I have been working a bit recently with colleagues in Finland, Nigeria, and Nepal on developing a more robust teacher training curriculum for delivery in low resource environments primarily through mobile. There is activity in this space so this isn't a novel idea, but I'd rather be focused on impact over originality. At least that is what I tell myself. I wrote a bit about it a few years ago.
Either way, this seemed like a good opportunity to highlight a project that is doing some work in this area before a brief discussion on how we might consider going forward with the idea. So my colleagues and I essentially were considering two models, a supplemental and a primary model of teacher training. The supplemental, largely the one in play right now in these projects, is one where mobile takes a supporting role in the curriculum directly or indirectly. Directly as a means of engaging with content or reflective practice (blogs as diaries, discussion, sharing of resources, evaluation and all the normal bits of developing communities of practice). Indirectly as a means of supporting identity development (as a practicing, creative, community-based professional), resilience (to maintain professional and community development), community facilitation (teacher as community leader, problem solver, facilitator) and creativity (drawing in learning from other fields or walks of life, performance, oratory, etc.)
The primary is a more difficult task and largely unresolved in our minds but this involves extending a teacher training curriculum via the conduit of a regional accrediting body (say a local university) into largely unserved or underserved areas. Community based schools run by community based teachers defining and addressing largely community based needs. So mobile (and non-digital materials) becomes a means of facilitating that. Lots of issues, of course (the human capital alone needed to manage this is significant), and an elusive goal, but this is about reaching those who have largely remained unserved. It is bound to be difficult. We will run a few trials in a few locations and report in, of course.
Mobile mentoring at Teachers College, Columbia University
“Mobile Mentoring is the third phase of the Teachers for Teachers initiative, through which teachers who have been through one of the training and coaching tracks have the opportunity for sustained and longer-term support from external, professional resources. Through Whatsapp teachers (mentees) are paired with a Global Mentor -- volunteers from around the world with significant classroom teaching experience who provide ongoing, real time support on teaching challenges that arise on a regular basis. Through support from Safaricom and Vodafone Foundations, Teachers for Teachers has been able to provide all mentees with phones, airtime, and data, which allow them to participate in the mentoring program.”
So this occurs after the training and coaching phases and is largely designed to support skills emerging from them. Modest numbers (20 Global Mentors have been recruited and 130 teachers have received mobile mentoring) owing to what was presumably a focus exclusively on Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, but a relatively sound structure. Good partnerships with telecoms to cover costs, airtime, data, and kit; use of an already established medium (Whatsapp), and a rigorous grounding in professional development. I think many of these initiatives are less than inspiring largely because they water down or take the teeth out of the core curriculum, this idea of teacher as a collection of expertise, professionalism, community leader, creator, and performer. This initiative doesn’t go that route.
So ways forward...
include some scaling of something similar to the mobile mentoring aspect of the Teachers for Teachers initiative and to do some variation of peer mentoring. So a global mentor teacher to domestic teacher (G1:D1), a domestic teacher to teacher (D1:D1), and then a domestic peer group linked to another peer group in another country (even back to the global mentor). I wouldn’t want the mentoring to only input but rather throughput. The experiences of the domestic teacher needs to port out as it will (or should) inform the practices of the global mentor or the associated peer group in another country. We can configure this is coherent ways towards resilience and peer support.
I am an academic so can’t help myself pointing people towards sources but do take a look at the Teachers College initiative, as well as some other resources that might structure the conversation a bit. I didn’t zero in on the refugee education aspects of this directly as I think it is broader than that, but that is certainly a potential application of this type of work.
- Vodafone report on Connected Education
- UNHCR: Refugee Education in Crisis
- UNESCO: Supporting teachers with mobile technology: Lessons drawn from UNESCO projects in Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Senegal