Kenya can reap big from digital learning
By THRITY ENGINEER-MBUTHIA
Education in Kenya has undergone several transition phases most of which are influenced by world-wide changes and are aimed at responding to arising challenges. The greatest change in the last few decades has been the development and uptake of technology through digital learning.
Digital learning is simply embracing technology to deliver content via platforms that allow for interaction, access to vast amounts of information in a flexible and convenient manner. In many cases, it also means customised learning; meeting the different needs of individual learners rather than mass education approaches which simply categorises learners into one group.
The specific technology required for digital learning tends to focus on ICT infrastructure. There is now a growing need for policies on child safety, privacy, anti-bullying and even appropriate use of social media. Both teachers and students need to be open minded enough to use digital learning as a way of enhancing knowledge. Teachers may require further training to understand how best to deploy these resources.
Digital platforms for learners
Digital learning in Kenya is gathering momentum. In 2017, Laura Secorun wrote an article for the Guardian where she talks of a digital learning platform called eLimu (Swahili for education) which enables children to learn using digital devices and access quizzes and educational videos that allow them to learn the prescribed syllabus in a different way.
Many of the private schools in the country have already embraced digital learning. Google classroom is a popular platform which, as is indicated on the Google Classroom website “helps students and teachers to organise assignments, boost collaboration, and foster better communication.” Children review material, and get to learn reading, spelling and numeracy through fun and interactive modules.
According to Daniel Newman a contributor to Forbes website, the trends in digital learning and transformation in the education sector now embrace complex new technology that is usually associated with business development and brand building.
Newman talks of the use of virtual reality as a means of allowing students to visit places in different countries that otherwise would not be accessible due to financial constraints. Imagine having the chance to visit the Eiffel Tower in France, the Taj Mahal in India, the pyramids in Egypt or even the Great Wall of China.
Another digital platform useful in learning is Augmented Reality which provides a whole new way of teaching Biology by allowing students to view 2D or 3D images of animals right at cellular level. There are vast opportunities for educators to put together content that is easily consumed and makes learning interesting and fun.
Newman also highlights how digital learning helps learners with different abilities. For example, dyslexic children can access apps that allow them to convert voice to text, thus helping them with their challenges in reading and spelling. These learners can also access audio/video materials ensuring that they are not left behind.
Tertiary institutions in Kenya are facing stiff competition from institutions of higher learning from all around the world. Today, it is possible to do almost any course including an academic one from the comfort of your home using discussion boards, interacting with lecturers via Skype and even being in virtual classrooms that allow one to build relationships with classmates. Platforms like Udemy and Coursera offer all sorts of low-cost courses in various disciplines. Prestigious universities like Yale and Harvard are running Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) which allow students from any part of the world to access specific courses free of charge. This should challenge Kenyan educators to think of similar programs.
The Ministry of Information Communication and Technology has in place a Digital Literacy Program called DigiSchool. According to the official website www.icta.go.ke DigiSchool’s programme introduces primary school children, beginning with those in lower primary, to the use of digital technology and communications in learning. It works closely with the Ministry of Education Science and Technology and other stakeholders to deliver these resources to the relevant audiences. The website also highlights milestones reached including developing content, training 90,000 teachers, roll out of devices, ensuring availability of electricity to schools and having policies on E-waste to manage the infrastructure and disposal guidelines.
There are many more initiatives all over the country to encourage access and uptake of digital education and improve overall digital literacy. Much still needs to be done to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from these initiatives.
Thrity Engineer-Mbuthia is a PhD student of management and leadership at Management University of Africa. She is also a certified executive coach and marketer. E-mail: email@example.com