Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is a critical part of Ghana’s education reforms. Ghana wants to ensure that all teachers and learners are ICT literate so that technology is used for effective learning and education management.
In 2018 the Government of Ghana introduced a new Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) in Initial Teacher Education for all new entrants to the teaching profession who want to teach in basic schools. This B.Ed. is very practically focused and incorporates ICT as one of its cross-cutting issues, meaning that ICT must be integrated across all aspects of teaching and learning.
The management of both St. Monica’s and Mampong Technical Colleges of Education recognized the importance of ICT in the new B.Ed. and made bold decisions to integrate ICT into teaching and learning.
Just as these Colleges were mobilising resources to equip their colleges with ICT tools to improve teaching and learning, the world experienced the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the closure of all educational institutions in Ghana in March 2020.
This meant that there was an urgent need to speed up the ICT strategic objectives of both Colleges so that learning could continue online for as many students as possible.
The National Council for Tertiary Education instituted a ‘Virtual Learning Taskforce’, supported by T-TEL, to ensure continuity of teaching and learning in response to College closures.
The Taskforce supported tutors to adapt their lessons and teaching so that they take account of the specific demands of online learning. This included enrolling tutors on university-led courses and regular virtual lesson observation. Over 1,900 tutors, university and government staff enrolled in a specially offered online Certificate in Design, Teaching and Learning delivered by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Zonal T-TEL teams and virtual troubleshooters then conducted regular ‘virtual’ lesson observations to track the extent to which lessons adhered to best practice whilst the Taskforce created a dedicated zero-rated B.Ed. microsite for all course materials. With the support of Mastercard Foundation the Taskforce also introduced an e-Learning Fund to improve Wi-Fi connectivity for Colleges and provided 2,750 smartphones and 4,750 SD cards which were made available to those student teachers without devices on a hire purchase basis so that everyone could access online learning.
“The pandemic provided the perfect opportunity to put our ICT strategic objectives in place. We knew that incorporating ICT will help the tutors to explore and experiment even though they did not have adequate contact hours. With student teachers at home, it was going to be difficult to undertake practical exercises, group work and project work especially for Science, Mathematics, and technical subjects. Integrating ICT was our only way out”. Ernest Okuampah, IT Officer, St. Monica’s College of Education.
Leveraging on these national initiatives, the IT Officers and ICT Tutors of both Colleges appealed to their respective Student Representative Councils (SRCs) to fund their college specific ICT needs to augment this support and ensure that they were well placed to respond to institutional closures and make use of ICT when student teachers did eventually return to their classrooms.
The Student Representative Councils of both St. Monica’s College of Education and Mampong Technical College of Education financed the purchase of 24 smart boards and 30 projectors and a tablet for each tutor at St. Monica’s College of Education and 15 smart boards and 15 projectors for Mampong Technical College of Education.
Following the purchase of the smart boards and projectors, tutors from both Colleges were trained on how to use the smart boards to teach. The smart boards have been configured to smartphones and tablets to enable tutors to teach from any device and anywhere. The smart boards come with pre-installed learning software for mathematics and science, shapes, and other concepts. They work like computer monitors; they have USB ports and are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible.
Seyram Dusu, Counselling Psychology and Assistant STS Coordinator at Mampong Technical College of Education demonstrating how a Smart Board is used
This makes teaching and learning easy as the smart boards are just like the chalkboards but only digitalised. The IT officers of both Colleges also organised refresher training on using Google Suite, Telegram, WhatsApp, and YouTube as online teaching and learning tools for both students and tutors.
“When we started the online classes, it was very difficult to get a quarter of the students to participate in the lessons during the agreed time scheduled. Some complained of lack of time as they supported economic activities back home as their families could not comprehend the fact that they were schooling while home. Others complained of lack of smartphones. The biggest challenge was the lack of data and internet connectivity for most student teachers. We therefore adopted an asynchronous approach which enabled students to participate in lessons more flexibly during a given period by using WhatsApp and Telegram where they could use ‘midnight data’ to log on and listen back to lessons and student interactions. We saw a steady increase in the number of students as a result, as it was flexible and met their time and connectivity needs”. Samuel Asare, ICT Tutor, St. Monica’s College of Education.
Integrating ICT tools into teaching and learning has empowered tutors and student teachers towards more effective and efficient education. The use of Google Suite and the smart boards have helped improve teaching and learning in the areas of pedagogy, lesson planning, online integration of lessons, assessment of lessons and research and the professional development of tutors.
Integration of ICT has enriched and improved delivery of the B.Ed. curriculum by providing tutors with opportunities to disseminate good practices and access reliable resources to support the pedagogy. For example, using ICT has enabled tutors to undertake simulation exercises for science, mathematics, and technical subjects in the absence of teaching and learning resources ensuring that lessons are not taught in abstract forms. “Integrating ICT has also helped in ensuring that recent research and up to date information is used to support teaching and learning as some of the teaching and learning resources are no longer relevant for the B.Ed. curriculum”. Seyram Dusu, Counselling Psychology and Assistant STS Coordinator at Mampong Technical College of Education.
With the integration of ICT into teaching and learning, tutors can combine their academic work with teaching as they can teach from anywhere via the smart boards. Tutors therefore have flexibility as they can combine their academic studies and teaching in class using the smart boards. Though virtual, the smart boards provide a near face-to-face classroom experience.
Tutors now use technology to implement their strategies as if they were in the classroom. Strategies such as group work, role play, demonstration, talk for learning, discussions are easily accessible as the smart board mimic the chalk/white/black board in the traditional classroom setting.
“We realized that the online classes enabled us to be inclusive. This is because student teachers with disabilities were provided with assistive devices to enable them to participate fully in the lessons”. Emma Opoku Agyeman, Tutor, Education Studies, St Monica’s College of Education.
The use of assistive devices was also integrated into the lessons as tutors narrowed and reduced the length of notes and stuck to making videos of slides of not more than 15 minutes. The integration of audio-visual tools has also enabled students with different learning abilities to participate meaningfully in class.
To effectively assess learners’ comprehension of concepts, Google Forms, and the Quiz Bot on Telegram were used for assessments. Student teachers have been encouraged to submit their thesis electronically and feedback can be provided in real time. This was not the case prior to ICT integration in these Colleges. Student teachers used to submit their thesis in hard copies, and it took a long time for their thesis to be assessed. Both tutors and students have been trained to use Google Documents for sharing their work. This proved very beneficial to both tutors and learners as they could see results in real time and plagiarism was reduced as the tools could detect plagiarized work. This has gone a long way in building honest citizens, one of the key competency areas of the new curriculum.
A student teacher at St. Monica’s College of Education, practices how to use the Smart Board
“ICT has been used to improve educational management as a research, problem solving and reporting tool”. Samuel Opoku, College Secretary, Mampong Technical Colleges of Education.
With the availability of online resources, research work by both tutors and student teachers has been made much easier. Tutors used these online tools to undertake research, surveys, tests, and quizzes. It has also helped in promoting a culture of research among student teachers and enhanced their presentation skills. Record keeping has also improved as discussions and responses are stored on the cloud, smart boards, and other external storage devices for references.
At St. Monica’s College of Education, an IT club has been established to support students with interest in pursuing careers in IT. The college had initially introduced an ICT course for student teachers specialising in primary education however only a few students signed up. As a result, the course has been turned into an IT club to instruct interested students about practical ICT issues.
“Our College has been retooled. Student teachers can now do simulations and we are up to date with the changes in technological trends. This is good for us as a technical college”. Perpetual Emma Gyamfi, Vice Principal, Mampong Technical College of Education.