT. In this article I will share a few tips for lesson management in the lab basing more than a decade of experience working as a technician in computer labs and teacher of ICT.
1. Give clear instructions before students enter or start using the lab.
It is helpful if students know the guidelines to follow before they even start using the computer lab. Such guidelines help protect the equipment and also helps the teacher to have some level of control over the learners. From experience, when learners sit in from of a PC, it is hard for a teacher to get their attention. So it is good if they all know what is expected of them while in the lab.
While it is important to let learners know of their obligations while in the lab, the teacher should also give the specific instructions of a particular lesson or assignment before they come to the lab. In this way, they already know what is expected of them and will start straight away with their tasks without engaging in irrelevant tasks.
At E-zone School of Computing, our learners know that the first 10 minutes on arrival are for practicing their typing speed using software called Typing Master. To ensure that the do this, they even have a sheet in which they fill their scores and progress checked regularly.
2. Always have in stock activities for those who finish early
Many times, some students will finish earlier than their colleagues. You shouldn’t allow a student to find their own option of entertainment on the computers when they are through. What a teacher can do is to have perhaps a practical workbook to resort to or have the computers installed with fun but educational games on the PC. It should also be well defined in your guidelines that when they are done, they have a a list of activities to do as they wait for their colleagues to finish their work.
3. Always have an alternate activity just in case something goes wrong
Yes, sometimes, lessons may not go as planned. For example, if you had planned for a lesson that involved the use of internet and you found the internet was down or slow, what would you do? At E-zone School of Computing, just like in all previous schools I have worked, when there is no power, you find yourself with nothing t do. In case of such eventualities, a teacher must always be ready with activities that can be done during that lesson.
Some of the activities I give learners is to collect data outside the class which can be used for an excel lesson. For example, I could send students out to tally the number and types of vehicles along the road. This data is then recorded in their notebooks and can be used during an Excel lesson. I have sometimes asked students to compete on who can dismantle and put together a computer fast as a time keeper takes the records.
Stephen Dumba is the coordinator of the ICT Teachers’ Association of Uganda for Central region and team lead of the ITAU EdTech project. Besides teaching ICT, he repairs computers and designs websites. Steve is a speaker and facilitator at tech events and ICT workshops for students, teachers and school leaders. He is a Director at E-zone School of Computing, E-zone Web Services, CEO of senior1.org and a consultant on education technology.
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