On Friday 10th August,2018 we held the last of a series of three innovative teachers’ workshops with the aim of introducing teachers to Project based and technology enhanced learning. This workshop was held at Makerere College School-main campus, a centre that has produced many IT accomplished men and women in Uganda. Notable among the participants was Mr.Beronda James from the Uganda Communications Commission(UCC) and Mr. Kasana Isaac from the Research and Education Network Uganda (RENU) who restated their willingness to support schools in the bid to collaborate taking advantage of the available technologies. The workshop was attended by over 40 teachers from a number of schools as far as Zombo District. At this workshop the participants agreed to collaborate and we confirmed our willingness to form the Innovative Teachers Platform (ITP) which will act as a vehicle towards skilling teachers and encouraging them to make learning meaningful to their students and keep collaborating with each as teachers from the different schools in Uganda.

In the first activity, we explored the use of intelligent and computer assisted assessment exercises that can be used to enhance revision of different curriculum areas. The teachers worked through some set exercises and later on were trained on designing such exercises. It was exciting to learn that we could make the interface of the exercises colour friendly for the amusement of our students. The teachers were encouraged to choose the best colour mixes as they developed their practice tests and were later to compete in selecting the best colour mix. This was the first example of using Technology in enhancing learning within our classrooms.

Mr. Ddungu Ronald, Deputy Headteacher St. Mary’s College Kisubi who was the chief convener of the workshop and a facilitator encouraged the participants to adopt these set of exercises in their schools.

Recommendation 1: The participants agreed that this was a necessary step to take by the schools and introduce the self-marking intelligent questions so as to increase on the excitement of the youth towards assessment and revision work. It was agreed that the exercises developed in one school can be shared with other teachers across other schools over a common library platform which ultimately becomes a library for all the schools. An examination like Chemistry Paper one at O’level which is fully made up of objective questions can be developed as a self-evaluation examination. This would lift the burden of marking off the chemistry teachers and allow for immediate feedback for the students. The participants proposed that the Uganda National Examinations Board(UNEB) studies this proposal and finds ways and means of implementing this self-evaluation exercise as an examination tool.

The participants were then invited to learn more about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) against which all classroom-based projects need to be anchored for relevancy. The participants took a test in understanding the SDGs designed as a computer evaluated exercise. It was exciting having a discussion over a possible classroom exercise which showed the value such tests add to the teaching and learning process. The teachers were encouraged to design their class-based projects anchored within the framework of SDGs.

The participants were also introduced to creation of teaching videos that can be filmed as presentations made by teachers as well as students. They watched two videos; the first was a Biology video showing dissection of a toad made by students from Gayaza High School in 2013 and posted on YouTube. This video had been viewed since then by several students and teachers from schools across the country and continues to be viewed. The second video was created by students from St. Mary’s College Kisubi to teach Probability, a curriculum area in the Mathematics A-level syllabus. This was still work in progress since it was a class project done in July 2018.The participants agreed that a video made by students in one school and used for learning in another school would enhance learning and this would draw a lot of encouragement for the students in the receiving school to also create other videos.

Recommendation 2: The participants found filming lessons as a worthwhile venture for our schools and agreed to encourage content development by recording presentations of very brilliant students and senior teachers. These records would be in different forms including; documents, podcasts and videos.

Mr. Nyika Edward presented to the participants the Gayaza High School e-learning platform (http://etutoring.gayazahs.sc.ug/) where one could find a number of exercises and notes shared by the teachers. This platform has a link to the YouTube channel of the school(https://www.youtube.com/user/gayazahighschool) where the student-made videos are stored and used as learning tools in several subjects.

Recommendation 3: The participants agreed to form a general eLearning platform to which many schools would contribute teaching and learning materials created by both the teachers and students. Each school would have a space on the platform and the users would have a variety of schools to learn from.

