Tassah Academy, Yaounde, Cameroon
This week we tried an interesting experiment: can an American and a Cameroonian co-teach a class about science, using technology? It may sound intriguing to many of you, especially to those who have visited a classroom abroad before: the teaching styles are quite different. Students in Cameroon learn through a more traditional approach, and teachers use the board more than we do in America. As I worked with multiple middle school science teachers one to one, we managed to plan our lessons together in person, and one time even via Skype chat to create something new and interesting. I taught with a more American approach, using activities and games to discover how much water covers the earth’s surface, and how water travels through the water cycle (using
Project Wet’s curriculum book), and they taught using their own teaching styles, having students draw on the board, or write their ideas on paper. At the end of the lesson we tried out something new for both us, using the tablet along with my iPad, to have the students work in groups to create presentations on what they had learned.
The results were quite interesting. As some groups worked on very nice drawings using the free app “Educreations” another group of older boys were working on a google powerpoint presentation. One day, as I went to help them, clever William asked me where I had gotten my information from, on the data for how much water covers the surface (Project WET actually). I told them to go look for themselves, to see what they could find, and then walked away to see what they would do. After a few searches, they found even more data than before, and were typing in good questions, and getting good results, from reputable sources such as USGS. For the rest of the week they found information from the U.S. government, WHO, Wikipedia, and others, and we made sure to emphasize putting the concepts in their own words and to cite their sources.
It was a big AHA moment for all of us, as they realized that they could find out anything, with good common sense and careful consideration. It was a great moment for me too, when I realized that these students were learning so much more by putting the work in themselves, sometimes correcting ALL of their teachers on the actual percentage of freshwater on the globe. When I sat down with each teacher after their lessons, they had a lot of positive things to say about working with the curriculum and especially with the tablets. Mr. Funwie even taught two of the lessons on his own, using the new curriculum with such ease as if he had been using it for years. All of us were interested in working with tablets, something new for everyone. We don’t have to change how we teach overnight, we just have to be open to having our students learn in a drastically new way. We only hope that we can keep up.