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Project-Based Learning and Telecollaboration enhances teachers’ confidence in Bangladesh

© British Council Dhaka

08.07.2011

Bangladesh is one of the least developed countries. The number of computers per 100 inhabitants is 2.3 in 2008 and the number of Internet users per 100 inhabitants is only 0.35 in 2009 (compared to 23.9 of the world average in 2009), according to World Bank.

When it comes to training teachers on how to integrate ICT in their classroom teaching, a question pops up: how could the workshop be meaningful and useful when teachers don’t even have access to computers in their schools?

UNESCO Bangkok organized its 8th capacity building workshop on designing and implementing ICT-supported project-based learning in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 17-19 June 2011. The workshop is part of a larger project, “Facilitating ICT-Pedagogy Integration”, funded by Korea Funds-in-Trust. The previous seven workshops were held in China, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

This time, the workshop was co-organized with British Council that has established Connecting Classrooms, an online platform for teachers and students to share resources and experiences and seek collaborative opportunities for project-based learning (PBL). Twenty-seven teachers from nine different areas in Bangladesh participated in the three-day workshop.

PBL is one of the student-centered learning approaches stemming from constructivist pedagogy. In PBL, students are seen as active agents, responsible for formulating their own questions, identifying appropriate methodologies and creating collectively constructed knowledge through collaboration. Teachers’ role in this PBL mode is facilitating student activities rather than knowledge transmitters often seen in the traditional classroom teaching. PBL has been widely used mainly in developed countries as an effective instructional approach to help students develop the 21st century skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.

“We need to first enlighten teachers on the importance of student-centered learning. It is definitely the starting point before even getting them turn on the computers,” said Jonghwi Park, Programme Officer in ICT in Education of UNESCO Bangkok.

“ICT is just a means to facilitate and support student-centered activities. One of the most dangerous perspectives on using ICT in classrooms is to try to use ICT for the sake of using ICT. It’s worse than not using it because using ICT without pedagogical purposes only distracts students from learning,” she added.

Ms. Park ran the workshop with her Information Officer colleague, Hartfried Schmid.

Reflecting this perspective on ICT-supported PBL, the teachers spent the entire first day of the Workshop re-thinking their current instructional approaches and exploring the potential of PBL. To allow them to have the first-hands experience in the effectiveness of active and collaborative learning, teachers were asked to team up in groups of six, three each from two different schools.

Starting from Day 2 on, teachers were guided step by step in designing and developing a PBL lesson plan, followed by mini presentation sessions on their progress at the end of every session. They were also asked to upload and share their lesson plan up to then in the Connecting Classroom website and give comments on other groups’ lesson plans. It was only towards the end of the workshop when the teachers were introduced to various ICT tools to integrate into their lesson plan to enhance student learning.

All the participating teachers received CD-ROMs, containing UNESCO ICT resources for teaching and learning, and enjoyed having hands-on practical sessions with these digital resources.

At the end of the three-day workshop, the result of the peer-evaluation on lesson plans were revealed and the first prize went to six teachers from Saturia Pilot Girls High School and Amtoil High School, who developed a project lesson plan on glorious history of language movement and liberation war of Bangladesh.

The workshop evaluation by participants indicated that the workshop was successful: a hundred percent of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that the workshop was useful and that they gained new insights on ICT-pedagogy integration.

“We knew that computers can be used as an internet tool but don’t know where and how to. This workshop helped us to understand this matter!” said a participant teacher in Dhaka.

UNESCO Bangkok and British Council will continue to provide technical supports through the Connecting Classrooms website in order for the participating teachers to successfully implement their PBL lesson plan in their classrooms.

It is still challenging to think of a clear answer to the abovementioned question on how to make the workshop successful in less developed countries like Bangladesh where teachers rarely have access to ICT. One thing clear, however, is that teachers should first come to the common understanding of how active and student-centered pedagogy can benefit their students to function in the world of the 21st century. ICT is an enhancer for this pedagogical transformation.

“This workshop has enhanced my confidence and skills. So I am going to apply it [what I learned from the workshop] to help my students to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” said one participant teacher in Dhaka.