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How do we adapt the way we teach and learn in a lockdown world?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

How do teachers and parents cope with the challenges of educating their children in uncertain times, while acknowledging resource limitations, avoiding cut-and-paste solutions, and copyright infringements?

Recently I’ve been assisting with the development of a remote teaching plan for a pre-school in Serowe, Botswana. Like many institutions, the school was closed early due to the COVID-19 lockdown, and parents, faced with an unusually long holiday and isolated with their children at home all day, reached out for things to do. So we responded with a series of fun activities and worksheets.

So many teachers and educators are in a similar, urgent space: creating Google classrooms, scanning textbooks, trawling the Internet for ideas, forwarding endless 'fun stuff' on their social media streams, and fielding questions and requests from parents and children who are desperately trying to get through the work together. When we created our teaching plan, we turned to the internet to see what the rest of the world was doing. We also dealt with a number of assumptions up front.

Where our school is located:

  • Access to the internet is limited to one, maybe two, smart phones per family.
  • Data is expensive.
  • There is no laptop or printer available in the house.
  • Children do not have their own devices or computers.
  • The parents are not necessarily the primary caregivers.
  • The parents are not in a position to act as full-time teachers.

While social media has been awash with good intentions, not many of these ideas translate to this limited resource space. So we settled on WhatsApp and Facebook as a distribution platform, and we’re carefully vetting every worksheet we create to ensure it doesn’t require resources – whether it’s a printer or time – that simply aren’t available.

There’s a sense of urgency to this, as well, which means doing the right thing isn’t easy when copyright protected material is made freely available online or when there is no usage licence at all.

This raises a few questions that I’d like people in the education space to respond to or comment on:

  1. If you’re moving away from the 'syllabus', how do you verify where your teaching resources come from?
  2. Even if you’re relieved to find yourself in this social sharing space, how do you ensure that author and source are acknowledged?
  3. Are you creating or adapting teaching resources and licensing them?
  4. Are you aware that you can create or access open educational resources (OERs) – this means the materials you develop or use for teaching, learning or research 'reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property licence that permits their free use and repurposing by others'.
  5. Are you aware that there are quite a large number of OERs available, created by African authors for African teachers and children?
  6. Is this something you would be interested in following up on?

World Book and Copyright Day is celebrated every year on 23 April to give kudos to authors and publishers, but also to create awareness around how we generate, adapt, localise and share resources.

This is especially pertinent in the developing world where publishing costs and licencing fees often make education prohibitive.

As a teacher in the time of COVID-19, I’m going to explore the different licensing options for my series of WhatsApp worksheets – I want to make them available for others to adapt and use. And, I want to see what else is available, that’s not computer or printer dependent.

Because they’re intended to make resources accessible and teaching easier, I’m going to explore OERs generated in South Africa, and on this continent – as a user, and as a creator.

I’m also going to navigate the different copyright options and try to figure out exactly what they mean.

There is so much information being 'gifted' right now, but for a limited 'lockdown' period only. What will this sharing space look like as we move beyond this initial scrambling-to-teach phase and into a more stable, albeit very different environment?

Please share this post with your friends and colleagues, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

In the meantime, if you're looking for some free-to-read and openly licensed resources for children, take a look here and here.

About the author:

Leanne Rencken is an enthusiastic, happy person with years of experience in content creation, curation and publishing. She has travelled extensively across Africa, from Botswana where she grew up, to Nigeria, Kenya, Angola and beyond. She believes in the transformative power of great content, no matter the platform or product. Most recently this love of storytelling has led to her to pursuing travel, and teaching English as a foreign language.

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