In our #ict4red projects and implementations Whatsapp has been of immense value and I would even go as far as to say that it has been a game changer. Most of our teachers are already on Whatsapp and if they are not, it rel is relatively easy to get them on-board. It was therefore a no-brainer that it is an ideal communication platform to use!
Facilitators use it to keep everybody in the loop on what is up as far as course work is concerned, deal with questions and keep everybody motivated to complete badges. Participants use it ask questions and share experiences. From a research point of view, Whatsapp provided a way to gather honest data about participants experiences within the course. See paper: Using Social Media as a Managerial Platform for an Educational Development Project: Cofimvaba (http://www.ijiet.org/papers/636-I005.pdf)
But, what if things go wrong??
This is the picture that are often presented as a motivation for not using public chat platforms for teaching and learning. My view has always been that the good must outweigh the bad from a learning point of view and I have therefore decided to use a personal experience to learn from. So this blog post will grow from the comments that will be posted below....
Some context first. This was a private conversation between me and a another person who I presumed to be one of my teachers. As I take mentoring very seriously I got "sucked into" the private discussion, which did not end well. It actually ended with me blocking the person. I felt bullied and horrified at how easily I got distracted and decided to use it as part of our online safety exhibit in our Gallery Walk Strategy. So what can we learn from this?
Before you read the conversation, I would like to you to consider the following questions as you read it. I apologise for some of the language, but have decided that in order to understand the context of cyber bullying (I felt bullied), we need to be faced with what really happens out there and worse. How can we mitigate issues as they happen and not only support our learners, but keep ourselves safe while maintaining a positive professional digital identity.
Last night we, yet again, came to the finale of another #ict4red training intervention in the heart of the Karoo in Carnarvon. The teachers of Carnarvon Hoërskool really did excel themselves with high quality tablet integrated lessons which were produced to earn their tablets and show what they have learned about using mobile devices in the classroom. But it was so much more than that!!
As always we had a lot of fun during this implementation. This was also the very first time that the course was conducted in Afrikaans. This in itself was a challenge as quite a few of the mobile terminology terms just do not quite exist in Afrikaans and we had a lot of fun with "innovative" translations. The teachers in the process took ownership of the course and we had a 98% pass rate with 75% of the teachers completing the challenge badges as well! Really worth a joyous celebration!
This happy occasion was supported by the Department of Education, representatives from the Department of Science and Technology, representatives from the SKA (Square Kilometer Array) project, and the training team from the Maraka Institute (CSIR), who were responsible for project management, workshop facilitation and assessment. Delegates from the primary school attended as well and expressed the hope that they will also have the opportunity to partake in this fun teacher professional development initiative.
Five of the teachers were chosen to present the strategies that they enjoyed most while implementing the course material in their classrooms. They all agreed that it was a lot of fun and did not feel like training at all. They shared that the tablets were very motivating to the learners and contributed to better discipline in the classrooms. Some of them admitted that they were terrified in the beginning as they suffered from "techno-phobia", but are now convinced of the value of using technology in their classrooms. They are now comfortable with their tablets and made use of the occasion to campaign for more tablets and mobi-kits for their learners.