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Digital empowerment for distance education - Teacher story from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Through UNESCO's Global Education Coalition, a multi-sectoral education coalition to protect the right to education during COVID-19, UNESCO, Blackboard and the Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning aim to train 10,000 teachers in the Caribbean in the use of online education tools, resources and interactive platforms to effectively engage students through online learning. 

Dwighton Johnson is a teacher from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Read his story and learn what he misses most about teaching in the traditional classroom since schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also shares how he is helping other teachers in the Caribbean acquire digital skills for teaching online through UNESCO's Distance Learning and Teacher Training Strategies.

Teaching Challenges with COVID-19

"The biggest impact COVID-19 had on teaching for me was leaving the physical classroom and moving to online teaching. It was very difficult at first to get comfortable with the new online platform.

I had to be able to convert my content into a format suitable for the online environment and find effective ways to deliver that content. Over the last 1,5 years, I have made great progress in moving to the online environment, also thanks to the UNESCO Blackboard programme. I now feel more comfortable delivering online courses, although I rather teach in a face-to-face classroom.

I miss the direct interaction in the classroom, where I can see the students' facial expressions and they can see my facial expressions too. In the online environment, there is much less interaction, plus some students shy away from participating.

At first, I was not able to reach 100% of my students because of a lack of devices or lack of access to the internet. Fortunately, the government has provided tablets to the students, so about 95% of the students can connect, but some students still do not participate in class because they lack interest.

I have started to use several games to make lessons more interactive and to get the students interested. For example, this week I tried a Jeopardy game and my students enjoyed it."

 

For the future of education, I see most likely a blended approach. COVID-19 is still here, but we should also be better prepared in the event of another pandemic or other disaster. Students and teachers should be able to quickly switch from face-to-face to online teaching and learning and be familiar with the devices and platforms.

Online Teacher Training

"I wanted to acquire more knowledge to be able to teach my students better online. This is why last year I participated in the UNESCO Distance Learning and Teacher Training Strategies in the Caribbean SIDS

For example, I learned about collaborative strategies such as the "Jigsaw" strategy, which works well with my students. This method has helped me structure group work so that students can work in small groups on a particular concept and then share their knowledge with others.

This year I am also supporting the UNESCO Blackboard training as an Assistant Master Trainer. In this role I am responsible for responding to comments in the discussion area, providing information to the teachers while the Master Trainer leads the session, and also respond to participants' questions individually in the chat. I also help grade some of the assignments and assist the Master Trainer with technical issues. I aim to become a Master Trainer myself in the next course.

I have also recommended the training to teachers and staff at my school so that they can also use this opportunity to enhance their online teaching skills."

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