Implications of a Workshop to Develop a Rationale for Computers in Trinidad and Tobago Home Economic Classrooms

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article describes a workshop conducted to assist Trinidad and Tobago home economics teachers in developing a rationale to obtain computers in their classrooms. Mini-lectures, a demonstration, and discussions among teachers focused on varied computer issues relevant to a rational-for example, access to knowledge, global communication, and needfor critical thinking. Participants indicated that discussions about computer issues facilitated rationale development, but they desired more extensive bands-on computer training. As computers become more accessible throughout developing countries, family and consumer sciences educators worldwide can play a significant role in teaching skills and critical understanding for personal and family autonomy and global community.

A twinning program, between the Florida Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (FAFCS) and the Trinidad and Tobago Home Economics Association (T & THEA), and a linkage program, between the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University and the University of the West Indies, were initiated in March of 1998. The purposes of twinning are "to haise, to get to know each other, to form links and hopefully, but not necessarily, to work together on a specific project" (Malone, 1990, p. 87).

The author was invited to conduct a oneday workshop in Trinidad to assist teachers in conceptualizing a rationale for classroom computers as a project designed to develop relationships and address an issue of mutual interest. It is not surprising that computers are a current focus for T & THEA members and home economics teachers. Although most local families do not yet own personal computers, the government and workforce recognize that technology has profound implications for Caribbean nations (London, 1997; World Bank, 1993). "Advocacy of computer ... literacy is now quite commonplace" (Miller, 1992, p. 8).

Based on the assumption that teachers in developing countries can play a significant role in helping students and families interpret meanings and critique consequences regarding computer technologies (McTeer, 1995; Murray, 1990; Pain& Fleming, 1998), the article first provides background information about Trinidad and Tobago and the educational system. Next, the workshop context and approach are described. in conclusion, short-term outcomes of the workshop are described and long-term implications are suggested.

A NATION OF DIVERSITY, CREATIVITY, AND EDUCATIONAL COMMITMENT

officially called the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the country is comprised of two Caribbean islands and is populated with about 1,200,000 people of African (40%), Indian (40%), mixed (14%), Chinese (M), and other 0%) descent. As a nation "committed to preserving the cultural inheritances within the context of the pluralistic, democratic nation" (London, 1991, p. 252), it reflects a sophisticated nature and offers a vibrant diversity of folk customs, cultural arts, and religious traditions (Central intelligence Agency, 1998). The islands are renowned for calypso, limbo, and steelband music. The world-famous Carnival enables individuals, schools, and groups to display talents in music, literature, costume, food, and other arts. And a national "Best Village" program has resulted in active community centers, education to preserve folk traditions, and contests and festivals to celebrate the creativity of diverse citizens (London, 1991).

Families stress education to meet new global challenges, build national strength and unity, and help children find a social niche (London, 1991; London, 1997). The national educational mission is to promote equity, excellence, and opportunity (Ministry of Education, 1994). Students enroll in formal education through junior secondary level or 15 years of age. Depending on their achievement scores on national examinations, many students continue academic training through senior secondary until age 18 or begin vocational training in tertiary schools (World Bank, 1993). …