Bridging the Digital Divide

The COVID-19 pandemic has left us with much to do in all spheres of life. Following school closures in Tanzania, like most parts of the world a couple of months ago, the Teacher Training (TT) Program under TFFT was challenged to quickly diversify and maneuver with a plan to deliver training to teachers of selected schools as previously planned.

The initial stages of the first training posed an abstract puzzle that seemed quite complex to crack. Credit goes to the Teacher Training team that tirelessly worked together to make the virtual training dream a reality.

Manyata Primary school teachers were the first group to take part in the virtual training. It was a small group of nine participants who came together at Leganga Teacher Resource Centre. The teachers joined by phone and were able to attend a three-hour virtual training on ‘Learning Objectives’. The training was delivered through Zoom, one that our participants had not used before so we shared a few video demonstrations before the training so they had assistance on how to easily navigate the app.  

Connectivity issues were the biggest challenge faced during the training but by the end of the first 30 minutes, all participants were set in better connectivity positions and the training went smoothly. Since it was a small group, there were intervals of verbal discussion among participants, as the facilitators keenly observed, listened and encouraged further discussion.  This prompted even deeper involvement of trainees and gave them an opportunity to get prompt feedback from the facilitators.

Participants were left with extra assignments to do with a deadline for submission via a WhatsApp group that was created as a forum to keep communication going even after the training. 

Having been the  first virtual training for all of us, it posed a lot of opportunities that we see as avenues to help us soar higher into online professional development for teachers in rural areas.

The second training came a week later, a larger group of 35 teachers from Elerai Primary school. As a plus, we were able to include a Ward Education Coordinator (WEC) in the training. This was done in order to keep government education practitioners aware and involved in our activities. 

Days prior to the training, a WhatsApp group was created by the TT team for all participants. This was a smart move that made it easier for the TT team to communicate with participants and conduct a series of demonstrations on how to navigate Zoom with ease. Different features of the App were tried by the teachers and by the end of the third demo, we were on the same page.

The training was a three day “Student Centered Learning Approach” workshop. Despite the fact that the group was big, the Teacher Training team was prepared to involve all trainees in each of the sessions. 

Participants were clustered in groups of four based on specific criteria. Pre-test and post-test surveys, evaluation forms and all learning materials were available to the teachers beforehand, allowing them to acquaint themselves with the course content ahead of time.

Connectivity was less of a problem thanks be to the prior demos that gave the trainees an opportunity to test and choose their spots. 

To the TT team’s amazement, teachers showed a high level of commitment through an outstanding level of participation in their groups. They used the chat feature on Zoom to respond to and ask questions when necessary. 

Trainees were given group homework tasks at the end of each training day. This had to be presented by a member of the group’s choice at the start of the following training day. The TT team observed and gave feedback after each of the nine groups’ presentations, giving room for peer correction, as well as comments and responses from their colleagues through the chat feature. Teachers were able to manipulate all features of the app when need arose, including the mute microphone when called upon to do so. It made the participants proud of themselves for being relevant in this digital era, which is turning out to be the new normal.

At the end of the third training day participants gave overall feedback on the training through evaluation forms and post-test surveys. These have helped us create a deeper understanding on what work we need to do for even stronger outputs. 

We, the TFFT Teacher Training Program team, are happy with the significant growth these virtual trainings have led to. It is an achievement that leaves us and our trainees lots of tales to tell, posing great opportunities for the program to continue in future.