A teacher learns to teach with tech

Sunday Times - - CAREERS - How has tech­nol­ogy helped you to change ca­reer? What mo­ti­vated you to make a change?

I spent most of my ca­reer teach­ing in sec­ondary schools in Zim­babwe, where I was born, and then in South Africa, in KwaZulu-Natal. Much of that time was spent in Dur­ban schools, teach­ing ge­og­ra­phy and, ul­ti­mately, com­puter lit­er­acy.

To­day, I am the se­nior e-learn­ing con­sul­tant at Eif­fel Corp. I think the “se­nior” refers to the fact that I am older than any­one else in the com­pany. I have the most ex­pe­ri­ence at the “coal­face” in ed­u­ca­tion, and I had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in e-learn­ing when I worked over­seas.

I do prod­uct train­ing for Black­board LMS soft­ware, Tur­nitin pla­gia­rism soft­ware and a cou­ple of other, smaller pack­ages.

I de­sign and de­liver work­shops within the am­bit of in­struc­tional de­sign, con­tent build­ing, spe­cific tool us­age, and new and ad­vanced Black­board user work­shops.

My first com­puter was an Ap­ple 2E, which was DOS-based. I used this to type up my les­son ma­te­rial, and, in do­ing so found my­self look­ing at tech­nol­ogy more closely. Ge­og­ra­phy is a most won­der­ful me­dia-rich sub­ject, and I looked for ways to use the me­dia more ef­fec­tively. With the emer­gence of the Win­dows-based soft­ware for PCs in the 1980s, my school (Carmel Col­lege) in­vested in teacher com­put­ers for all class­rooms. This changed my life! In­stead of hav­ing to get a video pro­jec­tor set up or book to use the TV or even set up a slide pro­jec­tor, I could, with a lit­tle in­ge­nu­ity from my side, use the com­puter to do all these things with so much more ease and clar­ity. Tech­nol­ogy did not so much change my ca­reer as en­rich my teach­ing and, more im­por­tantly, open my mind­set to new pos­si­bil­i­ties.

These op­por­tu­ni­ties in­cluded learn­ing to de­sign and au­thor on­line ac­tiv­i­ties, eval­u­ate and use com­mer­cial soft­ware pack­ages for teach­ing and learn­ing, use net­work soft­ware for mon­i­tor­ing and as­sist­ing stu­dents in class­rooms and, among other things, use free Web 2.0 tools to en­gage stu­dents in cre­ative learner-cen­tred ac­tiv­i­ties.

All of the close en­coun­ters with tech­nol­ogy en­riched my ex­pe­ri­ence, al­low­ing me to move out of class­room-based teach­ing into pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment and con­sult­ing en­vi­ron­ments.

There was no one im­pe­tus for change so much as a change in cir­cum­stances and op­por­tu­ni­ties. In 2000, I joined my hus­band in the United Arab Emi­rates and lived in Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi. The only work op­por­tu­ni­ties I had were at the Bri­tish Coun­cil teach­ing English and at the higher col­leges of tech­nol­ogy.

I com­pleted the Celta, or cer­tifi­cate to teach the English lan­guage to adults, and taught English at the Bri­tish Coun­cil for a cou­ple of years.

To teach at the univer­sity, I had to have a master’s de­gree, so I en­rolled at South­ern Queens­land Univer­sity (Aus­tralia) to do an on­line master’s in ed­u­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy. The on­line en­vi­ron­ment was won­drous. I loved it and was in­spired to have more on­line el­e­ments in my teach­ing.

When I re­turned to South Africa, I looked for op­por­tu­ni­ties to do con­sult­ing work and even­tu­ally linked up with Eif­fel Corp.

Find some­thing that I loved do­ing — aside from teach­ing, which I al­ready loved. I found and NEW SKILLS: Jenny Bergh says tech­nol­ogy en­riched her teach­ing and opened her mind­set to new pos­si­bil­i­ties pur­pose­fully pur­sued dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy;

Get more skilled and qual­i­fied — I went to as many con­fer­ences and work­shops as I could. Tech­nol­ogy is rapidly evolv­ing, and you have to stay cur­rent. I prac­tised and ex­per­i­mented with soft­ware and I stud­ied fur­ther;

Get ex­pe­ri­ence. I had to find a po­si­tion where I could prac­tise and learn us­ing tech­nol­ogy;

Take a leap of faith. I did not want to go back into school teach­ing when I re­turned to South Africa, so I de­cided to take my chances in the pri­vate sec­tor. If a sit­u­a­tion for good change arises, don’t hes­i­tate — just take it; and

Be­lieve that I knew and could do much more than I thought. I tended to think I couldn’t do some­thing be­cause I hadn’t done it be­fore. We are ca­pa­ble of enor­mously more than we re­alise.

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