No Teacher is an Island – Mary-Joyce Arekion, Mauritius
When it comes to learning about the world beyond our schools and communities, not all classrooms are created equal. For Mary-Joyce Arekion and the people of Mauritius, the isolation of living on an island creates its own unique challenges. But by weaving technology into her teaching, Arekion is bringing the unfamiliar to her students in living color.
“We were studying the play “Journey’s End” written by R.C. Sheriff, which shows the harsh reality of soldiers and officers at the end of World War I,” says Arekion. “The students had difficulty picturing world war, as we live on an island far from wars. So I challenged my students with a WebQuest, whereby they were to act as reporters and gather information about wars on our planet and write articles about them to create awareness.”
It was then that Arekion’s students stepped in and took hold of their own learning. “I was taken aback when a team of students came up with the idea of creating a blog about child soldiers,” she says. “They were really proud and happy to receive letters of encouragement from Green Peace, and they felt then that they were creating global outreach. That year, my students achieved very high marks at the Cambridge School Certificate International Exam at our school. It was indeed very rewarding for me as a teacher.”
Technology has played a key role in Arekion’s own learning. In 2009, she participated in the Microsoft Innovative Educators Forum held in Mauritius, and “a new world of opportunities was then opened to me!” she says. “I was enthralled by what I saw educators do with technology. Then I was a finalist and was able to showcase the project my students and I had been working on.”
In 2011, Arekion became an MIEE national winner with her project “Bridging Digital Divide,” and she continues to seek the best ways to engage her students in 21st century learning. Arekion shares her experiences on her own blog and on Twitter.
Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Mary-Joyce Arekion. Enjoy!
What inspired you to become an educator?
My mom and dad were both primary school teachers. I guess they were my first models. However, I was blessed with great and inspiring teachers at high school, too. For me, education has been about much more than scoring good grades. They imparted values which contributed in weaving me into the human being I am today.
My lecturers at the University Of Mauritius and Microsoft Innovative Educators Forum made of me the professional I am today. I embraced the profession out of vocation, but when I embarked on educational technology, I realized that “teaching” is not only a vocation, it is also a profession where professional skills should be acquired to make my students’ journey in school a fruitful one in the 21st century.
What was a defining moment in your career when you felt proudest to be an educator?
The time when I felt proudest is when I came out as finalist at the Pan-African Microsoft Educators Forum in 2009 held in Mauritius. As I was only finalist, I was offered a complimentary seat to participate in the educator’s forum.
I had the opportunity to showcase the project I had been working on with my students. It was really something new in Mauritius and this opportunity offered visibility to our school.
I also had the opportunity to meet other educators. The sharing with other educators was an amazing — as well as enriching — experience. I felt like a child in a toy shop on the eve of Christmas.
Visibility for our school impacted my colleagues and urged them to embark on a journey to bring changes within our school compound by offering technology-based learning to our students. We then embarked on a science project called, “Go Green Mauritius” at school.
My colleague, who was then the science teacher at school, participated in the Microsoft Educators Regional and Global Forum in 2010. She came out as a regional winner. All colleagues at our school felt happy for her, and once again we enjoyed visibility. This great adventure was not over yet as in 2011, I represented the school and the country again in the regional forum in Aqaba, Jordan as a national winner with a project titled, “Bridging Digital Divide.”
Since then, technology-based learning has entered our school compound to stay, getting our students engaged as they acquire 21st century skills.
This experience back in 2009 completely changed my life as a teacher, as today I am actively looking for ways to bridge the digital divide through Living Labs. I move from being an educator to that of being a researcher, as well as an entrepreneur, since I have explored this area with NGOs via a social enterprise. Living Labs by definition is a partnership between different stakeholders NGOs, public and private sector, social enterprise where users are producers. In my study the learners were content producers with the event of pedagogy 2.0.
Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?
I believe that technology and innovation open the door to a world of opportunities for the educator as well as for the students. Learning is not only confined to the four walls of a class where the educator is the sole source of information.
What’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
Some years ago I would have said ‘digital divide’, but after having carried out research on the field to offer technology-based education and web-based education to needy learners via a living lab –I would say ‘attitude’.
The research work revealed that there is a mobile penetration of 121% in Mauritius, hence technology-based learning and web-based learning is not out of reach (if we turn to mobile learning coupled with some face-to-face sessions in a computer lab). I think that most youngsters are at ease with the tool. I think we have to sensitize adults. Youngsters do use the tool, but not necessarily for learning.
There should be a change of mindset as people see in technology a great tool in the business world; however this is not the case in the educational landscape in our country, though the government is making a great effort to give tablets to educators and learners. Many educators keep to ‘traditional classrooms’ instead of making the most of the tablets.
What are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?
I think that pedagogy 2.0 is a great education innovation. Today learners are not confined to the walls of a class and educators (professors) can reach out to millions. I find this thrilling.
While I am in Mauritius I can benefit from the class of eminent professors from eminent colleges around the world. I can have access to the largest source of information and adapt it to my classes (provided they are published under creative commons license). We can collaborate on a project from home and have access to the information anytime and anywhere.
I hope that my students are provided 21st century learning, so that the mismatch between education provided at school and the requirements of the job market disappears. This is why I dedicate my free time to work with local NGOs, so that needy learners are not left out. I recently attended an event for learners on career guidance and the professionals keep saying to students that the job market keeps changing. I hope that there is a shift of mindset for the benefit of our students. The technology tools are there, we have to make use of them.
Lycee De Beau-Bassin
- Blog URL: etutorspace.blogspot.com
- Birthplace: Reduit, Mauritius
- Educational background: Masters in Science Educational Technologies – University of Mauritius
- Website I check every day: University Of Mauritius, Moodle
- Favorite childhood memory: The last movie I watched with my Dad when I was ten
- Favorite book: Bible
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Microsoft Movie Maker, Mouse Mischief, Microsoft Autocollage.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? To be humble and keep a teachable heart.