By Reuben Kyama, Nairobi
The integration of information and communication technology (ICT) into education systems has captured the imagination of many teachers in Africa.
The concept helps students to study through new emerging techniques of learning rather than with the traditional classroom methods. It involves learning through electronic devices and applications, like computer materials, over a local area network or on the Internet – hence eLearning.
Technology-enhanced learning has been received well by teachers and is being seen as likely to revolutionise learning in the coming days. ICT initiatives are being introduced through international conferences and spearheaded by governments all over Africa through ministries, policymakers and practitioners. Learning institutions such as schools and universities are being identified as the key entry point.
Kenya is among the countries that are already running eLearning pilot projects. Some projects started after the country successfully hosted the 2nd eLearning Africa conference in 2007. The meeting attracted about 1400 participants, with a majority drawn from Africa, and they were expected to apply the knowledge learnt to their institutions.
Susan Kipkeny, a 35-year-old teacher at Moi Girls High School in Eldoret, who attended the conference, says the opportunity marked a turning point in her pursuit of an ICT career. “The meeting left a lasting positive impression in my life as I truly felt that education was undergoing a digital transformation”, she says.
She describes the conference as intriguing, captivating and overwhelming in terms of the knowledge gained on the roles of ICT in the different sectors of our economy and, more specifically, on the education sector. It was an eye opener on the immense role ICT is playing in the modern world.
Her main interest pursued during the forum was in the area of ICT integration in school systems. She wanted to get insight into the underlying principles of a working eLearning programme. “I left the meeting inspired and energised to initiate an ICT project plan immediately, although my school administration could not comprehend my sense of urgency initially”, she confides.
She notes that apart from computers, there were other ICT resources on display like interactive boards or game software for the secondary school curriculum that could make teaching enjoyable and learning easier.
She was able to collect a lot of information from the various demonstrations at the conference, which assisted her in mooting her school’s ICT project idea. “When fully operational, the eLearning project will greatly benefit our students, staff, parents, neighbouring schools and the wider community”, observes Susan. She indicates that adapting new technologies is bound to make students active participants in the learning process and redefine the role of teachers to be facilitators. “The traditional teaching methods of using ‘chalk and talk’ should be a thing of the past”, she remarks.
She regrets that despite the invention of computers decades ago, their usage has not quite been utilised in the instructional process. Most schools in Kenya have used them only for administrational purposes, and so their potential remains widely untapped.
“ICT has now become a way of life and the faster we embrace it, the better. These new technologies make life a lot easier and truly enjoyable”, Susan adds emphatically.
Through her initiative, Moi Girls High School, which is a leader in academic excellence, has already identified the use of ICT as a critical facilitator to be implemented in the school’s strategic plan for the next five years. The plan envisages a state-of-the-art eLearning system to take learning to the next level.
However, her school still faces various challenges like lack of adequate computers, relevant software, electronic content and reliable Internet connectivity. But despite the setbacks, she is still forging ahead by creating the necessary groundwork and the sky is the limit. Apart from teaching, Susan is also pursuing a doctoral degree in education at Moi University.
The conference themes will, amongst others topics, include a range of sessions focussing on eLearning in the school system, raising issues such as strategic planning, designing and delivering content, building the infrastructure for education as well as open source and open content.
Susan hopes to attend again to learn more and share her experiences. “I expect the conference to be an opportunity to benchmark with similar organisations from the school sector in Africa, as well as a display for new technological innovations. I would also wish to learn more on the introduction of eLearning into the school system, a topic which is close to my heart”, she concludes.
Moi Girls High School Eldoret http://moigirlseldoret.ac.ke/
Reuben Kyama works as a freelance journalist and media professional in Nairobi, Kenya.