Over the last two months, teachers have had to fully embrace the concept of online teaching as Barbados’ schools remain closed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as they do so, they are learning more ways in which they can enhance their own skills in e-learning, which will eventually benefit their students.
A group of teachers drawn from secondary schools across Barbados recently completed an online course in Coding and Robotics put on by the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College. They shared their thoughts on what they learned on Monday during an online meeting facilitated by the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training.
Teachers learned the fundamentals of the Scratch coding programme, which they used to create games and other interactive teaching tools.
Lamar Gaskin, a teacher at the Ellerslie Secondary School, said, “We created a programme called ‘Dreams Matter’ where we created an animated figure who had to grab stars representing dreams and avoid comets which represented things that could take their dreams away from them. We thought it could be used to motivate students to think of the careers they wanted to pursue, because we find not many students these days talk about what they want to be when they grow up.”
For Wayne Porte, Science teacher at the Alexandra School, it was a good learning experience. He said, “It taught me that coding is not just for IT teachers, but for anybody based on the skills it teaches, because it encourages creative thinking, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration, and we found everyone was willing to help one another. The programme is very user friendly; if you make a mistake, it is very easy to correct it and it is also easy to add new elements to any game you create.”
Dawn Ifill of Combermere School liked the structure of the course which lent itself to a lot of collaboration. “No one felt the need to hold anything close to their chest. We were all willing to share ideas with each other and help resolve any problems our colleagues encountered,” she said.
Kirtis Luke, also of Combermere School, said they came up with a programme called “Wildlife Pearlie”, which took the form of an interactive game teaching children more about the wildlife in Barbados.
Kevin St. Hill of the Springer Memorial Secondary School said when he came into the programme he was looking for more robotics, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. St. Hill, who is also a music teacher, incorporated music into the programme which is a mathematics quiz. “This can help in many different subject areas and it can either come under our technical education programme or we can do an after school programme to get students interested in it,” he added.
Meesha Roland at the Alleyne School said at first she thought the programme would be about building robots. “I knew nothing about it at first but I welcomed it when I found out what it was all about. The programme was very easy to use and highly addictive; I am a proud scratcher now and I have been challenging myself, building lots of different games with it.” She commended the two facilitators, Ramona Archer-Bradshaw and Catherine Gibson, for the way in which they encouraged the participants during the course.
Ryan Kellman of Graydon Sealy Secondary said, “We did a programme aimed at getting children to understand the components that make up different metals, because we found that they were having difficulty in this area.” His colleague, Latoya Worrell, added, “Ideally, this game will be used to reinforce what we would have taught in class as well as expose the students to further knowledge.”
Instructors at the Edna Nicholls Centre, Shelly Squires and Shelly Ann Phillips, said they used the programme to put together an anger management programme. Phillips said, “Students only come to us for two weeks so we try to make classes as interactive as possible, and given the nature of our institution, we focus mostly on building interpersonal skills to help them cope with some of the challenges they are facing.”
Meanwhile, Ronald Blades of Queens College said his school will be introducing Coding and Robotics to its third form students when the new academic year commences in September this year, and 70 children have already expressed an interest in taking the subject. (DH)