In TabLab education, continuous meaningful In-service teacher education is recognized as the key to quality education for children. After a one month’s school break in June, I have really been looking forward to going back to Banjika secondary school, Tanzania to continue helping and working with teachers to use the TabLab meaningfully in their lessons. Teachers are often unwilling to make lesson plans. Among the reasons they give is that they have a huge number of lessons to prepare for; they have large number of students of which they have to evaluate and make follow up. They also mentioned that they have a curriculum and a syllabus of which they have to complete at end of the term.
“The curriculum lists detailed outcomes for each topic and formal tests are held. Test results are used to rank schools. Teachers have to cover the entire subject content. We can’t teach anything outside the curriculum. First, time is not enough, because we have to cover the whole curriculum.” Chemistry teacher
As a teacher trainer I do understand the immense value of lesson planning and preparation. I decided to take the bull by its Horns by focusing on lesson planning and preparation while emphasizing on students centered teaching methods. I prepared and shared with them a few templates of lesson plans integrating the TabLab resources as much as possible. Part of the TabLab’s approach and aim is to enhance knowledge deepening by adding value to the quality of lessons that teachers deliver. With this approach teachers had to identify a topic in their subject area, design a lesson plan, prepare and use specific classroom activities that address the objectives of a lesson.
This approach that they are not used to require a change in teachers’ mindset in the way they teach. This often required changes in the way they prepared for lessons to emphasize depth of students understanding of concepts over coverage of content. The lessons were prepared such that a lesson had to be student centered and teacher’s role was to make appropriate tasks, guide student understanding and support students as they tackled a given problem collaboratively. Lessons and classroom structure had to be more dynamic, with students working in groups even outside normal lesson time to complete their given tasks.
In guiding students’ understanding of key concepts and ideas, teachers had to use open ended-tools available on the Tablets that are specific to the topical area they were handling at that time, such as GeoGebra for data analysis in mathematics. The key to lesson’s success lied to the ability for a given teacher who is preparing to know what resources are available and structure tasks that integrate topic-specific tools available on the TabLab with students-centered teaching methods.
In one of the informal discussions with the teachers, the idea of lesson planning and preparation raised concerns in teachers: “I know it is a good idea to write a lesson plan and prepare but I have no idea how to do it. Well, I know it in theory, but how to do it in practice?” Geography teacher
The following example shows how a maths teacher at Banjika secondary recently used the Tablet to enhance knowledge deepening in Statistics, a topic taught in maths and Geography:
At the end of my short stay with the teachers, I helped put a smile on their face and demystified the monster of lesson planning and lesson preparation. I hope with the wonderful TabLab resources, they keep on planning and preparing adequately for their lessons. The big question remains whether we should prepare lesson plan templates for the whole curriculum to accompany the TabLab?