A teacher learns to teach with tech
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.