At a recent ICT Retooling workshop for teachers of ICT in Uganda which we conducted at Kololo In-Service Training Center, it became evident that Electronic Database Management is one of the most challenging areas to teachers of ICT. At the beginning of the workshops which attracted about 300 teachers, over 90% of the teachers said they faced problems with certain areas of database management.
At least half the teachers present said they don’t teach the topic because they do not feel comfortable with it. Only 3% of the teachers considered themselves to be “Experts” in the area.
The most frequently mentioned challenges were to do with advanced aspects like calculated queries, calculations in forms, making relationships and some seemingly basic aspects like adjusting program options and printing reports.
We identified a number of reasons that are responsible for this
1. Most of the teachers of ICT transitioned from other teaching subjects with no structured theoretical training in ICT. Database management as a field requires some understanding of the theoretical aspects. Therefore some are intimidated
2. Negative Perceptions : Some teachers have been told by peers that database management is difficult. Some were trained at Universities using other database management software like MySQL. Some such teachers have found it difficult to transition to simpler systems like Microsoft Office Access (which we use in secondary schools but not taught in Universities).
3. Database management is “optional” in practical examinations. A student can get away with it by attempting other numbers. So teachers and students tend to maximise on the sections they are most comfortable with.
4. Database management has not been commonly used by computer users. So most potential users are not exposed unlike say word processing.
1. More Time for DBMS in Retooling: Retooling of teachers is helping to address the problem. We have now decided to give this unit at least 2 days to be able to go to deeper aspects. Ideally, we need to give it even more, but challenges remain even with other units.
2. Enroll for Short Courses : I encourage teachers to enroll for short courses specfically devoted to database management. Schools could support them, but I consider this a matter of survival for teachers of ICT
3. Cover the Basics Too at University: Universities that train teachers need to begin considering equipping fresh ICT teachers with skills in the areas they are going to teach (in addition to the advanced aspects). Things which are taken for granted are undoing all the good training of 3 University years.
4. Gamble, Gamble, Gamble: Teachers need to try out things, to be dare to fail. Get dirty, delve into database management, read, consult and get going! There are many resources out there — books, tutorials, students etc. Use them and don’t wait. That is the spirit of the true Gambler!