Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Pre-Service Teacher Training in Malawi: Findings of a Pilot Study on the Viability of Media Players for Teacher Development

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Pre-Service Teacher Training in Malawi: Findings of a Pilot Study on the Viability of Media Players for Teacher Development

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

As part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID funded Malawi Teacher Professional Development Support project, a sub-task was the piloting of an alternative technology that could be used for improving the quality and consistency of teacher continued professional development (CPD). The pilot, which included 26 open and distance learning (ODL) student teachers, was launched in the spring of 2011 using a low-cost portable MP3 multi-purpose device. A short course on numeracy, containing 5 weekly lessons, was piloted. Each lesson consisted of one or two readings, two videos, and an assignment that directed the learner to complete tasks and document their completion using the camera and audio recorder features of the media player. The viability of using the media player for CPD was evaluated on the ease of use, effectiveness of instruction, and potential for long-term scalability. The evaluation results demonstrated that, with a small amount if initial training, the devices were easy to use and they effectively deliver instruction. Scalability, however, is critical to the long-term success of an initiative based on these or similar devices. An analysis suggests that an affordable option worth considering is the systematic, shared use of media player devices within schools. This approach could dramatically reduce the cost of using this alternative technology for ODL training to pennies per lesson.

Keywords: ICT, Africa, international development education, media players, pre-service teacher education; remote delivery of training

INTRODUCTION

The Malawi Teacher Professional Development Support (MTPDS) project, funded by USAID, is a 3-year project that provides support to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) in a wide range of areas from policy to teacher education. Under Result 2: Enhanced Teacher Performance, along with continuing CPD for in-service teachers, MTPDS is tasked with the implementation of alternative technology pilots for the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) initiative. The ODL program places untrained student teachers in remote schools and delivers teacher training directly to these locations rather than having the students participate as part of traditional campus-based cohorts at teacher training colleges. The current implementation of the ODL program uses paper-based training materials created by the Department of Teacher Education and Development (DTED), a division of MoEST.

Seward Incorporated International, one of the MTPDS implementation partners, was responsible for converting content created for in-service CPD activities. These materials needed to be modified for delivery to the ODL students using an alternative technology. Seward worked with MoEST's ODL Planning Committee to conceive of and conduct an alternative technology pilot in Year 2 of the MTPDS project. The work plan, under the guidance of the DTED Coordinator and the ODL Coordinator, was reviewed and approved. The DTED Coordinator, with support from MTPDS, invited all responsible directorates in the MoEST to a meeting where Directors of MoEST reviewed and adjusted the plans in accordance with requirements of the Government of Malawi.

MoEST requested that the pilot study be conducted. They argued the potential benefits of an alternative technology for ODL would be:

* More cost-effective delivery of training

* More efficiency in delivery of training

* More consistency in delivery of the content across the population of ODL students

* More effective training because it:

o Uses multiple modes of conveying information to ODL students

o Can be accessed as often as needed by ODL students

o Can be taken into real classrooms by ODL students as they work with learners

o Models the behaviors the ODL students should be acquiring

* More useful to ODL students by allowing them to document their application of what they learned using audio, pictures, and video

The goal of the pilot was to determine the viability of the alternative technology being tested, that is, would the technology function in harsh rural conditions, could its operation be sustained in areas with poor electrical infrastructure, could the devices be used by technology novices, and would the ODL student teachers learn from the materials being presented. …

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