I am extremely fortunate in that my classroom is extremely well resourced. I have an interactive white-board, 35 computers, students who almost all have smart phones and WiFi all over campus. If I need iPads I can book out a set of 30, and there are notebooks and so on that students can book out at any time. Not all teachers have this at their disposal, but in answer to those who say, ah well, you can integrate ICTs in your classroom because you have them – I can’t because I have no resources – I have a simple reply. Poppycock!
It sounds harsh, and o so easy for me to say, but I’ve been a teacher for quite a while, and I’ve worked in some schools which had precious few resources, if any. Phambili, the first school I taught in was situated in a squatter camp at Cato Crest Manor in Durban, South Africa. The school had a photocopy machine, and, er … that was about it. Teachers were often not paid as we relied on foreign donors, and foreign donors are quite prepared to fund science labs, but do not like to pay salaries – a policy I find totally short-sighted. A good science teacher does not need a science lab, they can teach using common household chemicals and realia. There was certainly no money for ICTs. This was in the early 1990s, and computers were starting to become ubiquitous.
The school finances got so bad that even the photocopy was suspended. One of the teachers showed us how to make a home-made jellypad to make duplications! I used my own computer to create spreadsheets for class records and even digitise the library stock. Not being very good with jellypads, I printed out my worksheets. I couldn’t afford many copies, so I devised a system of rotating the worksheets so that students worked on different work and all the sheets got recycled. From this I quickly hit on the idea of getting the students to present the material they received to the other members of the class, so each one, or each group would get different input.
Unfortunately students also started doing the same, and games, pornography and even a snuff movie found its way onto the network, hidden in covert files. It took constant vigilance to make sure that the dark web didn’t get too dark!
It’s not really about what you have – it’s about what you do with what you have. I know that’s easy for me to say, especially now when I teach at a well-resourced school, but we need to make sure that as teachers we never make excuses for ourselves. There’s always something you can do if you take the attitude that where there’s a will, there’s a way. A very powerful technique is to involve students themselves in narrowing the gap between what you’d like to see, and what you have. Just doing one thing may make all the difference.