By: Ana Kabakova
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” -Carl Sagan
Many Open Education Resource (OER) initiatives work with Africa because of its economic, political, and health struggles across the continent. Many in the OER community have pledged to provide the needed resources to help guide Africa into the twenty-first century. However, sending any amount of money, textbooks, or laptops to the continent is an ineffective act without a very important group of key players: teachers.
Organizations in developed economies must recognize that the first priority should be to educate teachers across Africa. If there are no motivated and learned teachers driven to spread knowledge, then all the effort of organizations geared to resources goes to waste, and all of the individuals seeking guidance and mentorship are left uneducated.
Luckily, organizations see the critical need for educated teachers, and establish programs like OER Africa's Teacher Education program in order to provide resources for the professional development of teachers. This wealth of information spans from how to set up an effective curriculum, the professional challenges and choices of being a teacher, and the potentials of using media to help learners link abstract concepts and develop critical thinking.
Other organizations, like UNESCO promote international seminars such as the VIII International Seminar that will take place in Barcelona, Spain on October 6-7, 2011, addressing Teacher Training: Reconsidering the Teacher Roles. In these forums, teachers can come together to compare experiences and exchange ideas of which methods work best in the classroom environment for a variety of countries and cultures.
Teachers serve as an important link between students in need of education and the OER organizations, like the Global Text Project that put forth effort to provide textbooks and other learning materials that accessible to all. Only when we reach the goal of a universe full of skilled and knowledgeable teachers, can begin creating an educated world population, from scratch.
Ana Kabakova is a sophomore at the University of Georgia. She is working towards an double major in English and Russian and is on staff with the university newspaper, The Red and Black.