November 15, 2010 By Colin McElwee
Last Tuesday I got up at 4.30 am to travel to Kade, one of the locations chosen for the imminent launch of our iRead pilot. The early hour was needed because it is the only way to avoid the choking traffic (I am referring to the quality of traffic not only the clouds of fumes) that takes to the roads of Greater Accra every day at about 6 am. I was travelling with Samaiyah, our specialist curriculum developer.
Arriving in Kade Primary school at about 10am I was welcomed by a Phil Spectorish “wall of sound” from among the 500 + kids who played around in the open concrete, grassy, debris strewn space, also know as a play space.
So why curriculum development? Well, at Worldreader.org we are convinced that the simplicity of the relatively mono-functional e-reader is part of it’s potential strength in overcoming any reluctance to use technology in the classroom or at home. As we often say, it’s fundamentally a book and no more.
However we also have identified that we need to understand better how to help the teacher integrate the e-reader and it’s content into their class. It is not enough to assume that by suddenly offering teachers access to books that they have for many years craved, they will miraculously change their tried and tested behaviour in the classroom. This may or may not happen, or more likely may progressively evolve over time.
Instead, we are interested (among many other things), to see if teachers use the e-reader in their preparation for class and how they translate this to the utilisation of e-books among students in the classroom and after school (at home or with friends).
So we met with teachers from the Primary, Junior High and Senior High Schools who are preparing themselves for this challenge. We discussed their experiences and their expectations for this project. At a more practical level, we identified the officially assessed textbooks they require for the curriculum delivery (which we will digitize for them) and explored opportunities for the use of other supporting material. We analysed their lesson plans and how we could dovetail the e-books into classroom activities, something many teachers are not accustomed to doing.
One thing we have already noticed is how teachers respond to the prospect of finally receiving books for themselves and for their students. Remember teachers will be able to prepare for classes over weekends whilst enjoying their favourite personal reading material at home with their families.
Teacher motivation in the classroom is fundamental. We hope to see that this simple access to books and other complementary materials will contribute to the motivation of teachers to not only use books, but to use all of their personal teaching skills to inspire children in the classroom.