By Mark Kaahwa
Old technologies such as radio and TVs can be very instrumental learning strategies if supplemented with other teaching methods during and beyond this lockdown.
However, there is need to note that even if the education ministry has for this time proposed the use of radio in teaching, we need to acknowledge that, at Ugandan academic institutions, the strategy is relatively new in the teaching-learning process and thus may be received with a lot of skepticism by not only parents and learners but even the academia.
This is because it is pedagogically unsound to rely on one instructional strategy because of the pitfalls associated with a single medium of instruction.
Radio lectures should be supplemented with audio content, a combination we refer to audio media technology. This technology, if well planned and executed, can be as effective as face-to-face teaching and learning strategies.
What is this audio media technology?
A combination of radio teaching and recorded lessons is what I refer to as audio media. Though the ministry has proposed the use of radio during this lockdown, I propose that in addition to these lessons and the materials in text form there is a need to record, edit and forward audio content to the learners.
How important is audio media technology?
During this lockdown and especially among the rural and resource-poor student populations, an audio media instructional strategy is considered to be the best approach because of the following rea-sons.
•In Uganda, there are multiple FM radio sta-tions, with more than 300 licensed radio sta-tions spread across regions and reaching vari-ous rural communities. This is a huge re-source if it can be tapped for educational pur-poses. Radio has a longer and richer history of facilitating the delivery of education to a large number of learners in geographically dispersed settings.
•Radio is a popular medium as compared to other online strategies because the teaching-learning process can never be interrupted by power cuts, internet connectivity, and inadequate computer laboratories. A learner just needs a radio set and batteries and will be ready to learn.
•Radio broadcasts and recorded lectures are relatively easy and cheap to produce and distribute. Production facilities are widely availa-ble. Even in the poorest rural areas. Radio sets and other MP3 players are readily available.
•Audio media technology is inexpensive as it uses simple technologies such as a recorder, smartphone. Its ease of production and use, coupled with the qualities of repeatability and reproducibility makes it a convenient medium.
• Audio media in the form of recorded lessons promotes self-regulated learning. Students can learn anytime and from anywhere.
How can learners effectively benefit from radio lessons?
Learning using radio demands a lot of self-discipline as there are no physical teachers to enforce discipline as it is usually done in normal class-based teaching. Nevertheless, if learners and parents pay attention to the following hints, radio teaching can be pedagogically beneficial:
•Parents and learners should make sure they obtain ahead of time broadcast schedules or timetables as designed by their respective education departments in different districts.
•There should be a quiet and conducive room to work as a classroom and if possible, with a table and wooden chairs. Any convenient room can be temporarily converted into a classroom.
• Learners should be in the classroom at least five minutes before the beginning of the radio lesson. This will help check the radio signals, arrange the classroom, and put in place any other requirement before the beginning of the lesson.
•Let learners have exercise books, pens, pencils, or any other necessary instructional materials and be ready to take notes during radio teaching.
•For parents with smartphones or any other recording appliance can record the lessons so that learners can be able to revise using the audio content at their convenience. This can help them grasp missed or not well-understood content.
•Parents/guardians or any other responsible person should act as co-teachers to assist in organising a conducive learning environment, maintain discipline during radio lessons, and offering any other possible academic and non-academic help to the learners.
•Ensure that there is a phone with airtime that learners can use to either call or send a message asking for clarification or sharing any relevant information with the teacher (s) in the studios.
•If possible, you can have a white/blackboard to assist learners to make summaries, write for them hard concepts, and also make any other necessary clarifications.
•For purposes of revision, it would be better for learners in upper classes to attend lessons for lower classes.
•After the radio lesson, allow the learner(s) between 20 to 30 minutes to have a simple reflection on the taught content. During this time, if a family has more than one learner, then they can discuss and help each other to check if they have understood and captured the content appropriately.
•Regular attendance is encouraged. It is the role of parents to make sure that their children attend all the scheduled lessons without fail. As most topics build on one another, learners may not be able to follow and understand certain topics if they miss some lessons.
How can teachers effectively deliver lessons on radio?
•Teaching needs thorough preparation but it is more for the radio, remember you are not only teaching your students but a multitude of the audience. So have enough preparation to avoid shame.
•Ensure you have a script that should be invisible. When delivered, it shouldn’t sound like a script, otherwise your lessons won’t sound spontaneous and friendly to your learners. It should appear as if you are talking normally and not reading from anywhere.
•Start by introducing yourself and making a short salutation; who you are, and give a brief review of what was previously covered.
•Introduce the topic and highlight your expectations from your learners. (State objectives of the lesson).
•Prepare shorter lessons of not more than 45 minutes. Lengthy radio lectures bore students and are difficult to follow.
• Make a connection. Audio lessons are a chance to create a bond with your learners as they listen. Invite them into your world by using inclusive language such as ‘we’ and ‘our.’ For example, you could say in this lesson, we are going to learn, we are going to practice…etc.
•Make radio lessons interactive by allowing direct calls or messages from learners. This can help you get instant feedback and be able to respond to their concerns and questions.
•As you speak imagine, you are in class delivering the lesson. Learners have to get it the first time around. A sentence should be as brief as possible.
•Speak in a style that sounds as relaxed as possible. Use phrases and words you normally use.
•Include a variety of tasks to be performed as learners listen e.g. tell them to pose and list, define, observe, do tasks and assignments, etc.
• Include several examples, cases, and illustrations so as to make the content being delivered as clear as possible. You could ask learners and parents to bring some models and realia in the next lesson.
•Avoid acronyms e.g AIDS, ASAP, etc. and jargons e.g your objection is overruled (legal jargon) unless you are certain your students will either understand them or you will take time to explain them.
•In the wrap-up, you should thank the learners for joining the lesson, and if possible, provide an idea of what they can expect to learn in the next lesson.
•Give out contact information for feedback. May be an email address or your phone contact.
Based on my Ph.D. research and research from other scholars I have no doubt that radio when used in conjunction with other instructional strategies, can be very effective in the teaching-learning process during this COVID 19 lockdown. And thus, I appeal to you dear parents, learners, and academia to embrace radio teaching as a pedagogically beneficial teaching strategy.
Dr. Mark Kaahwa (PhD) is a lecturer at Mountains of the Moon University, Fort-portal