Lessons learned from an open multimedia professional development programme to support interactive teaching using mobile technology in sub-Saharan Africa

Ms Sara Hennessy and Mr Bjoern Hassler | Presentation

Centre for Commonwealth Education and Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge



Through our research in Zambia, we developed a practical Professional Development (PD) programme for school-based teacher education, supporting teachers to embed interactive methods of teaching and learning into classroom practice through the exploitation of mobile technologies. It moves beyond technology- and skills-focused initiatives by highlighting the crucial role of teacher support in promoting innovation and experimentation with teaching styles. Our overall goal is to focus on learning, meeting the challenge of moving away from superficial repetition of facts towards deeper learning and understanding. We aim to develop teachers’ capabilities to use tablets, netbooks, e-book readers, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Source software effectively to support students’ learning in mathematics and science through active participation, dialogue and collaborative enquiry. Our participatory approach especially values the ‘voices’ of everybody involved. The research is based on principles of effective pedagogy in teacher education and classroom teaching in sub-Saharan Africa.

We developed a complete professional learning programme for low-resourced primary schools and colleges (combined with teaching practice) in Zambia, freely available as an OER. The resource consists of 25 two-hour sessions, organised in five units, covering interactive teaching principles, group work, questioning, dialogue, Assessment for Learning, and enquiry-based learning. Each session is clearly structured and includes unique, professionally filmed video exemplars of interactive practices in Zambian and South African classrooms, accompanying texts co-authored with teachers, and facilitator notes. It builds on an established, sustained teacher-led process for sharing and trialling new practices and digital resources; peer observation; discussion and joint reflection.

We reported a one-year trial with Grades 4-6 in 2012. Research questions included: What forms of stimulus and support are most effective in developing more interactive pedagogy? What changes took place? What were supporting and constraining factors? Methods included audio diaries, lesson and workshop observations, video recording, teacher interviews, and thematic analysis across the dataset. In this presentation, we illustrate our resources, outline research findings, and discuss implications for PD and policy.

Our research has elicited a set of guiding principles for PD in this and similar contexts, relevant for school teachers and leaders, teacher educators and policymakers. These include giving teachers opportunities to reflect upon, discuss and plan their lessons, pinpointing areas for development, heading teacher support, creating a safe, respectful environment for trialling new strategies and sourcing digital resources and taking a participatory approach towards technology integration. Outcomes included raised expectations of what children can achieve, evidence of more interactive practices using mobile technologies and increased participation by all learners.

We are currently collaborating with Unisa and OER Africa on Advanced Diplomas in Education, producing open materials suitable for interactive distance education. A two-year whole school trial is currently taking place in which a number of peer facilitators are leading their colleagues (Grades 1-9) through regular teacher group meetings using the resource. Both of these are points of potential future engagement. We invite the audience to share their own experiences and engage in dialogue about how the lessons learned can be implemented more widely, with a view to future joint work.



Sara Hennessy is a Senior Lecturer in Teacher Development and Pedagogical Innovation in the Faculty of Education at University of Cambridge, and a member of the Centre for Commonwealth Education at Cambridge. She has over 25 years of experience in research in using digital technology to support subject teaching and learning, mainly in maths and science. Some of her current work is focused on improving the quality of learning and teaching in sub-Saharan African schools and teacher education. The OER4Schools project introduces OER into Zambian primary schools through school-based professional development. She collaborated with Bjoern on the Appropriate New Technologies to Support Interctive Teaching (ANTSIT) and Open Resource Bank for Interactive Teaching (ORBIT) projects. Other recent interests include the potential of the interactive whiteboard to support classroom learning through dialogue. Sara is currently leading a project team collaborating with colleagues in Mexico to analyse systematically classroom dialogue in settings with and without technology use.

Bjoern Hassler is hoping to widen access to higher quality education, both for teachers as well as in the classroom, utilising OER, digital technology and interactive pedagogy. He recently led the ORBIT project, which produced an Open Resource Bank on Interactive Teaching for teacher education, focusing on ICT use in maths and science. Together with Sara, Bjoern is working on the OER4Schools project and led the earlier DfID-funded ANTSIT project (on learning with mobile technologies in maths and science). More widely, Bjoern’s interests include applications of technology to tertiary education and lifelong learning. He is also interested in ICT4D and the so-called digital divide.





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