Technology vendors Dell and Microsoft have been working to deliver classroom technology for remote regions and, in particular, into schools that have not previously had access to any form of computing technology.
Mamoeketsi School in Lesotho is profoundly aware of the importance of technology in educating and empowering young people. The school is located in Lesotho, near Maseru. HIV/AIDS affects a third of the population and around 50 per cent of the school’s students are orphans. Most are familiar with poverty. Although the government invests 12 per cent of its gross domestic product in education – and the country’s literacy rate is one of the highest in Africa – few students have access to technology. Less than 5 per cent of the population has access to the Internet or even basic mobile phones with text and call functions. However, through the efforts of Moliehi Sekese, a charismatic maths and science teacher at the Mamoeketsi School, students now have access to affordable technology that is significantly raising their academic achievements and enhancing their potential.
After attending a Microsoft Shape the Future event – an initiative that supports access to technology in developing countries through partnerships with companies such as Dell – Sekese was inspired to see how technology could engage pupils in a dynamic way. She devised a project about native plants and herbs, requiring students to report to her by text message through mobile phones borrowed from relatives or friends. The project was a huge success, exciting students so much that Sekese found herself receiving text messages in the middle of the night. Sekese realised that the school needed to empower students with access to technology, but cost was a major barrier to this.
Mamoeketsi School wanted to implement an affordable, lowmaintenance IT solution to provide its students with access to the internet, supporting research and collaboration, so the school implemented a shared computing solution with Dell ‘zero clients’ and Microsoft Windows® MultiPoint Server to deliver a lowcost, centrally managed computing environment for students.
As a result of its dynamic use of technology in teaching, the school has reduced truancy. While access to technology can be a big motivator for students and increase attendance and engagement in learning; it can be challenging for students who are slow learners. Shared computing addresses this by enabling the teacher to remotely monitor and interact with an individual student from the teacher’s computer station. Sekese says: “Children who are slow learners often feel embarrassed about asking questions in class and so they stop coming to school. Truancy has stopped being a problem since we deployed the solution because I don’t have to disrupt the rest of class or call attention to the slowest learners.”
Students are also more excited and motivated about school because it is a place where they are discovering a world that holds more possibilities than they previously imagined. Sekese says: “It’s amazing to see how much the students can learn when they have access to things that can help and inspire them. With the native plant project we saw that we could motivate and engage pupils with just a few resources. We can do a lot with an affordable, small solution, and that’s why working with Dell is so important to us.”
Students are now motivated to study and train for careers following online research and collaboration. As part of her curriculum, Sekese has created numerous research projects that require students to collaborate and share their work with their peers, as well as online with students in other countries. Collaboration with a school in Norway, for example, involves the students communicating what life is like in Lesotho through blogs and comparing this to the students’ lives in Norway. Students use their observations of their own lives and research topics that they are not so aware of, such as local events. This increases their understanding of their country and the world at large.
Sekese says: “One consequence of the students’ internet research and collaboration is that they’ve discovered careers they want to follow. For example, some want to be policewomen or policemen to help reduce crime in the country.
Others have decided they want to be self-employed and open their own motels to support tourism in their country. There’s so much that the students know about now that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to find out about before – this is thanks to the this solution. By providing them with technology, we’re maximising their potential as human beings.”
Since implementing the technology solution, Mamoeketsi students are top out of 700 schools for English exam results. All curriculum subjects in Lesotho are taught in English. In addition to completing coursework in English, students are required to take an English language exam before they can register with a secondary school. As Sekese marked the students’ coursework and read their online blogs for the Norwegian students, she noticed that their fluency was increasing quickly. She says: “Our English examination results were the highest out of 700 schools in Lesotho after our students had been using the Dell solution to collaborate with Norway. When the students had to register with a secondary school they also found it easy to communicate effectively with administrators, making it easier to secure their place in a school.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that technology enhances learning and life. Our results and progress with Dell and Microsoft are proof of what you can accomplish with affordable technology,” Sekese says.
David Angwin is director of global field and channel marketingfor Dell | Cloud Client Computing
“Technology Enhances Learning and Life” is one of the twelve opinion pieces featured in the eLearning Africa 2013 Report. To read more about the annual publication, please visit: http://elearning-africa.com/media_library_publications_ela_report_2013.php.