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Jan

ICT for Education: What to do with ICT in formal education?

Posteado por Dr. Stijn van der Krogt - 0 Coments

I sit with my colleague in Marala, 8 hours drive over a bumpy and dusty non-tarred road from Nairobi. This is the land of the Samburu’s. Mainly herdsman. Beautiful landscape with zebras and impalas close by and Mount Kenya in the back ground. Watching the falling stars, no Internet, time to reflect...

I started a new project to use ICT in rural primary schools together with a local NGO Seed. Very basic conditions; no electricity, few teachers and 50 children per class. Children need to fetch water for drinking and cooking and then walk up to 10 kilometers to the school. No wonder they arrive often late or not at all. At 12 there is a chance that girls drop out as they are married out. So after volleyball and singing (play time) I talked to the teachers and pupils. They told us that they want to become respectively: President of Kenya, doctor, teacher,… Sorry, not much interest to stick to their parents’ profession. As for the teachers, they are very proud of their work. Most come from the near communities, they speak Samburu, Ki Swahili and a bit of English. Similar to the facilities, their pedagogic skills are good but basic.

A first question that comes to your mind, why not focusing on schools with better conditions? Well, yesterday I was playing volleyball with 50 Samburu school kids. What struck me was their smart look, hopeful that school will bring them something more that taking care of the children or being a herdsman. But that is not easy given the current quality of education. Also because I am often told by western people that ICT makes no sense, as rural people do not know what ICT can do for them. It may be that they do not know exactly why, they do tell me that ICT is really important to have if they want to advance in live.

It is just a machine, are you sure it can make a difference in the quality of education? No, you are right, the computer or mobile phone will not do the trick alone. It can only work if it is combined with better ways of teaching and learning. This implies that you need to talk with the teachers and the pupils about their challenges and ideas to improve their own teachers. You will soon find that there are some things they share but also that in there are particularities in each locality. So first talk about education.

What I learned

Sorry, I am not an expert on education. But I picked up the following ideas while talking to parents, teachers and pupils in schools during my many visits to ICT for education projects in Africa and Latin America.

Teachers in Uganda search digital teaching materials on the Internet and present the text in the class room with a laptop and projector. This is still the same old way you would say. No, because the teacher tells me he feels empowered and that he now can use his creativity in making his own teaching notes. And yes, I have seen teachers to have the children repeat sentences written on a Powerpoint. Most children will tell you that class is mostly dull. Yet the teachers mix text with pictures and short videos, they tell me that suddenly class becomes more exciting. Now add a low cost interactive white board such as the Wii-Mote to the mix. If you can convince the teacher that the student can make short exercises on the white board, we do make teaching and learning more interactive. 

Another way is to get set up a small computer lab. Mind you, not to teach basic ICT! If you would do that it will not improve much in the way teachers teach. Yet, primary school children in Bolivia use the computer lab to play interactive games for maths, reading and writing. Here the teacher is suddenly guiding the pupils in inpidual learning. Will he like that? I am not sure. Yet, what if he has developed himself the game? This is what is done by the teachers in Bolivia. The making of the games alone supports their pedagogic skills and creativity even more. By the way, here we do not need Internet!

The pupils can learn in their own pace, making class more adapted to their level. And they tell me they have fun. In most cases, it is difficult to stop them playing. Given the repetitive character and element of winning makes games very effective for slow learners to catch up with their peers. Now this can be strengthened even more if the games are contextualized. So, the highland children in Bolivia count lamas instead of sushi’s. are developed  (with a study among 10,000 children, we measured a 10-15% improvement in exam results of slow learners and a 5-10% improvement of fast learners). Quiet different from the normal ways of teaching, right?

But games are boring for the secondary school pupils! Here the computer lab is maybe more interesting to use for assignments on the computer by the teacher. This kind of project based learning does imply a new way of teaching and learning outside the class room. But not alone the computer can be used here, why not getting the students to take picture of make short videos when they undertake an assignment on biology?

To conclude

Back to the children of the primary schools in Samburu. Today we were discussing what approach would work here. Project-based learning is more for secondary level. ICT in the class room may be still a bit too complicated as teachers have never worked with computers and interactive teaching methods.

We think that the pupils will be best to start with using interactive games to improve their mathematics and language skills, key obstacle to good exam results. Therefore the school will set up a small computer lab with low technical requirements and low energy use, and equipped with solar power. The math and language teachers will be trained in selecting and using games and other interactive materials as part of their regular teaching programs. Yet, for this to work, we will need to find simple educative games to use for the schools.

Given the numerous initiatives in this field, I am sure these can be found. If you have ideas, please let me know! As I said, I am not an expert in pedagogy or the Samburu culture. Only experience will tell if it works here. Will report back to you next year…






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