Field Experience Guiding Question

How do students use technology to connect to their local communities, region, and the larger world?

I chose this guiding question for several reasons. First, I believe this is a question that is relevant to every educator, school, and student. In what way does technology connect us and foster interaction and understanding and in what way does it contribute to isolation and serve to keep us from meaningful relationships. I was curious to see if students and communities in Senegal use technology in a similar way to students and communities in the United States.

Second, technology is what allowed my connections to Senegal and the students prior to my field experience there. I had been in contact with Mr. Moustapha Fall via email and WhatsApp, having conversations and trading pictures and videos. I had also used skype to connect our classrooms and students. My students enjoyed a 45-minute video conference with his English Club. We had also connected our students using Flipgrid, which was a huge success. I had seen in part how the Senegalese used technology to connect to students in another location, but what role did that same technology play in their daily lives, at school and home?

Finally, I chose this guiding question because I am truly interested in the integration of technology into the education space and enjoy using technology to make my teaching and learning and better. I was curious to see if Senegalese teachers share this passion and if technology featured prominently in their daily teaching life.

What I discovered is that my host teacher, and others at his school, recognize the value in technology and see the opportunities it can create for their students but the resources just are not there to rely on it consistently. Since there is no Wi-Fi at the school, Mr. Fall has to use his own data for any activity that requires an internet connection and the few desktop computers in the school library are basically unusable.  Some students have smart phones they can use, but teachers cannot count on that for lessons. Also, the situation really varies from place to place in Senegal. Some schools have more access to technology while others lack electricity.

I did notice that culturally, technology plays a similar role in some areas of life. Mr. Fall’s daughter picked up my phone and immediately began scrolling through pictures and videos. I also noticed that she was playing the same game (Temple Run) on her dad’s phone that my kids play on mine. While walking around the village I saw that mothers were letting their children watch movies on devices and blue tooth headphones on teenagers was common site.

When our cohort gathered together as a group back in Dakar, we spent a morning unpacking and discussion everyone’s guiding questions. Here are some of the comments from the group related to technology.

  • Very little is done inside the classroom because there is little access to technology
  • Language learning uses technology when possible, including blue tooth speakers, listening activities, and videos.
  • Epals is a great way to connect students around the world
  • There is great disparity from school to school
  • My host teacher is doing everything he can to use technology but the infrastructure in Senegal just isn’t there.
  • Many students on social media such as Instagram, twitter, Facebook and most have a whatsapp account.
  • Professional development and workshops are needed for teachers.
  • Stronger more reliable internet would be a game changer.