In the rapidly evolving landscape of education, integrating technology into the classroom has become a paramount aspect of effective teaching. However, many educators face challenges in adapting to these new tools and technologies, which can hinder their ability to provide students with the best possible learning experience. Enter the Educational Technology Innovation Lab (ETILAB) 'Sandpit,' a revolutionary concept developed by Prof Dick Ng'ambi, offering educators a safe and engaging space to explore and experiment with emerging technologies.
The ETILAB is more than just a physical space; it represents a mindset that embraces the idea of learning through play. By providing educators with an environment free from the pressures of traditional teaching and learning, the ETILAB allows them to freely experiment and engage with emerging technologies. Just as children benefit from creative play in sandpits, adults can harness the power of play to imagine, innovate, and design new pedagogies and educational applications for the digital age.
The notion of "learning through play" in the ETILAB is grounded in the belief that educators become more confident and competent with technologies when they can explore them in an enjoyable and non-threatening manner. Instead of being taught how to use various tools, educators have the opportunity to interact and experiment with devices on their own terms. This play-based approach allows them to familiarise themselves with technologies and build teaching models without fear of failure.
The ETILAB has made significant strides in preparing Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) students to teach in digitally connected classrooms. Through hands-on experience and immersion in various digital learning and teaching tools, students are better equipped to navigate the challenges of the modern classroom. By emphasising the use of free cloud-based tools, such as Google tools, digital education is made accessible to both educators and students.
To-date, over 1500 students, teachers and educators have attended Sandpits, with each participant creating an artefact (ePortfolio) that serves as a digital record of their learning journey. Putting the innovative teaching method of 'Sandpits' into perspective,'...it was the first time a professional development training for teachers in the country (South Africa) resulted in digital artefacts as evidence of innovative professional development approaches’ Dr HA Brand, Retired Director: Teacher Professional Development, Western Cape Education Department.
Armed with the knowledge and skills acquired at the ETILAB, participants are well-prepared to engage with 21st-century learners and foster meaningful educational experiences through the integration of ubiquitous technologies.
The ETILAB 'Sandpit' is a demonstration of the power of play and exploration in fostering 21st-century professional development among educators. By providing a safe and creative space for teachers to interact with emerging technologies, Sandpits have revolutionised the way educators learn and adapt to the digital age. As the world of technology continues to evolve, the ETILAB remains an invaluable resource in empowering educators to confidently embrace new tools and methods, ultimately benefiting the students they teach. In the ETILAB, learning becomes an adventure, and teaching becomes a journey of discovery and growth.