Innovation and opportunity

Owura Kwadwo

One of the biggest challenges the pandemic has presented school systems across the world with is to do with social-economical differences between kids. As teachers, we are all aware of the fact that children don’t all come from the same context. Different families have access to different resources. These differences become even more evident when we are dealing with technology. It’s hard to keep up with the latest technological devices as it is with an average salary, it becomes impossible to try to do so on a low income.

Innovation in education is often associated with these technological devices, which are in turn rather expensive. This leads to the assumption that privileged students who can afford to go to a better technologically equipped school will enjoy more innovative teaching methods and practices. Except perhaps we got it all wrong.

Innovation and technology may well go hand in hand in many aspects of life, but they aren’t necessarily the same thing. A teaching practice is innovative insofar as it breaks new ground, very similarly to what innovation does in technology. Whether that new ground is a touch
screen, or the Printing Press will depend on where the “old” ground was situated. Being aware of your environment and the starting point for your teaching is a fundamental characteristic of any innovative teacher, as is the ability to adapt to that environment and be able to do more with less.

A great example of this is Ghanaian ICT teacher Owura Kwadwo. Rather inspiringly, Owura used to instruct his pupils on the use of Microsoft Word propped with just a blackboard and some chalk before his school could provide students with PCs. Their progress with
computers can be traced on his Facebook account with the hashtag #NoMoreICTontheChalkboard. Although some could argue that kids without the means to own a computer will hardly have the need to use one, it is a sensible notion that those same kids will have more chances of getting a job in which they use PCs if they know how to use them.

Owura clearly envisages his practice as an opportunity for underprivileged students to climb the ladder. Having that vision and the creativity to prepare your students for the tools they’ll work with in their future rather than in their present speaks of the quality of an innovative teacher. He is the perfect example that one needn’t use technology in order to be innovative. The author of this article cannot claim to know Owura’s motivation for what he does other than to get the most out of his students, but is reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s motto that “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”

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