It seems appropriate to start the new year by reflecting on the year gone by. For me 2015 was a year filled with lessons, some positive, some negative, some expected and some very unexpected. But every lesson was valuable.
Last year this time I set some goals for myself, trying to picture what I wanted to achieve. It was almost impossible because there was still so many unknowns. In the end we spend most of 2015 playing it by ear. Did we meet those targets? No. Am I satisfied with what we achieved? Definitely yes. We are nowhere near the beautiful Butterfly classrooms that I imagined, but we have taken some important steps in our metamorphosis.
Looking back there was a lot of things I underestimated. I did not realise the time it would take to get the infrastructure, filters and firewalls in place. It was only really during the last 5 months that the learners could use their devices to connect to the internet and without internet the metamorphosis of teaching is not really possible.
I also did not realise how much the learners would need help and training. The kids of today might look like they have a device attached permanently to one of their limbs but a lot of them have never created a file, typed a document, set up a folder system or even send an email. And they definitely have no patience to struggle with a device until it is fixed.
I knew the staff would need a lot of training, but what I did not expect was that the biggest need will not be computer training, but getting them to think differently about teaching and learning. I am so proud of how far the staff have come with their computer skills, but in 2016 we will have to focus on pedagogical training and that won’t be easy.
One hurdle that I did expect, but still had trouble to overcame was technical support. Very early on I realised that you cannot more than 200 devices and no on site support. There might not be a problem every minute of every day, but when there is a problem it needs to be solved immediately. You can not send in a request and wait 24 to 48 hours before somebody pops in to solve it. It took 6 months of me being both a teacher and a technician before the hands that hold the purse-strings were convinced that we need to appoint a technician. I have to admit that once the teachinician joined our staff it feels like everything picked up speed.
But I also learned other things, I learned that giving immediate feedback is an amazing tool in a classroom. I realised how often learners sit in class nodding along while they have no idea what I am taliking about. I saw the joys of not having to make photocopies anymore. I also learned that learners hate it when you expect them to do something by themselves, when they are used to you giving them all the answers. In these little ways I saw a glimps of what my Butterfly Classroom will one day look like. And this is what excites me.