Presentation of case studies showing implementation of a Project Based Learning activity

Mr. Niyirinda Theode shared some of the projects done at Gayaza High School emphasizing team work and open classrooms. He singled out a statistics lesson carried out from the farm where the students were required to collect data on the circumference of banana plants. The data would then be taken to class and manipulated in a frequency table and calculate items like mean, mode and median. The different groups would then present their findings which activity enhances confidence and communication skills. He also presented a project on Water crisis done within the Level Up Village, a global organisation where the students linked up with students from other parts of the world. The students learnt about the global water crisis and also visited a nearby water well to see the water crisis within their community.

Mrs. Christine Ddumba shared about her experience as a teacher in charge of debate at Mengo Senior School. She had taken on this role as a new teacher and kept learning from her students going forward. Her journey had taken her upto the world debate championships in Germany and later on in the Almao Debate Championships in Johannesburg invited by the friends they made while in Germany. She was later to work with other teachers in Uganda in organising an African Debate Championship (ADC) that was supported by the Minister of Education. They marketed the event on social media and held a successful event in Uganda with the support of many local partners like banks and now look beyond to have the second event in South Africa. It was proposed that such debates can be held online and across the wider global region.

Mrs.Tracy Julie Lubega presented a project code named “Garbage to Gold”. She indicated that the project was done by an S.2 English language class that has a curriculum passage on environment which they usually read in class and discuss about the challenges of garbage. This time round she divided the class into groups to discuss what useful product they could get from the rubbish that is thrown about. The groups were required to write down the step by step process of picking up the bottles and designing new items such as; a pencil case, collection bucket and  shoe rack. This was a clear case of using a project when delivering the required curriculum area that allows the students to go beyond the usual rote learning that goes on in our classes.

Mr. Joel Bato presented the Gayaza Techno Centre (GTC) studios that presents school news at assembly. The students go through the planning stage and go on to shoot the videos showing particular news. He mentioned that he is a facilitator in the process and the girls go through the pre-production, production and post production stages taking charge of each learning by themselves. The students are divided into groups and some do the research using the internet and the teacher monitors their work online not to waste time in unwanted news.

Recommendation 4: The participants agreed that it was a worthwhile struggle to get the youth skilled in using the available ICTs so that they grow up as not only users but also creators. It was agreed that there was need to encourage the Headteachers to provide the right ICT infrastructure in schools and to train their teachers in making use of the technologies to improve the teaching and learning processes. It was also noted that the best students can be used to carry out advocacy presentations to teachers as this would then be an effective approach leading to acceptability.

The Global Teacher Prize:

Ronald Ddungu introduced the participants to the Global Teacher Prize which is a one million dollars competition that has been staked by Mr. Sunny Varkey of the Varkey foundation. Ronald played a video showing Sunny pledging to recognise the best teacher in the world with the award and later on encouraged the participants to write about their stories at www.globalteacherprize.org . He noted that he had been among the 50 finalists of this award in 2015 and another Ugandan teacher, Catherine Nakabugo was also in the top 50 finalists in 2018. So, this was an encouragement to the next teacher since two people in Uganda were ready to mentor anyone ready for the challenge.

Recommendation 5: Mr. Ddungu requested the participants who had worked on projects to apply for the award and encouraged those who were to start to keep their information well documented. He promised to follow up everyone and make sure that they tell their stories to the world and become part of the global movement of the innovative and creative teachers.

Presentation by a representative from Uganda Communications Commission(UCC)

