The Computer Society of Kenya

Since 1986

DnLAPTOPs1204rdpxDAILY NATION By JOHN WALUBENGO

Wednesday June 08, 2016

The Jubiliee administration has managed to deliver on one of its key 2013 election pledges – laptops for each standard one pupil

For the politician, the project is a done deal, but for the learner and the teachers, it may have just begun.

Integrating ICTs in education has never been a walk in the park, even at the tertiary level. At most of our universities, getting professors to teach using the latest technologies is easier said than done. They suffer from what is known as the "comfort-zone" syndrome. 

Many a professor has been teaching for more than twenty-plus years using his old but reliable yellow notes, scribbled ages ago on foolscaps and now you want him to transit to the digital environment?

Fine, you may train them on how to use the laptop, LCD projector or e-learning software, among others, but until and unless he is personally convinced that making the digital transition will ease his work, he will simply not transit.

Perhaps that is likely to be the case at the primary school level as the digital era begins to materialise.

The government will be shouting at the top of its voice that it has powered all primary schools, delivered laptops, digitised the curriculum and trained all the teachers on the new technologies, and this is good and must be celebrated. 

DIGITAL TRANSITION

However, we are not likely to hear much on how many of these trained teachers have effectively made the transition to the digital environment.

How many of the teachers will use the technology effectively to take the kids through their lessons? Do we have incentives to encourage teachers to adopt technology in their classroom?

As the saying goes – you can take a cow to the river but you cannot force it to drink the water. Nothing stops a teacher from walking into class and saying to pupils "Okay class, switch off your laptops, it is now time to start the real lesson…"

And so the teacher will go back to his comfort zone, teaching in his usual, analogue way and subsequently move on to the next class to repeat the ritual.

Meanwhile, the kids cannot wait for the analogue session to end so that they can go back to playing with their new gadgets. Would such a scenario bother politicians?

Not necessarily. As far as they are concerned, they made a promise to the voter and it was delivered. End of story, accept and move on.

To cut them some slack, it is not exactly the politician’s problem whether the digital transformation in education is actually effective.   

That role falls squarely on the Ministry of Education’s technocrats, who must find a way to make the annual Sh17 billion investment in the digital literacy program pay off.

TEACHERS — THE STUMBLING

From experience, installing devices and infrastructure in schools is great, but has never been sufficient in getting teachers and lecturers to adopt them in the delivery of services. 

Whereas learners are often eager and miles ahead in terms of digital adoption, teachers are, more often than not, the stumbling block. Indeed students are ahead in all domains — including plagiarism made easier by the digital platforms — but that is a story for another day.

For now, the comfort-zone syndrome evident in the teachers and lecturers must be challenged in order to get them to adopt and effectively use new technologies in their trade.

The Ministry of Education must therefore begin to think around making digital delivery of lessons a key performance indicator worth rewarding.

For as long as use of technology is not evaluated nor rewarded, the digital transformation anticipated in the education sector will be DoA – Dead on Arrival.

With the elections still a whole year away, voters will have enough time to know the extent to which this laptop project succeeded or failed. This should get the politicians a little bit more concerned. 

The delivery of laptops is after all, not the end but actually the beginning of a very long and challenging journey towards the transformation of the education sector.

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