For quite sometime, I have involved myself with lots of ICT oriented programs in education without really having a clear understanding or having a clear metric to measure my success and impact. After helping Found Wikimedia Kenya (www.wikimedia.or.ke), we went ahead to carry out our very first education oriented program which simply involved installing the offline version of Wikipedia for Schools in Kenyan Secondary Schools. It was an interesting and thrilling project most of us. All of us still being in Campus then, felt that we were already doing our bit of Social responsibility through the skills and knowledge we were/had gained in Campus. The feeling was ecstatic to some of us for a few reasons:
- We had managed to have the Chair of the Board of Trustees for Wikimedia Foundation then Mr.Ting Chen grace the official launch of the project
- We had managed to secure audience and participation from various high ranking stakeholders like Google Kenya, Kenyatta University,Strathmore University ,The ICT Board and many more
This we considered quite an achievement at how we could rub shoulders with such stake shoulders all with the aim of promoting the place and use of ICT in Kenyan education. After a successful launch of the project and official endorsements from the Wikimedia Foundation which gave us a small grant to carry out the pilot, we set out to the challenging task of executing the actual project which we found more challenging than we actually thought. First of all we had to get an approval letter from the Education Ministry okaying the kind of Content we were to install in the Secondary school’s computers. After numerous unsuccessful visits to to Jogoo House to get audience and explain the nature of our activities to the Permanent Secretary, we decide to carry out the project without the approval but leave our request and proposal with the Ministry. After all, we were helping the schools and students access content that they would not otherwise have access to due to no internet connection. Being the Lead for one of the regions we had agreed on for the Pilot phase, I did a quick reconnaissance visit to the region to get to understand and collect statistics on the kind of infrastructure the schools had and get their buy in.I was both pleasantly surprised and sad to learn that some schools were really quick to buy into the idea. Exciting and thrilling was the idea of them to have a repository to supplement and complement their teaching resources that are usually obviously strained. Sadly, some teachers ( or is it schools) could hear none of it.There argument being, unless we had a written and official permission from the Ministry of Education to okay the kind of content we were distributing, they would not participate in the project.This was very disturbing to me personally as I could not understand why a school needed approval to provide resources to its Techares and Students?! We had categorically explained to the schools that this was content that the Techares and students would otherwise need an internet connection to access but we were just easing the accessibility and cutting the cost, they would have none of that. We however did carry on with the project to the willing schools in 3 regions Kakamega, Nyeri and Mombasa but this would get me thinking what exactly was the role of ICT in primary education in Kenya? Drawing comparisons from my earlier days in schools, when I would hunger and thirst for resources, books and anything that I could read to increase and broaden my knowledge scope. I wold find myself finding solace in novels, journals, magazines besides the conventional school based textbooks that the school would provide. Not to sound my own trumpet but I strongly credit my presence to the extensive reading habits, not just for school content, but for far and beyond materials to broaden my knowledge discourse, that I would understand and interact with the world. This to me was the best learning experience . Having to learn and discover things, people, places all on my own through all those pages of text. It gave me solace, taught me many customs, exposed me to new horizons and places both in thinking and understanding. This to me ,provided the fertile ground that would allow me to undertand and comprehend and put into perceptive the abstract education concepts that i was taught in class. As a result, I could understand and answer question drawing arguments, conclusions and abstracts from far places and people. This is the kind of fertile ground I believe ICT should play in our Primary education. Everyday and very often, the tem ICT in education has been overly used and abused in education sector in Kenya to connote simply Computers , t o me, I think ICT should be thought of as a tool to help change and enhance the mindset of the learners to new horizons and thoughts. To enable them think differently. To introduce to them a different world with different terms and aspects. To allow the learners expand their horizons in education. If we think of ICT as the tool to learning in schools, and not simply as a means to learn, we would churn out the kind of learners that Kenya needs. Learners who are able to think and provide solutions to Kenya problems , with a global perceptive and mindset… With this understanding, I have personally engaged and started a small program that involves the use of XO laptops as leaning tools. I have introduced this to my remote village school and I must say am very satisfied with the progress.
Although I have no numerical and mathematical metric to measure the success of this program, I definitely have the change mindset and learner satisfaction that I have seen in the kids. Last month when I visited the center to do an audit, I had a one on one interview with the learners to measure how much change in mental mindset and ambition had happend in the kids. I was mesmerized when the kids as young as 3 had learnt and were aspring something bigger after the interaction with the XO’s. Particularly interesting was my 7 year old Cousin who pleasantly surprised me with his Art Skills. He had mastered how to draw using the Paint Activity and told me he is contemplating pursuing art in future. My 11 year old sister whom I had tried for many years to introduce modern learning concepts to her in vain, after interacting with the XO, she has surprised very many of us with her mastery of writing and speech. She was able to identify 2 possible carees in life: Journalism or Law. This is the kind of learning I want my kids to associate ICT with. Learning by discovery and interaction.
Lastly, encouraged by the success model of my small site, hardly 3 months in operation, we have teamed up to put forth our idea of learning to the Dell Social Challenge with a very simple idea: Maktababadala which means “alternative learning resources”…Find time/effort to support the effort.