Tag Archives: e-education

Creating e-Learning for English Second-Language Learners

This article has been contributed by FUEL, a member of ADESSA.

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At FUEL, we specialise in creating engaging e-Learning lessons for English second-language learners. Most of our learners speak English as their second language. This means that we have to be especially sensitive to their ability to understand the language. This includes every element of the e-Learning experience, from the writing of the narrative all the way through to the user interface design. In this article, we are going to share some of our most valued guidelines for creating awesome e-Learning lessons for our English second-language learners

Use the simplest language possible

Language use not only includes the words you use but also how you structure your sentences. We follow a basic rule: if you can think of a shorter word or sentence than what is being used – use it. If there is a simpler way of saying something, then say it that way.

If we’re using more technical terminology or jargon in your lesson, we use a specific example to illustrate exactly what you mean. Sometimes, we use a glossary section where we define these terms and explain what they are used for.

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Make navigation easy

There is nothing more frustrating than not knowing where to tap or click or how to continue with a lesson. For this reason, the navigation and user interface need to be as simple as it is instructive. Don’t leave anything up to chance. If there is the slightest chance of confusion, fix it.

Here, we think about what we want the learner to do at every step of the journey. When describing an action, we use a verb that the learner will relate to. For example, if we need our learners to select something to enter an answer, we make the wording for the relevant field something along the lines of: ‘Enter answer’. On top of this, we give the button a distinct colour that just screams action, like green or red.

Don’t introduce any elements that are distracting – ever. Here, we believe that our only goal is to help our learner understand something. If there is anything that distracts the learner’s attention from what matters – remove it.

Don’t only tell the learner – show them

We don’t expect our learners to rely on textual or verbal explanations only. We believe that the best way to explain how to do something is to show it. That’s why we love using video, and lots of simple images and easy-to-understand animations, for our learners.

Video can bridge gaps in language and ensure that if the learner doesn’t understand the wording, they can fall back onto the visuals. It’s simple, if you’re discussing an object, show it. If you’re trying to explain a difficult process, use flow charts and infographics to represent it visually.

These are just some of the guidelines that we use every day to ensure that any lessons we create are well positioned to ensure our learners keep learning. The bottom line is that for any e-Learning solution to be successful, it has to be based on knowing our learners. That’s why we strongly believe that every lesson begins with the question: ‘Who is my learner?’

Does the cascade model work for technology training for teachers?

When we think of a cascade in nature we have a vision of big quantities of water rushing down a river.  In education this image has become a metaphor for a particular training model: one teacher from a school (or a district) is trained; the newly trained one trains a few more; each one of them trains a few more, until all have received the training.

The cascade training model is an attempt to fast-track training of great numbers of teachers.  Cost saving is one of the perceived benefits of this approach – only one teacher needs to attend an expensive training course.  The knowledge gained on the course can then be passed on progressively to all in the organization.

When you introduce technology into your school and have the need to train all teachers in its use, this may be a tempting strategy.  In theory the cascade training model seems to be cost and time effective.  But does it work?

In a cascade in nature the force of gravity ensures that the all the water reaches the bottom.  The force of gravity – a pull from below – is not operative when you try to empower all your teachers with technology skills.

You probably would select the most qualified person in terms of passion and affinity to technology, as well as training ability, to be at the top of the cascade.  If the members of the first group who receive training are less qualified, the effectiveness of the training they offer to subsequent groups will be diluted.  They can only pass on what they themselves value, remember and understand.

In many cases the envisaged cascade is reduced to a mere trickle of knowledge when it reaches the last teachers.

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Minimal knowledge may reach the teachers at the bottom

The cascade model may be useful for creating initial technology awareness among all staff members.  When more intensive training is required, you can’t depend on this model.  Teachers are at different levels of technical competency; a one-size-fits-all training approach will not yield desired results.

If you want technology training of your teachers to be effective, don’t just put a ‘model’ in place, hoping it will work.  Ensure that each teacher receives all the training, coaching and support they need to make them skilled users of technology teaching tools.

UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES DOES TECHNOLOGY AS A TEACHING TOOL NOT LEAD TO SUCCESS?

Technology does not always lead to success in education– it does not automatically lead to improved teaching and learning.

The introduction of technology in the business world only yields results when it supports the objectives of the organization. A good organization structure must be present. Throwing a lot of technology at a problem will not make it disappear if the establishment itself is dysfunctional.

The same principle is true in a school environment. Attractive as the use of technology may appear when face-to-face teaching is disrupted, it is unlikely to add much value under the following circumstances:

Poor leadership: Where the principal, management team and governing body do not give clear direction in general educational matters, it is doubtful that they will do so when it comes to the use of technology as a teaching and learning tool. If sound leadership is lacking, this matter must be addressed before you even think of introducing technology.

Dysfunctional schools: Sadly, some schools fall into this category. Some schools struggled to persuade learners and their teacher to be in the same classroom at the same time during the pre-pandemic period. One could hardly expect technology to make a difference in such schools now.

Unwilling teachers: Where teachers resisted the use of technology in the classroom in the past, one can hardly expect results now. Hesitancy to use technology now may be a result of a lack of exposure to technology in the past.

Technical support: Nothing is as disheartening to teachers (and to learners) as when the technology fails when they try to use it. Planning to use technology as a teaching and a learning tool must include some form of maintenance and support.

Training is not available: If no training is available, technology may end up missing the purpose of using it. Along with the technology, adequate training for teachers must be provided. A lack of training is perhaps the biggest reason why technology fails as a teaching and learning tool.

There is ample evidence that technology can lead to improved teaching and learning – success depends on the environment in which you try to embed it.

2017 ADESSA AGM

The 2017 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of ADESSA was once again a successful event.  Despite protest action, many delegates braved the crowds and met at the premises of  Edit Microsystems  on Friday, 7 April 2017 to reflect on the past year; others linked in remotely from Johannesburg and Durban.  The attendees were thrilled to learn that ADESSA membership nearly doubled since the beginning of 2016 and that the outlook for continued growth is good.

The highligh of the meeting was the address by Mr Henry Kavuma of the DBE who spoke about the progress of e-education in South Africa.   Emphasizing the important roll of ADESSA, he said: “The e-education industry, rather than individual companies, must be speaking with one voice to the DBE.”  And that is exactly the mission of ADESSA.

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