By Thays Teixeira – from LAIS / UFRN

Technology-mediated education has been a challenge for many public school teachers, especially with the condition derived from social isolation by COVID-19.

The free offer of five distance courses with themes aimed at teachers of Brazilian public schools began as of this Wednesday (29), aiming to qualify education professionals in the technological area and reduce this impact. The courses are on the Mandacaru / AVAProex platform of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN).

“The courses were produced so that they are self-instructional, with the quality and guidelines required for distance education, because not every activity done remotely is necessarily distance education, in its principles as an area”, explains the Secretary of Education to Distance from UFRN, Carmem Rêgo.

Distance education requires planning, material production, thinking about synchronous and asynchronous interactive tools. It is not just to transpose the face-to-face class and start teaching it on the computer or other technological devices. “We have to use technologies in favor of education, teaching and learning”, reiterates Carmem.

Eloiza da Silva Gomes de Oliveira, Full Professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and researcher at the Laboratory of Technological Innovation in Health (LAIS / UFRN), highlights the relevance of virtual learning environments (VLE) in teacher training basic education, especially in public schools. “In teacher training courses, in general, they are not trained to use technological mediation, this explains why this pandemic situation caught many by surprise”, comments the researcher in the area of ​​technological education.

This scenario reinforces the relevance of the existence of training courses in the technological area for teachers in public schools, especially since the use of technological mediation in teaching-learning is not something that is implemented overnight.

Eloiza de Oliveira comments that for this reason the platforms need to be friendly, resolute and responsive and thus ensure that teachers can master the tools progressively. Carmem Rêgo reiterates that this is one of the main concerns in the development of the Mandacaru platform.

Digital and mediation technologies open up the possibility of using resources that teachers would not normally have in face-to-face education, such as videos, virtual research, access to illustrations, virtual libraries, interviews, characters’ speeches, among others. And in the case of students, educational research points to the awakening to curiosity, the development of an autonomy of learning and other practical skills linked to technological knowledge.

Challenges in the use of technological mediation as an educational resource
The current challenge of virtual learning environments is to reach teachers comprehensively. According to Eloiza de Oliveira, the public system does not systematically offer this training. “Even in undergraduate courses, in universities there is no broader preparation for them to use the resources of technologies in their teaching practice”, he comments.

Another challenge observed is continuing education, which should include technological mediation as a teaching-learning resource in public education, in addition to the lack of economic resources in the sector to guarantee this training, as well as access to technological devices and their tools.

More accessible technological tools and cheaper equipment are also challenges in Brazil. A reality that is considered and that justifies the creation of free courses for the training of teachers, as well as actions that try to guarantee, to some extent, more inclusion.

“All of this is still very expensive, when it shouldn’t be because it is an essential input, even though the use of cell phones is more accessible, we realize this immense challenge, since Brazil is a country of continental dimensions, where there is still difficulty in Internet access ”, says Eloiza.

Training is necessary for teachers of basic education to understand that technological mediation as a teaching resource demands the same concern in the preparation of classes as is done in the face-to-face modality. “Technology through technology does not work miracles,” recalls Carmem Rêgo, noting that technological training courses need to reach teachers in an easy and accessible way, while they are open to the paths made possible by these resources and the use of their tools.

“What is happening now is that we start to train for the use of technologies and some actions at a distance. This implies looking for this training because it does not come naturally, it is not just a transposition of techniques, less in an emergency way ”, Carmem also reiterates, remembering that raising teachers’ awareness of this training is also a challenge.

How are the courses?
The courses are open and free, any professional can enroll. “However, the courses were planned and produced with the objective of enabling teacher training for the use of technologies in pedagogical mediation”, explains the secretary of Distance Education at SEDIS / UFRN, Carmem Rêgo.

The courses will be offered by UFRN on the AVAProex platform are in the MOOC format, an acronym in English that means Open and Massive Online Course and offer 1500 places each. The topics are diversified and intended to collaborate with the qualification of teachers who are far from the classrooms due to quarantine. The proposal intends to continue after that period.

Participants in the five courses, which combine education and technology, will have access to modules with a workload ranging from 15 to 30 hours. The subjects are considered, by the organizers, as relevant to the continuing education of teachers and fundamental to the understanding of new teaching and learning formats.

The modules offered are: Education mediated by technologies in practice; Introduction to active methodologies; Modalities of educational offers with technologies; Educational activities with technological mediation and teaching and preparation of teaching materials in courses mediated by technology.

The Virtual Learning Environment of the Pro-Rectory of Extension at UFRN, AVAProex, was developed by the team of the UFRN Secretariat for Distance Education and the courses are now available. Those interested should access the AVAProex platform.

This training is a partnership between the Laboratory of Technological Innovation in Health (LAIS) of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, the Secretariat of Distance Education (SEDIS / UFRN) and the Dean of Extension (PROEX / UFRN), financed by the Ministry of Health.