“My teaching career got rejuvenated some five years ago when I became a coordinator of the NEPAD ICT Project which aimed at promoting the use of technology in the classroom in Sub-Saharan countries and Mauritius,” says Mohun Ojoodha. “Smartboards, INTEL lessons and laptops flooded the classrooms. It became apparent that my teaching would never be the same.”
With 13 years of teaching experience at the time, Ojoodha jumped enthusiastically into the world of teaching with ICT. He piloted the NEPAD ICT project in Mauritius, and was also entrusted with the role of IT coordinator at his school. He then discovered concept maps, or Cmap Tools, and his work changed dramatically. “Concept maps are such powerful instructional tools that they can help to either introduce or summarize a whole chapter,” says Ojoodha. “I use concept maps as an evaluation tool as well, which is yet to be discovered by many teachers.” In 2009, Ojoodha enrolled in the Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Teachers Forum (ITF) competition after encouragement from his wife (also an educator).
With his project “Go For Green” (which, of course, uses concept maps), Ojoodha won the 2009 Partners in Learning Innovative Teacher award, among many other awards to follow.
“One of the most wonderful moments of my life was meeting the creator of the Cmap Tool software during the World ITF forum in Salvador (Brazil),” says Ojoodha. “I was venting the merits of the software before its creator, until he introduced himself. We laughed exaggeratedly. These moments in life are gifted ones and I am humbled by the extraordinary opportunities that the Partners In Learning Forum has given me.”
Today, Ojoodha shares how his teaching has changed with the use of technology (be sure to check out his chemistry classroom in our Classrooms of the World tour), why concept maps are so important to his instruction, and his hopes for the future of education in Mauritius.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
The way I assess students’ learning has changed. I became aware that we needed
a powerful mix of tools and approaches for each student in the class. The onus of understanding lies on the teacher instead of the learner. We need to be aware of how best to motivate our students to participate in our lessons. Technology helps a lot in that.
Alternatively, my colleagues followed suit about the use of concept maps in the classroom. Three years later, the school has been given a Best Innovative School Award through continuous empowerment and progress.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
The Cmap Tool Software is free and can be downloaded from the net. Once you
want to make your main concept map, you can attach cross-curricular concepts to the structure. If it sounds too technical, please have a look at the samples by clicking here. For example, a concept map for teaching fractions (math) and medicinal plants at the same time can be easily created. Once you finish creating the Cmaps, it helps to include a lot of visuals to make it appealing. Hyperlinks to other websites are also desirable.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
The use of technology has simplified my teaching. I can assess my students learning on the spot and take remedial actions. Detailed assessment of multiple choice questions, for example, helped me to reorient my lesson in such a way that it improves performance. Mouse Mischief is great at that. I can group my learners in ability groups and let them surf through the Mouse Mischief lessons. The percentage of success is available instantly. All my lessons are digitized in my pen drive, and the days of hefty paper files are over.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are
receiving a quality education?
Infrastructure. Great lessons demand state-of-the-art resources and availability. Though an overhead projector and laptop are available, it would be desirable to create a software library that would be helpful to newcomers as well. Classroom set-up also need to be reviewed so as to promote group work and collaborative learning.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
The Sankoré Project, aiming at equipping every classroom with an interactive board, the Microsoft Innovative Educators Award and the promotion of living values during activity periods in secondary school.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
The education system is too exams-oriented. The less academic students are the major dropouts of the system with an uncomfortable majority unable to reach the tertiary level.
Though some positive changes have been made, the core defects are still latent. I favor a multi-faceted system with at least two examination tracks (academic and non-academic), with greater emphasis on the 21st century skills, such as real problem solving, entrepreneurship, communication skills, etc. A Mauritian certification with international accreditation is also desirable to formalize the potential of the less bookish candidates. The present elitist system needs to be carefully dismembered into a system that recognizes that each individual is unique and gifted.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
The unfolding of world events like the financial crisis and wars leads us to the conclusion that there is a flaw at the very source of our curriculum – the teaching of values is not
emphasized. Whatever we teach needs to be related to the real world and shaping the kids into decent human beings. Economic and job considerations are secondary. Hence, innovate to make the learners believe in themselves. We should be self-disciplined so that this acts as a catalyst in their learning process.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Remember the Robert Frost proverb: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
The best educational methods are tiresome to implement at the beginning. Once it starts working, teaching becomes easier. Don’t always follow the beaten track. Dare to start something new.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
The use of mobile phones for learning is gaining momentum. I spend about 25
percent of my class time reprimanding my students about their use of mobile phones in class. The question that I’ve asked myself is, “Why not use this medium to drive learning in the classroom?” It is easily accessible, attractive and offers immense possibilities with the gamut of apps and QR codes.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A low-cost tablet computer would be great. Not only would it revolutionize learning capabilities but would also help at discovering technology. This means that the inherent need for technology-driven skills would be accessible to the masses. Despite the tremendous effort at decreasing cost, tablet computers are out of reach to the majority of learners. Let us hope that with nanotech and other inventions, tablet computing becomes affordable. The day that happens, schooling altogether will change.
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About Mohun Ujoodha
Birthplace: Montagne Blanche, Mauritius
Current residence: Quartier Militaire, Mauritius
Education: BSc(Hons) Chemistry, PGCE
Website I check every day: The Dirty Fifty (PIL)-Facebook
Person who inspires me most: Preesheila (my wife and World IEF Winner 2010)
Favorite childhood memory: Playing with my first wooden train (Christmas)
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Mount Abu (India)
When was the last time you laughed? Why? Searching for my glasses whilst wearing them!
Favorite book: 1001 Ways to Relax by Mike George
Favorite music: Gipsy Kings
Your favorite quote or motto: Do not wish to be anything but what you are.