Lira Town College is using ICT to improve learning

Lira Town College is one of the pioneer government schools in Lira district. Established in 1967, it is a mixed ‘O’ and ‘A’ level day and boarding school located in heart of Lira town, in northern Uganda. Just like other schools in the region, it grapples from challenges of insufficient infrastructure, competition from private schools, stagnating leadership and inadequate funding. However, the current Headteacher, Ms Acen Sophia Rose is doing a commendable job, especially in improving infrastructure, student enrollment & staffing.

When I joined in 2012, Subsidiary ICT as a second subsidiary subject in A-level had just been introduced in A-level. Just like most schools, this development came with numerous challenges, notably lack of computers to conduct ICT lessons. The school had only 3 computers for teaching 120 ICT students. However, in June 2013, the Uganda Communications Commission donated to us a set of 40 computers under the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF). With these, we were ready to face the new world of ICT. As Head of ICT, my role was to help the administration, staff and students get the best out of the resources in our possession. I carried out the following interventions that have not only improved staff and student technology skills, but also made Lira Town College a centre of ICT excellence in the region and Uganda.

Open Use of Computers. When I was a student in one of the schools in Lira in early 2000’s, the Computer Lab was always out of bound to schools. So, when I became a teacher, I did not want our students to only look at computers from outside. As HOD, I made the Computer Lab open to students from 8:00 am to 6:00pm from Mondays to Saturdays. With this policy, S.3 to S.6 students would use the Lab up to 4:000pm while S.1-S.2 would access computers after classes, since they had only compulsory subjects. To further consolidate the principle of open access to computers, we created a student leadership position of ICT Prefect, whose role & responsibility was to enable students have access to computers & internet, resolve simple maintenance issues and ensure discipline inside the lab.

ICT Competitions. Since 2013, Lira Town College students have taken part in a number of ICT projects and competitions. We have participated in the Annual Communications Innovations Awards (ACIA), Science & Technology Innovations Challenge (Robotics), Technovation Challenge, Biotechnology Essay Writing Competition. We have also engaged students in projects such as the Africa Code Week, STEM Girls Camp and Gulu Technology Camp, where students learn programming skills and robotics. These activities have made Lira Town College receive numerous awards and recognition & also inspired our students to pursue Science & Technology careers at University.

Use of Opensource software. In order to trim down the costs of ICT resources and tools, we deliberately adopted use of opensource tools available freely on the internet. Ubuntu, WordPress, Google Drive storage are some of the tools we use.

Digitalization of Records. Just like most secondary schools, most of our activities & processes were manual, with staff mostly using books, papers for record keeping. Today, most of our activities are digital, with almost all records stores safely on school computers. These has eased administration, decision making and improved service delivery. Accounts, academic results, discipline records and timetables are all computerized.

Going Online. Although our school website (www.liratowncollege.sc.ug) is currently down due to technical issues, our decision to go online received much applause from the public. With functional website and social media, we have grown our digital followers to tens of thousands. In 2014, we became of the first schools to post our circular letter to parents on social media. We also provide Internet access, including Wi-Fi at least for 2 months each School Term.  We are building a state-of-the-art school blog, which will in part substitute the “website” and does not have issues of paying for the domain name and hosting every year- a sticky issues for our “born before computers” administrators.

E-Learning. We encourage our students & teachers to use and access open & free e-learning tools & websites. We have Kolibri, an offline e-learning tool installed on our computers. We also provide our students & teachers with softcopies of books, past papers. On the internet, our students & teachers access educational websites such as Alison (www.alision.com), Walktrack Edu Platform (www.edu.walktrackuganda), and Passuneb. We also have “CyberSchool”, an offline digital science e-learning application installed on our lab computers and is very popular with younger students.

Using simple interventions like these, schools can benefit a lot from ICT, instead of looking at it as a burden. ICT is a service enabler, allowing us to deliver educational services faster, better and in more innovative ways.

My humble appeal to all teachers in-charge of ICT is that, ICT is not only a subject in class. Besides, there should be reasonable compromise between access to computers and actual use of computers. ICT should be taken as service enabler that helps other subjects & departments achieve the school mission and vision. It is common for teachers to over emphasize the academic aspect & ignore others areas like morality, skills and innovation. As teachers, we should prepare our students for the future, and that future is a one where ICT will play a tremendous role. Teachers should empower students to move beyond mere ICT consumption & into problem solving, creation and innovation. My belief is that we should explore new technologies and approaches that can solve problems in local contexts with both educational and practical goals.

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