I've spoken a lot right here about the importance of technology in education, and how it can help to facilitate learning and bring effective teaching to learners in the more remote areas. How it can be harnessed in a variety of ways to improve the quality and reach of education in South Africa.
All this is very promising. However, if we are able to use technology appropriately and effectively in the process of educating our children, we first need to make sure that our teachers are thoroughly familiar and comfortable with the technologies and teaching methods themselves.
Training teachers to use technologyIn order for teachers to deploy technology, they need training in it. What we often lose sight of when we think about all the potential that technology holds for education, is that there is still a significant human element involved. No matter what technology is used, someone still needs to do the actual teaching, as well as provide learners with the necessary support when using the technology. At least until we invent teacher robots.
So while we are already seeing the deployment of technology in South African classrooms, this has to be combined with comprehensive teacher training, not only in the use of the technology, but in how to teach learners to use it.
Education experts believe that there is a vast amount of teacher training that has to occur before we will be able to reap the full benefits of technology in the classroom.
A change in orientationIn many cases before we can get to the point of actually beginning teacher training in technology, we need to overcome existing hesitancies and attitudes, and sometimes even fear of technology. There is often a technophobic reaction among people who are not familiar with it. This is usually caused by a lack of previous exposure.
In South Africa we need to face the challenge of teachers themselves being completely unfamiliar with technology and having a resistance to implementing it in the classroom. This resistance isn't due to them being anti-technology; it's simply that they are unsure of it and don't feel comfortable using it. It's this orientation that first needs to be changed, so that teachers can fully embrace the technology that they will be using.
Creating relevanceThe most fundamental thing to establish when training teachers in the use of technology is relevance. Much of the resistance to technology adoption comes from a lack of appreciation of its relevance to the day-to-day business of teaching. We need to assist teachers to grasp this relevance – to their subjects and to their teaching methods.
We need to clearly show teachers how technology can improve their teaching and create better learner performance. This can only be done using face-to-face training, where a human experience is combined with technology.
Once teachers fully appreciate the relevance of technology to their work, and the many ways in which it can help them, they will be in a much better position to employ technology in their classrooms.
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