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Do any of you remember the days when you would sit in a classroom listening to the monotone voice of a teacher droning on and on as you fought a bout of sleepiness? How many times did you just wish that bell would ring! I recall a time when people would say that everything is undergoing so much change – except education. “Nothing has changed there and we’re still doing exactly what we always did in the 19th Century.” That is no longer true. We are currently going through an education revolution world-wide where technology is helping teachers engage their student in a variety of exciting ways.
I have read of two interesting projects that show how easily our learners connect with technology. Professor Sugata Mitra is well known with his “Hole in the Wall” experiments. In 1999, Professor Mitra embedded a computer within a wall in an Indian slum at Kalkaji, Delhi and children were allowed to use it freely. The experiment proved that kids could be taught computers very easily without any formal training. The children also freely collaborated with each other, exploring the world of high-tech online connectivity with ease. The experiment has since been repeated at many places, with similar results. Recently Professor Nicholas Negroponte of One Laptop per Child fame, began a similar project in Ethiopia. His team dropped dozens of boxed tablets into two extremely remote villages in Ethiopia, where the population was completely illiterate, dirt poor and had no prior exposure to electronics. Within three hours the children had opened the boxes and worked out how to turn on the tablets. After just a couple of weeks of unassisted use, the children were seen competing with each other when reciting the alphabet, which they learned from one of the many pre-installed apps. This experiment is still being monitored.
I am particularly interested in the potential of the tablet in the classroom. If anything could close the ever-widening digital divide gap in South Africa this could be it – the tablet. Not only is it portable, light, with a lengthy battery life, but it meets our digital students right where they are at. Hand an iPad or Android tablet to a child, and within minutes they’ve figured out how to interact with it at a basic level.
Many schools in South Africa right now are exploring a changeover to tablets. Some are going the route of using text books on the tablet at a fraction of the cost instead of the students carrying around large, heavy, expensive books. What I especially love about the tablet is that it puts the potential to create right into the hands of the students. Education can move right out of the classroom to other locations where the students can take photos, record movies, record sound, take notes, write paragraphs, collaborate and edit each other’s work; and put all this together in creative pieces of work to present to the rest of the class.
Of course, we can’t expect a tablet to teach our learners – the role of the teacher is ever-important; but it easily and seamlessly allows our learners to demonstrate their learning and share that understanding with their peers, a broader audience and even potentially the world!
As the digital age has enveloped us, we have dived in to start development of our very own interactive worksheets that can be used for tablets, as well as education apps that can be used for mobile learning. We are indeed enjoying the thrill of the digital revolution and have a lot of exciting ventures launching soon – all for the benefit of our teachers and learners. Thank-you to all our sponsors for their continued support – without them, we would not be able to bring the e-classroom service to you.
Serving you in education……