“It is time for an educational revolution from the current education system where students are meant to sit behind desks and work!” says David Kiania. Its time to move to the digital technologies such as computers, mobile devices, digital media creation and distribution tools, videos games and social networking sites that will transform how we think about schooling and learning. According to Dr. Everlyne Makhanu, a lecturer from Strathmore University, we need to change our mindset and culture to embrace technology in learning and education practices.
M:lab East Africa hosted the first Wireless Wednesday on edTech on 15th May 2013 in conjunction with iHub. The meetup which is sponsored by Intel was themed: Understanding the edTech Ecosystem in Kenya. The meetup was attended by different stakeholders in the edTech ecosystem i.e: students, teachers, phone manufacturers, entrepreneurs, mobile app developers and publishers among others.
Key stakeholders in the edTech ecosystem
The key stakeholders in the edtech ecosystem highlighted during the discussion include; Learners (kids and grownups), teachers, publishers, tech startups and developers, Ministry of Education and its parastatals including Kenya Institute of Education, Parents, School owners and the administration, device manufacturers, Telcos and ISPs among others.
Key observations noted during the discussion are;
Content – There was a long discussion around content, who is creating edtech content, is there a ready market for the content, how interactive is the content and is it relevant to the students/learners? It is a challenge to locally get digitized edtech content? Government policies, is one of the biggest limiting factor. Njeri Wangari from East Africa Publishers said that some publishers have tried digitizing their work but they face the challenge of generation gap, where the management view the whole digitizing process as a path that sooner or later will pass and people will go back to the manual textbooks. The second challenge is security that is the risk of piracy. The publishers and other content creators were challenged to first understand the end users and consumer preference before creating content.
Infrastructure – Limited access to infrastructure is a challenge in that some of the rural/remote areas have limited or no access to internet, mobile devices and computers. Developers who are targeting such areas have to keep that in mind while developing their apps, for example if your app needs users to get the content from the server then how do you deal with that?
Languages – Language is another key factor that developers should keep in mind while developing their app. Their apps should use language that is familiar to the students either English or Kiswahili. The apps should also be as simple as possible to make it easy for the students who do not know how to use technology to use the apps.
Disconnect between developers, instructors and publishers – There is a big disconnect between developers, instructors and publishers. Developers are coming up with apps without talking to the people with the content, publishers are not willing to give out content to the developers and at the same time the publishers do not know the available technology to make the content as interactive as possible. The developers were urged to talk to the teachers especially the ones from the rural/remote schools because they have fresh content as most of the teachers in the urban areas have been overused.
Content interactivity – Most of the content available is not interactive, there is a low level of interactivity in the content making it no different from the textbooks. This is mostly due to lack of knowledge of the available technology by the publishers and other content creators. Inclusion of animation, audio visual, videos and pictures makes its fun and interactive for the learners.
Teacher/student ratio: There was a discussion on the teacher/student ration, if their is the need to invest in more teachers. Most of the schools have a shortage in teachers in that one teacher has over 60 students making it hard to have a one on one with the students. Developers were challenged to come up with apps that can help such students revise hence put them in a benefiting position with students from schools that have enough teachers. There were mixed feeling on this issue, others feeling that investing in more teachers will not change a lot because the curriculum will remain the same nothing much will change.
Photos and video of the meetup are available on our social media.