Mr. James Beronda from Rural Communications Development Fund(RCDF) at UCC that is charged with equipping schools with ICT infrastructure was invited to speak to the teachers. He thanked Mr. Ddungu Ronald for keeping the fire burning as far as mentorship of teachers in using ICTs is concerned. He mentioned that RCDF is a rural communications development fund that works with the unserved and underserved who are mainly in the rural areas but also within the city. He did mention that many schools received computers in the first phase of provision but the managers of schools did not look after the equipment well and always came back to RCDF for maintenance. He urged schools to always personalize this ICT equipment donated by partners. He mentioned that in the next phase of approach, RCDF will provide high speed internet to schools of 5mbps that are ready to support the development of their communities. He also mentioned that content creation in schools is the next step and the sharing of teaching and learning materials across schools to support equalization of schools is a big buy in for UCC. He did mention that RCDF is currently creating ICT clubs in schools to help with building the advocacy needed and the support systems in schools. He emphasized that there was a need to bring the urban schools in contact with the rural schools such that classes are brought together online to share the learning environment. He mentioned that his vision was to have a seminar conducted across schools over a good connectivity provided by UCC. However, the selection of the schools would depend on the ability of the management of the school to build a budget for the sustainability of this service going forward. He advised that if RCDF provided 100% connectivity in the first year, then 75% and 50% in the third year just to allow for that buildup of budgets. He indicated that he would be very happy to see teachers creating content from their schools and sharing together as a team and promised that there was a budget of Sh.1.2 billion to see this happen. He wished that the schools sitting at the workshop would agree to collaborate and make this possible. Later on, in the discussion Mr. Beronda promised to offer Makerere College School internet connectivity of 5mbps to enable their both campuses to talk to each other without having the teachers and students moving from one campus to the other.

Presentation by the C.E.O of Research and Education Network for Uganda – RENU.

Mr. Isaac Kasana, the Chief Executive Officer-RENU thanked the teachers for the work they do and mentioned that his father was also a teacher. RENU was founded by tertiary institutions in 2006 and came to proper work in 2014. Today the concern of RENU is about research and education that covers schools too. One of their greatest achievement realised by RENU is provision of very low cost internet. He mentioned that their support for schools is to bring students to the university who are already well grounded in ICT skills for this would then guarantee quick achievement while at the university. He commended the vision extended within the workshop of using Project based learning and technology enhanced classrooms which can be shared with rural schools taking advantage of the available internet solution provided by RENU. He emphasized that when two institutions are connected by the RENU platform then the sharing across these institutions would be possible upto 1GB free of service. He also noted that RENU supports collaboration and training to make this possible to its members.

Mr.Mulumba Mathias, a member of the National Curriculum Development Center(NCDC) who was in attendance also emphasized the use of technology for the development of our education system. He was later to promote the sale of a laptop that comes with all the curriculum notes and reading materials for all classes.

Lastly, Mr. Ddungu introduced the participants to the International Education and Resource Network of teachers-iEARN network (www.iearn.org ). He did mention that this network would help the teachers in Uganda to learn more about PBL but also interact and learn together with other teachers across the world. He invited the teachers who had attended the 2018 iEARN conference to share their experiences and learning derived from the conference.

Mrs. Sylvia Kwarikunda presented on behalf of the other members and informed the participants that the conference was held from 8th -13th July in Winchester, Virginia USA. The Ugandan delegates included 4 teachers from Gayaza High School with 13 students, 4 teachers from Mengo Senior School with 2 students and 1 teacher from St. Mary’s College Kisubi. The conference brought together teachers and students from across the world to share and show case their class-based projects. The conference participants were eager to collaborate with international partners such that we all learn with the world and not only about the world.

After wards, Mr. Niyirinda theode presented the opportunity of joining the learning circles provided by iEARN-USA as a professional development strategy such that we get the Ugandan teachers trained in using projects within our classes with certification( https://iearn.org/collaboration).

Recommendation 6: It was resolved that further training of teachers in using projects and technology in the teaching and learning process be planned for taking advantage of the iEARN network.

In her closing remarks, the Deputy Headmistress of Makerere College School, Mrs. Robinah Kizito thanked the organisers for choosing her school though at a late hour and requested to be forgiven for anything that did not go down well.

The workshop was closed with a word of prayer and later on the participants were invited to lunch. We thank Makerere College School administration for the gesture of willingness to host teacher professional development workshops and hope to keep the collaboration open.