By: Shivani Chandra
From the onset of our time in Pearl Lagoon, when asked what areas they would like help in, secondary level teachers often responded that they needed new and up-to-date information resources and teaching materials, and wanted to learn new techniques for lesson planning and teaching course material in an engaging manner.
With wide-eyed enthusiasm, we began helping the teachers in whichever areas they asked, creating teaching materials for the high school math classes, marking tests, and providing resources for class activities. It didn’t take long, however, for it to dawn on us that the impact of these activities would be very short-lived. Sure, the teachers asked us specifically to do all of these things, and they might have a lighter workload on the days we were able to help out, but the unsustainability of the impact of my time here was not something I was proud of.
Perhaps if we addressed their other needs in lesson planning help, finding current resources and teaching materials, we could make a greater long-term impact. We instinctually turned to the internet. Researching and compiling relevant online sources was second nature to us- if an undergraduate degree teaches you nothing else, it teaches you how to Google.
Neither myself, nor Jasmina have had classroom training or have completed a Bachelor’s of Education which means that we began to rely heavily on online resources to prepare our workshops. However, it seemed a somewhat roundabout way of acquiring information- why not cut out the middle man (or middle women, rather) and give the teachers the skills required to be able to effectively perform research themselves. This way, we wouldn’t be proverbially feeding them for a day, but rather for their lifetimes.
And so we weren’t completely surprised to get great feedback from the teachers who participated in our online research workshop for TEP’CE. It was clear that not all teachers were comfortable with using computers, let alone online search engines, but they were certainly excited about the sneak peak they got into the vast repository of information (and non-information) that is the online interweb.
Our current challenges from turning this workshop into a regular class we can offer the teachers are location, location, location. Finding a computer lab with enough working computers with an online connection has proven to be more difficult than anticipated. When teachers have to use the computer or internet, they normally ask a younger, internet-savvy family member to look up whatever fact, or resource they need. For those who do not have access to a laptop- whether it be in their own home, or in their neighbours’- Pearl Lagoon’s 2 cyber cafes offer affordable rates for teachers (10 Cordobas every half an hour).
Once we get these classes going, the hope is that the teachers of Pearl Lagoon and surrounding communities will be able to harness the internet for all of its potential, increasing the quality of education for the students long after we leave.