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Brenda Kulobone's design narrative: Teaching with technology

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Brenda Kulobone
1 April 2017

Narrator 

I am a Programme Developer at a distance education institution. Part of my job involves developing English Second Language material such as study guides, assignments, examination booklets and online content for Grades 10 and 12 out of school learners. These are the learners who failed in the conventional schools who would like to upgrade their results. Another part involves training the tutors on how to use our material. I will use ‘we’ in this narrative as we always train in pairs or a group. 

Situation 

My institution is eager to improve the learners’ results. One of the strategies we are working on is repurposing the print-based content into online content. For this content to be used by learners, we train their tutors.  We are trying out a blended approach of learning but we have challenges in terms of time and limited resources e.g. limited access to devices like computers, cellphones, internet etc. 

Our situation is somehow complex, we rely on full time teachers in conventional schools as our tutors; they teach at schools in the morning and only tutor our learners in the afternoons. We can only train them on a Friday afternoon and on a Saturday. This training happens in our computer lab. 

Task 

Normally we train the tutors on how to access the content on our Notesmaster platform and how to use the content in their classroom. We would like both tutors and learners to make use of this supplementary interactive content in order to boost learners’ performance.

Actions 

  1. We show them how to access Notesmaster platform by opening the web browser (recommended Chrome), google search for Notesmaster or enter the following URL: https://notesmaster.com/. To access the platform, tutors should have an email address, in some cases we get teachers who have no email addresses which means we have to help them create gmail accounts.
  1. On the homepage they are guided to select sign up to register on Notesmaster. They are informed that once they have registered, they will only need to login using their email addresses and passwords. At this stage we ask them to log out and login just to see if they will be able to do it own their own outside the institution. Some of them forget their passwords then you help them out and some manages to login. 
  1. Once everyone is logged in they will all be on the homepage. Then we explain the features that they need to make use of, like:
  • The workspace, which is their personal working space.
  • Resources area where they can access all published notes, and can copy a note, modify it and add it to their workspace. We show them how to adapt and save a note.
  • Classes- where teachers can share extra resources with learners and create assignments. We show them how they create a class, create and grade assignments, and trace learners’ attendance.  
  • Groups - teachers and learners can create specific groups and ask others to join them. 

Some tutors cope well but others struggle with the navigation and don’t grasp all what we planned. In such cases we always have one on one trainings until they get the skill. Some tutors quit after a while due to personal challenges and that forces us to train new tutors. 

Results

Trained tutors make use of the platform in two ways. One way is in the face to face class, where learners don’t have computers, tutors use a projector and screen some of the notes on the platform, and take learners through by playing some video and audio clips and give learners assignments which they are expected to complete online once they have access. Another way is that tutors book the computer lab at least twice a week and take learners there to access the platform and interact with the content. 

Check the link above to have an idea of what really happens in those classes. 

Reflections

Personally I feel we need more than one and a half day for these tutor trainings because in some cases we train tutors who have never worked with computers. We also need to find ways of helping learners access the platform elsewhere besides the lab, like providing them with devices and data because currently the extent of using the platform is very low. The whole concept of online learning is still new to both tutors and learners.

 

 

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