Today was the first day of a week-long workshop at Makupula High School and the plan for today was to teach Adobe Spark tools to the teachers at the school. Adobe Spark tools are free to use, and they enable users to create posts, webpages, and videos fairly easily.
Makupula has 55-65 students in a class, and teachers teach 6-7 classes. Like teachers everywhere, they are overworked and underpaid. The teachers were enrolled in the workshop to sharpen their skills and to learn tools that they might use to teach. Additionally, they could assign homework to their students that required using Spark tools in lieu of turning in papers or reports. We had tested the Wifi speed yesterday and it was sometimes workable and at other times unusable. I was pretty nervous about today’s planned live demos and pre-recorded demos to display in case we were not able to access the cloud-based tools.
At 2:30, when the workshop started in the computer room, it was packed and hot, and the noise from the conversations was deafening. The teachers were all talking among themselves, switching between English and Xhosa, a language with clicking sounds. One difference between the US schools I know and this one is that the level of noise is off the charts here. When I visited classrooms yesterday, the teachers had to shout in order to be heard. I am a soft-spoken person, but my voice rose to the occasion!
In addition to talking through slides and demos, we helped the teachers create accounts on Adobe which was a necessary step before using the Spark tools. I did not envision that one of the challenges for the teachers would be to create a password that needed to be eight characters long, include a number and a special character. After we got over that hurdle, the teachers got into the groove and started creating posts, pages, and videos. The teachers had varying degrees of comfort with computers. Some of the younger teachers were quick learners whereas for the more mature learners, it was a challenge.
After the teachers got over the initial learning curve on how to use the Spark tools, I saw that they were having a lot of fun creating posts, web pages, and videos. It was truly a team effort on the part of Team4Tech as we were all running around the classroom helping the teachers understand the features of the tools and to help them get “unstuck.”
By the end of the session, the teachers were not only engaged, but were also being creative with Adobe Spark tools and having fun.
As I wrap up, I am reminded of Nelson Mandela’s famous quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
That’s what this volunteer trip to South Africa is all about, changing the world through education.