Kingston, 19 August - UNESCO, together with the Jamaican Ministry of Education, Youth and Information the University of the West Indies Open Campus launched today the Online and Blended Professional Development Initiative in Jamaica, a workshop designed to enable teachers to make competent use of blended learning and online strategies in distance and online education in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
The 4-day online workshop from 19 – 24 August trains teachers with distance and blended teaching and learning skills in the new learning situation created by the novel corona virus COVID-19. The aim of this initiative is to equip a cohort of 40 teachers and master teachers in Jamaica with the skills, up-to-date tools and resources to apply innovative teaching methods or adaptive pedagogies, to strengthen teachers' ability to respond to the current crisis, and to strengthen the resilience of Jamaica's education system to future shocks.
In Jamaica, it is estimated that a total of 31 656 teachers are affected by COVID-19, of which 9 384 are in pre-school, 7233 in primary, 11798 in secondary and 3241 in tertiary education.
An estimated 627 000 learners have been impacted by the school closures due to the pandemic, with the hardest hit being students at the secondary level, followed by those at the primary level.
For many students, distance learning was a challenge during the crisis, especially for those living in remote areas. These include little or no connectivity, lack of access to online educational assessment equipment and the unwillingness of teachers to move from traditional classroom teaching to online environments.
COVID-19 offers opportunities to reimagine education, accelerate changes in teaching and learning, and strengthen the resilience of Jamaican education system to respond to the immediate challenges of safely reopening schools, and positions them to better cope with future crises. Supporting the teaching profession and enhancing readiness of teachers in online and blended teaching, is a key entry point to address the learning crisis and minimize losses to learning, especially amongst vulnerable learners and youth.
The four-day workshop teaches methods to 40 teachers and master trainers to support learners online with different learning styles and needs, as an online classroom presents different challenges than a traditional classroom where teachers can supervise lessons and monitor student attention.
The topics covered in the workshop will focus on online educational methods, including the use of educational videos and interactive platforms, as well as the use of web conferencing tools such as zooming, online creation of assignments and quizzes, the selection of high quality online educational resources, and also a workshop day on online delivery pedagogy to engage students through online learning. The workshop also includes a component of critical thinking in online space leading to digital literacy. This is particularly important when dealing with information for educational purposes, in order to validate the source and check the credibility of the information. With special attention to gender-specific learning, teachers will be qualified to involve girls and boys fully and equally.