Football fever gripped this year’s eLearning Africa conference in Lusaka. With the FIFA World Cup about to start in South Africa, a session on how football can boost learning and make it more fun was greeted with great enthusiasm. However, richly diverse as usual, the conference also covered a variety of other inspiring topics. There was a discussion on how girls and women can be empowered to become ‘Cyberellas’ rather than ‘Cinderellas’. And six leading international organisations attending the conference announced a new collaboration, which aims to support the integration of ICTs in schools.
By Brenda Zulu and Andrea Marshall
There was a colourful scene at the Mulungushi Conference Centre in Lusaka, Zambia at the opening of the football session on Friday: The South African participants appeared in bright yellow Bafana Bafana shirts. “In South Africa, we dress up every Friday in different jerseys depending on who we are supporting,” explained Shafika Isaacs, an independent consultant on ICTs for Development in Africa. Whether they were from South Africa or not, participants in the session were enjoying the run-up to the World Cup and they learnt from speakers from several countries about ways to use football and other sports to improve skills and increase knowledge.
[callout title=Mobile football coverage: an African first]Before the start of the World Cup, a determined effort was made to give as many people as possible the option to watch the games live.
The South African cell phone company MTN acquired the exclusive mobile content rights for Africa and the Middle East. For the first time in the history of the tournament, the main highlights were delivered on mobile phones.[/callout]
Football enhances maths skills
At the eLA session, Frederico Carvalho demonstrated how football could be used to help solve maths problems: He introduced Intel’s skoool™ Football, interactive multimedia content, which is used to present maths and science topics to students.
Players learn, for example, how to determine different angles by looking at their importance when shooting at a goal.
In a fascinating demonstration of the power of informal learning, the iSchool Africa initiative highlighted a project which uses football to encourage young people to work as reporters.
Fifteen Youth Press teams have been created and equipped with MacBooks, a camera and a projector so they can be part of the World Cup coverage. The best productions have been broadcast on the free TV channel M-Net.
Chipolopolo boys learn languages
Another lesson to be learnt at the eLA session was how Zambia’s national football team practices e-learning. With the “Chipolopolo boys” travelling so much, they need to improve their language skills.
“The football players have acquired laptops and smart phones, and a lot of the time they enrol themselves in online language courses,” explained Erick O. Mwanza from the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ). Many of them have also enrolled in distance learning courses, he added.
Cinderella versus Cyberella – ICTs and gender
Apart from football, the eLA conference provided valuable insights into issues of gender and inclusion.
Alice Ndidde of the Makarere University, Uganda, and Judith Sama Mouokuio Meno from Cameroon highlighted gender difference in the access to, and use of, ICTs both for students and educators: Males have an advantage. Ndiddle and Mouokuio Meno spoke about the “Panafrican Research Agenda on the Pedagogical Integration of ICTs”, a large-scale data collection and analysis project.
Reasons for the gender difference ranged from girls’ perceptions and attitudes towards higher education and careers in ICTs to the lack of female role models in schools and social or cultural barriers, as well as infrastructural inadequacies. Thierry Karsenti from the University of Montréal, Canada, compared the scenario to the story of Cinderella and Cyberella.
So what can be done? Access could be improved by training more female teachers in ICTs so they, in turn, could encourage girls, the experts said. In addition, the number of computers in schools should be increased and sensitisation programmes should be provided.
Location of computer is crucial
Alice Ndidde observed that, in addition to the above-mentioned barriers, in many cases, it is the location of the computer that discourages girls from using ICTs. In many African schools, computers are found in computer labs which open after school or in the evening. During these times, it is much more difficult for girls to attend than for boys.
At home, girls have less time to use the computer because of their domestic workload, and in Internet cafés there is a risk of harassment from male attendants.
Ndidde stressed that institutional policies largely supported equality of access to computers but, in reality, gender differences are still very prevalent.
New collaboration to integrate ICTs in schools
At eLearning Africa 2010, six leading international businesses and organisations, including Microsoft, CISCO, Intel Corporation, Education Impact, the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) and the World Bank Institute, announced a collaboration to strengthen government capacity in the integration of ICT in schools.
The consortium has designed a blended learning certificate course entitled “ICT in Education for Policy Implementers”. It is aimed at officials and professionals who are involved in curriculum leadership, management, policy and planning related to the use of ICTs in schools or colleges.
“Simply dropping off a computer in a classroom is not a solution to the challenges facing African educators,” said Ntutule Tshenye, a conference participant representing Microsoft sub-Saharan Africa. In his opinion, many African countries have very good ICT and education policies but fail to implement them adequately.
Based on initial feedback from the ICT policymakers and educators from Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, who previewed the course’s goals in August 2009, there has been a significant lack of guidance, professional development opportunities and sharing of regional best practices among implementers and administrators – despite increasing government investment in ICT access.
With the new blended learning programme, this situation can now be improved.
Links to the organisations mentioned: