by Lynda Okoko
“To promote growth of the whole person through developing the mental, physical and emotive abilities and attitudes; to impact literacy and numeracy and nurture scientific and social skills; promote social equality and lay a foundation for further education” - objective of Kenyan Primary Education.
Electronic learning is the title the government is giving to the ‘digitalisation of the Kenyan curriculum’ being undertaken by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum development (KICD) established in 2013, formerly the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE); in which the information supplied in the textbooks is copied and pasted into software form. But how really does one learn electronically?
The idea of digitizing learning is to create an interactive platform from which the student gets more than if they were to use the traditional methods such as textbooks and flashcards. Not only should this “decrease the gap between the resource demand and supply” by increasing access to information but also help the students retain the information and improve their performance while gaining vital skills. In this way the traditional methods of learning, that is, cramming can be eradicated from an early learning stage.
One of the original fears associated with e-learning included the fact that it would take away the “human element” that some students need within the classroom in order to grasp concepts. By digitizing textbooks, this fear is validated something technology educators have done extensive research into avoiding. Innovative citizens have taken this challenge up and come-up with ideas relevant to their own education background. From their own experiences and upbringing, these Kenyans have created different interactive platforms and then versions of learning programs including:
EnezaEducation- a cell phone application created and designed by Toni Maraviglia, Kago Kagichiri and Chris Asego to ‘make 50 million kids across rural Africa smarter’ by providing easy access to learning and general information.
eLimu- a tablet application created and designed by Nivi Mukherjee and by Marie Githinji with the intention to ‘make learning fun’ through interactive version of the Kenyan primary school syllabus.
eSoma- designed by James Opot with help from his brother Tony Opot is an interactive e- learning platform for the Kenyan curriculum to ‘enhance the learning experience of children in the country’.
eShule- a mobile application created by John Muthee to offer learning content for Kenyan high school and college courses.
Kytabu- a textbook subscription application founded by Tonee Ndungu to provide students to access the learning material they need from wherever they are in the country.
SwapKitabu- an online subscription created by Steve Njuru to allow book owners to connect and exchange or sell school text books that they don’t need.
Mank and Tank- virtual classrooms created by Martin Khamala in order to develop and distribute Kenyan educational content and thus bring together learners and educators.
eKitabu- an e-book subscription that avails a wide range of books from the Kenyan curriculum to best-selling novels to students and readers.
Usomi- an e-learning platform containing university courses and cooperate training.
Smart Blackboard- a phone application which allows students to access tutorial help from qualified teachers
Shakili- a learning platform created by Muthuri Kinyamu to connect educators and allow them to share knowledge with each other.
With the government undecided about what to do next the private sector is stepping up. An example is the Intel group which in 2013 launched an application ‘Explore and Learn’ for individuals with “quality digital learning” that is content that is exciting and relevant to the Kenyan curriculum on an interactive platform. They are now approaching private schools in Nairobi, where the students are expected to purchase both the hardware and the program but at subsidised fees. Again they are reaching out to local education platform designers to partner with them in order to implement e-learning into the Kenyan curriculum of interested schools, creating what they term as a ‘one-stop shop’ for educators. To date, they have partnered with a number of publishers such as KICD, Nation Media Group, Msingi Pack, Ekitabu, Kenya Private School association and Makini Schools. Kenyan universities such as JKUAT and USIU have also incorporated e-learning platforms such as WebCT and Moodle which according to student research are still to improve their interactive capability and thus user experience.
Teachers however need to be considered more in this digital development as they are the main facilitators in Kenyan education especially at the key stages. Mlab Nairobi suggests private-public partnership with these educators in order to make this learning interesting and interactive thus relevant. A second important partnership is that in which the user interface is researched and developed in order to keep the students interested. Again as commonly seen in Kenya, the individuals are making the difference. As iHub we call for more of these individuals and wish them all the best!