English Language Fellow Riah Werner led a full-day seminar for the Cote d’Ivoire ELT Exchange on December 15, 2017 at the National Pedagogical Institute for Technical and Professional Training. The seminar was attended by fifty English teachers and school inspectors. During the morning session, “Overcoming Challenges Together,” participants learned the foundations of successful group work, which they put into practice as they brainstormed solutions to common challenges faced by Ivorian teachers and presented their ideas to their peers. The focus on collaboration and hands-on activities continued in the afternoon, with participants creating digital stories during a session on “Increasing Opportunities for English Learning with Accessible Technologies.” The step-by-step process used to create these short videos—shot on participants’ cellphones—provided a model for how to integrate digital technology into low-resource classrooms effectively.
The theme of the event was the challenges for education in Cote d’Ivoire, and the day-long session did not shy away from the realities that local teachers deal with everyday. The five challenges addressed in the first session were lack of teaching materials, lower-level classes, lack of motivation, integrating the four skills, and increasing student talking time. By sharing their own solutions, teachers developed a sense of agency, focusing on the aspects of challenges that are under their control. By using their own cellphones to create short videos in groups, teachers experienced a technology-based lesson they could use with their students firsthand. Participants commented that they learned a lot from the interactive, group activities, and that they were excited to use the new techniques in their classes. “I really appreciated the involvement of teachers in all activities,” commented one participating teacher. “I also appreciated the fact that we went through solutions to address the challenges we are facing in our teaching.”