Rural zones in Africa form IFADEM’s main target. The means employed in open-distance training and the use of technologies must therefore be adapted to a particular context where electricity is scarce and expensive, and teachers have often never used a computer.
Accompagnement d'apprentissage par le mobile
Une expérimentation d’utilisation du téléphone portable pour renforcer l’encadrement pédagogique des 500 instituteurs malgaches en formation se déroule dans la province d’Ambositra en 2012-2013.
FOAD et TICE dans IFADEM
Taking into account this particular context, IFADEM chose not to develop a “techno-centred” approach where technological choices determine teaching models and training organisation. The priority is easy, regular access to training materials and tutorials. Therefore IFADEM has elected to diversify the means of spreading teaching materials.
Paper, Internet, Cell phone
If paper remains the surest way to reach teachers in schools, a series of handbooks is available at the open-distance teaching platform (Moodle), including specifically adapted learning activities. There is free access to training content (Creative Commons license). These digital resources may be accessed online and on devices consultable at digital spaces located in teacher training centres. In some countries, school radio stations make it possible to produce specific radio programmes for IFADEM that are a definite advantage for teacher training.
Internet, videoconference and collaborative platforms are used to train instructors and especially to organise work between local developers and francophone academic experts. Videoconference is also a daily management tool used by IFADEM teams in Paris and in the field.
However, IFADEM’s approach to the use of innovative technology has evolved since the early stages in 2008. Initially revolving around collective computers available at teacher training schools (digital spaces), IFADEM extended its offer to individual tools for accessing training materials, such as the “cell phone support system for teacher training”.
The use of cell phones makes it possible for teachers to communicate among themselves and to contact their instructors at very little cost. A specially designed asynchronous platform makes it possible to send multiple-choice questions (MCQ) to test the exercises in the handbooks. Teachers can also ask questions on the platform, orally or by SMS, and receive answers the same way. Curriculum content developers and/or instructors provide answers on a weekly basis. Out of this grows a FAQ forum of the most frequently submitted questions. Cell phones also make it possible to set up electronic payment services, especially to pay teachers’ living expenses during group sessions.
Cell phone service in Africa is one of the most dynamic in the world and even if IFADEM does not actually “train” teachers by telephone, this tool can still strengthen ties between trained teachers, training teachers and instructors by offering additional services: such as pre-recorded training courses accessible by telephone, radio and banking services.
IFADEM creates digital spaces in teaching staff institutions in provinces where it has established training programmes to reinforce initial training of trainee teachers. They are designed to give teachers access to digital teaching materials, facilitate contact and communication between central and provincial administrations, and allow working teachers access to Internet and basic computer skills. Teachers in these centres are also trained in computer maintenance.
The design of IFADEM Digital Spaces is based on a model developed by AUF’s administration for computer resources for its francophone digital campuses (CNF). The latter supervises conception and installs the equipment.
IFADEM Spaces are composed of a multimedia room and a technical core. The computer and network equipment, lighting—and in some instances—air conditioning and utilities are selected according to low-level energy consumption criteria. As a result, laptops equipping IFADEM Spaces consume three times less electricity than a central unit and a flat-screen monitor.
The technical platform is composed of :
- 20 to 30 computers exclusively using open-source software;
- An audiovisual unit: television screen and DVD player;
- Requisite peripheral hardware: printer, photocopier, scanner and overhead projector.
IFADEM spaces also provide reference works—dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and grammar books—as well as specialized educational reviews.
If the centres are not yet connected to Internet, IFADEM makes the necessary investment, usually by installing a VSAT antenna or a wireless local loop, and underwrites the Internet subscription during the whole of the experimental stage. IFADEM uses local companies for installations and maintenance.
Local production of substitute energy provided by solar panels coupled with batteries complements the supply of electricity in IFADEM spaces. Local companies are hired for installation and maintenance.
Spaces are used during the entire IFADEM training programme, especially for imparting computer and Internet skills to teachers, but they are also accessible to :
- Institutions housing IFADEM spaces that allow them the use of equipment for their own activities: computer courses, audiovisual projections, integration of digital resources for teaching purposes, etc.;
- Regional or provincial educational personnel, giving priority to personnel from primary and secondary schools;
- Other users, such as students enrolled in AUF member university open-distance training programmes, educational system managers and civil society.