Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Our Innovative Learning & Teacher Education Living Lab (IL.TE.LL) gets E.N.O.L.L Accreditation at the 9th Wave

Our living lab is based on a multiple-impact social partnership (MISP) model and is essentially an integration of the Research and Development model described below that has governed our applied research activities in education technology, and a community engagement model when members involved in the Living Lab established a non-governmental organisation through an entity called Helping Our People. It is based on Whitehead’s (2012) education research philosophy for social change through action research and the Living lab paradigm for Teaching and Learning (Conruyt 2013). 

The MISP model fits in the 4P innovation framework where the Public sector is represented by the University, the Private Sector is represented by Microsoft Indian Ocean and French Pacific or other actors in the future, with the People being academics, educators, and Youth volunteers (students). The beneficiaries and the partnerships among these actors are mediated through a collective social movement called Helping Our People. The Research and Development Model (Cycle 1) is based on a practitioner-oriented concept where research and development essentially become the drivers for practice-oriented enquiries to improve teaching and learning systems. It aims at field experimentation to test new practices, which are then formalized into teaching methods that can be cascaded down to educators for classroom application. The educators at the receiving end also become engaged in an action-reflection cycle where the feedback is fed into the system for continuous improvement and refinement of teaching techniques and the application of ICT tools in day-to-day practice. The 4P connection is illustrated in the following paragraph. The rapid e-learning project created a link tunnel between the SIDECAP project, the in-service educators and the Microsoft Partners-in-Learning (PIL) Program (www.pil-network.com) in Mauritius. 

The Microsoft PIL program is managed by the Microsoft Indian Ocean and French Pacific branch, based in Mauritius and the aim is to promote the integration and the use of information and communication technologies in the classroom, with the main focus on the primary and secondary education sectors. The PIL network provides educators with ongoing training and free tools as well as access to a broad range of technologies and lesson plans to improve classroom practices. This is in line with the very essence of the article of Moon (2010) based on the belief that “education and training should be an entitlement for all teachers at all stages in their careers” and that research has demonstrated that when “this entitlement is honored, learners achieve more and schools improve”. The rapid e-learning methodology relies intensively on Microsoft PowerPoint as the prototyping and development workbench. This methodology with the ability of the team to cascade it down to educators to empower them to develop their own learning materials has prompted Microsoft to fund the training of an initial 50 educators on the technique in 2012.

The government, in 2003, launched the ZEP project in a coordinated effort to deal with the learning difficulties faced by children coming from poor localities. Mahadeo and Gurrib (2008) report that within the framework of the ZEP project, children are entitled to: (i) pedagogical innovations with respect to teaching and learning; (ii) improved provision with respect to their diet; (iii) a health programme for all of them; (iv) a teaching support kit; (v) a monitoring system with new indicators; (vi) a databank to keep the policy dialogue active and (vii) involvement of the local community. It is within such a social engagement context that the non-governmental organization Helping Our People was established to act in a broader context in line with the Living Lab philosophy. The concept of Youth Empowerment has been embodied in the functioning of the organization in two ways. The first one is to take undergraduate, full-time, university students and train them through capacity-building projects to assist in and to ultimately lead technical teacher-training workshops, and, to inculcate a culture of social values and voluntary work to contribute to the welfare of society and student surroundings in general.