Teach them to create not just consume
Sheer passion, curiosity and desire to constantly seek creative ways to improve teaching put Linda Bradfield among the first group of teachers who embraced technology as a dynamic teaching tool. Bradfield started her professional teaching in 1976 and was exposed to computers by a headmaster at of one of the schools she taught at, who tasked her to run a computer laboratory. She lacked experience at the time but took up the challenge with no hesitation. Thanks to this experience, today she is an ICT co-ordinator at St Mary’s School in Waverley, east of Johannesburg, which she joined in 2012.
The computer laboratory that Bradfield took charge of had 20 or so old computers. She became an expert on computers and even wrote a few textbooks for beginners. Although the books were never published, they helped usher many teachers into the world of computers. “The idea was to simply help them so that they can get started. So I was really driven by enthusiasm and sheer interest,” says Bradfield.
As an ICT co-ordinator, Bradfield’s role is to assist teachers in all grades to innovatively integrate technology into teaching and learning. This involves ensuring the staff get developed professionally at least once a week, are briefed about latest trends and developments on how best to use technology for effective teaching, and inviting professional and IT experts to offer advice and motivate staff. “I am happy that teachers here have fully adopted technology and the way they use it to manage classrooms efficiently,” says Bradfield. “Teachers and learners can interact meaningfully and instantaneously through emails and other platforms.”
Why technology should be part of teaching
Bradfield supports the notion that technology should not replace teachers but must be used to enhance classroom activities. In other words, teachers and learners do not have to get bogged down by the technicalities of a laptop or computer.
She says she uses technology to develop learners’ critical thinking, academic skills and problem-solving capabilities. For instance, through creative use of technology she is able to teach, among others, key mathematical concepts such as directional algorithms in a way that is enjoyable and fun to learners.
Bradfield is currently involved in a global digital storytelling project for grade three learners where they use applications such as iTunes, Wikispaces and Google Earth. These not only aid learners’ understanding but also expose them to a range of technological tools that they can use beyond school. One of the projects involves grade nine learners who have teamed up with their Japanese counterparts to explore the subject of geography.
She also facilitates lessons for grades six, seven and eight. Each grade has its own iPads and the focus is on what she calls four ‘Es’: enriching, exciting, engaging and effective. She said their objective is to transform learners from being mere consumers into being creators of information through the use of, among others, tools such as podcasting, moviemaking and presentation skills. As part of the storytelling initiative they have organised learner visits to various churches so the children can interview and “critically engage” with senior members about the church’s history.
Bradfield’s proficiency in classroom technology earned her accolades from Microsoft’s highly regarded Innovative Teachers’ Forum. This is where teachers demonstrate how their innovative use of technology positively impacts on learners’ classroom performance. In 2010 Bradfield scooped the national award and went on to win a pan-African award in Kenya. The following year she went to Washington DC to learn more about how to enhance the use of technology in the classroom.