Keep your heart with all vigilance,

for from it flow the springs of life.

Democracy • Education • ICT

This week, the class had to form the class committee whose members aid in administration and oversee the welfare of the class and the classroom. The established practice in many classes is for students to elect members of the class into these positions. My concern was the misconception among students that voting is the best method to make decisions or select leaders. The selection of the class committee presented an opportunity to examine voting as a method more deeply as well as introduce other methods of selecting leaders and the connection with democracy.

And I had to accomplish all of it within an hour's lesson.

To complicate matters, I discovered that the lesson was the last time all members of the class would be physically present. For the next two weeks, various members would be away for interviews and overseas projects. The easy method would have been to instruct the class to vote on slips of paper which I would collect, tabulate and then announce to the class in the next lesson. The learning opportunity lost and as any good teacher would do, reflect on and remind myself to make a better plan next year - if I remember. But with ICT, I accomplished more in three days than I would in three weeks traditionally.

I opened the lesson by asking how students usually form a class committee and to no surprise, voting was the answer. That opened the space to examine the strengths and weakness of election and explore other methods - delegation, nomination, sortition - as well as the preconditions required to avoid the pitfalls of election.

At the end of the discussion, the class decided on a process of nomination, sortition and election to form the class committee. Though the discussion was fruitful, it took almost the entire lesson with little time left to carry out the proceedings. As mentioned earlier, the next time the entire class would be present was two weeks later. With WhatsApp and Google Forms, we were able to form the class committee by the end of the week without having to meet each other.

The class was given till the end of the day for individuals to nominate themselves into the committee. Students would let me know of their interest to me through WhatsApp or SMS. If more students nominated themselves than the spaces available in the committee, the class would go straight into elections. Otherwise, the remaining spaces would be decided by sortition.

During sortition, their tutor from the previous year was invited to draw the lots prepared. I would have preferred that the class was present to witness but as there were no common time slots, I resorted to photos and updates posted on the WhatsApp group. The sortition from start to end took 15 minutes and the class got the results the instant it was out. With committee filled, the last step would be to elect individuals into the various positions.

Google Form was a natural choice to collect the votes of every student. In the form, a detailed description was given for each position in the class committee followed by the names of the candidates presented in a multiple choice format. Within the hour of sortition, the form was created and the link posted WhatsApp with instructions to submit their votes by that very evening. Then, it was a simple matter of downloading the spreadsheet and making a count with the results of the election posted on WhatsApp.

It was amazing how ICT enabled the class to be more thoughtful and engaged with process of forming the class committee. The process is usually a hurried affair with election as the convenient choice due to the assumption about fairness and equality. With ICT, I was able to devote an entire lesson to discuss about various methods and for the class to design their own process of selection, as well as carry out the entire process without having the gather all of them into one place at the same time.

The results were announced on Friday morning and the elected chairperson soon began thanking the class for the votes. After lunch, I had given the secretary a task to remind the class over the weekend to submit some forms and she highlighted students who would be overseas. It's Sunday morning as I am typing this post but I already know what to expect and the necessary action I'll need to take tomorrow. And the wonderful thing is that all of these took place entirely on WhatsApp.

Form teachers and civics tutors are probably familiar with the difficulties carrying out administrative tasks in class. No matter the number of lessons given, it is never enough to send and collect information in a dynamic school environment. In my first class, the students were initiative and responsible setting up a rather effective SMS relay system. Even so, I was never sure to whom and when the information would reach the entire class. Today, with WhatsApp and Google Form, I was able to complete so much more in much less the time it would have taken. The one hour face to face time was spent on what mattered most, a discussion and exploration.

If simple ICT tools can accomplish so much for administration in school, imagine the possibilities it brings to teaching and learning. Administration is a necessary bane in teaching and learning - dates, destination, details, data - and takes up precious time in class. Most of you are already using ICT tools such as emails, SMS and blogs to handle these matters. But I hope this post provides a spark and inspiration on how it can be improved. The less we do administration, the more we can focus on teaching and learning.

What are your methods of using ICT to improve administration with your classes?

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