Tuesday, 8 October 2013

L’UoM pointée du doigt par le MRC


I recently posted on the promotion system of the UoM that turns academics into paper production machines rather than into real researchers that re-search for the pursuit and the generation of new knowledge. 

Without knowing the real matter in depth though, let us try to think how a proposal ready to be funded by the MRC and supported by at least one eminent researcher in the name of Prof Gurib-Fakim gets turned down by the FRC of the Faculty due to the 'weakness' of the proposal. 

Let us look first at the title of the proposal. It is in the area of marine sciences and aqua culture. The reason might be that some people find that this is not really the field of Prof Gurib Fakim, or rather they might see that this is ''impeding'' on their research territory. 

Yes, this is a another fact that is bringing down research at the UoM - the new research field turf war. Again this is intrinsically linked to the main reason why people should do research at the University - that is to be promoted! Everything is looked at with a suspicious eye. Unfortunately that is the sad reality of ..........the Mauritian Society itself.

Research or a research culture cannot be imposed on people or academics. They need to have it as a passion for the area they are evolving in and research should be something that the person does for the benefit of society at large. Doing research is a form of ............ social work!! Yes it is. Whatever advancement research brings to the society either in form of new knowledge, products and services, businesses etc should be seen as a form of social work as the only outcome that we can hope for is for a better society and a better life for the citizens of the country. 

If we manage to see this and inculcate this culture into every ''researcher'' then we might at least get the first step right....En attendant, this case is not the first nor will be the last.....

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Tablets in the Secondary Schools of Mauritius: Innovative Pedagogy or a Hype?

We have recently been hearing of the tablet project where every student in the form IV Secondary schools would be given a tablet pc. A Tablet PC? Sounds good. To Form IV Students? Sounds even too good for them…..

But, what will they do with this tablet? What will be its purpose? What is the real pedagogical value that a tablet will bring to them? These are the main questions that would concern any educator out there.

A good project it is yes. But is it the right one and is it being given to the right audience? I am not so sure.

Why is it a good project? Giving a tablet to each student (at least to one class of students that is Form IV) means giving a digital device to each of them. This is a major leap towards bridging the digital divide. Agree, Internet is not readily available in the schools, and many would not have it at home, but the students can use the tablets in public WIFI enabled areas as these are growing in Mauritius thanks to PPP partnerships.

What will they do with it? Certainly not for learning especially at this age. This is the time where most of them will try to impress those of the opposite sex, will be facing the adolescent crisis time and some would be too focused on passing exams which still need the old-fashioned techniques to guarantee success. Certainly not the tablet will change this.

Educating the students to use the tablet ‘a bon escience’ is the key… Has this been catered for? No…Not really.

Many teachers do not even know the tablet. Did you hear about ‘soz so garcon ek so tablet?? The famous ad by Orange that truly reflects that a big part of the Mauritian population is still digitally illiterate in the true sense of the word….Do teachers know what should be done with the tablets?

The next big question – will the tablet have access to Internet connectivity at school? Both possibilities are potentially to the detriment of teaching and learning. Internet connectivity for students would mean ‘facebooking’, ‘chatting’, ‘Youtubing’ and ‘Twittering’. Not to mention WIFI or Bluetooth gaming. Who said that? This is not a problem – we have the mechanism in place to block all those sites…. Really? Then what would the student use the tablet for? Pile je gagne Face tu perds…..Not really we will have offline resources and the students would use those resources. During the class? How will this be done as educators in secondary schools would be explaining on the black, I mean white board and the students would be looking at the tablets?

No no, this will not be like this in fact. In the free time, the tablet would be meant as providing complementary learning to the student as he can revise using the OFFLINE resources. Who said the students would not be online? I am telling you there would not be Internet.

Oh yes. Did you know that if you have an Orange SIM Card – you could just send a text to 8684 saying Internet Day and you purchase 30MB of Internet for one day? Did you know that simple smartphones could be turned into a WIFI hotspot and provide Internet connection to any WIFI or Bluetooth enabled device? Do you remember the episode of Prisoners on Facebook?

Ok lets forget of all these, let us come to the content issue. We have the solution to the long term. We have a team that will work on developing resources for the tablets. In a few years the problems will be solved, as the students would have enough resources on their tablets. Really? The tablets by that time would be outdated. By the way which tablets are we giving? Android? Windows 8 or IOS based ones? Hmmm because some resources, some formats might not really work on all. Do we really need to develop our own contents for Form IV when in reality we follow a foreign curriculum where online resources are not lacking at all? No but you know our greatest strength has always been invention. I am talking of existing things of course.

Tablets at Form IV? In reality we are not yet prepared, we do not know why it should be like this and we are not sure what we want to do. Everyone knows this.

Its not too late. Give it to the pre-primary school kids and the lower primary in the first instance. It will just transform our whole education system in the next decade. You can be sure of that!