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Ewan McIntosh

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Inspiring Learners with Technology... and no Electricity (VIDEO)

Posted: 11/04/2010 6:33 pm

Moliehi Sekese wakes up in the morning, packs up her laptop, fully charged from her home socket, and heads off to teach her students at Mamoeketsi Government Primary School, Lesotho. From the minute class begins that morning, students crowd around her PC, exploring math, science, and language through the glowing rectangle for as long as the charge lasts.

And then, when it's done, it's done. Moliehi is a global award-winning teacher, harnessing technology in incredibly inventive ways, and doing all of this with no electricity.

Battery life is a perennial laptops-in-schools issue -- administrators have to balance the higher cost of longer-life devices to give the students enough power to get through the day with the practical classroom management issues of what happens when batteries start to die: cables everywhere, children having to work at the edges of the classroom where the sockets are, health and safety concerns for the 21st century trip hazards that now adorn every high tech high school.

Moliehi Sekese wouldn't mind these problems. Yet she has become a globally recognised teacher for her use of technology in the classroom despite the fact that, until last month, Moliehi's battery life issue was critical.

With no electricity at her school at all, battery life isn't, for her, a mere inconvenience. It is the difference between further entrenching "the way it's always been done" and engaging children in the skills and global view that they can aspire to, given the tools to discover it.

In nine years of observing teachers' technology use in the classroom, and seeing what little impact thousands of dollars of technology can have, Moliehe's classroom is a lesson to us all on how to get the most out of what we have.

For example, students became perplexed when local fauna they used to see as younger children stopped appearing each season, yet appeared more and more in the local museums and even the natural history museum in the main town. Students now take their parents' mobile phones to track their own research into endangered plant life in their community, sending their teacher reports, sightings and updates right up to midnight. She receives this 'homework' as human aggregator, and then the students discuss what they will do about it the following days.

They have sold sweets and oranges to raise money. What for? A school trip to the Internet cafe 15 miles away. They have used Moliehe's laptop -- fully charged -- and a borrowed scanner to grab images of the hand drawn illustrations of the plants they were studying, making campaign flyers on a desktop publishing application. For once, the locals paid attention where they hadn't before. Why? They had never seen flyers with ink so bright.

Moliehe is passionate about learning, and technology has engaged her students and the rest of the community in the projects students have undertaken. But it's her attitude to what she and her students don't have that presents a lesson many Western educators, complaining about technology provision or technology policy being a barrier to getting things done:


"It was a joyful experience to experience the unexpected. When the mind is prepared, the moment we are given the opportunity to integrate technology into the classroom. It's not about having 100 computers in the class. We have limited resources and we can do a lot.

"It's all about passion, love of what we are doing and also, we need to share whatever we have.

"Stop blaming the challenges. Use a stumbling block as a stepping stone to success."


Watch the video above to hear Moliehi Sekese on the challenges she faces, and despite them her inspiring attitude to creating magical learning opportunities for her students.

 

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