The most amazing thing that technology in education does is that it allows for learning to become self-paced, personalised. Education that truly makes the individual the focus of the learning system. After having spent my Tuesday at the Sandton Convention Centre, during day one of the EduTech Africa Conference, I am completely blown away. The number of applications and platforms, both online and offline, that are available to assist the future of this country in conquering their everyday academic challenges, is staggering. Yes we ought to invest a whole lot more in this and move beyond thinking about tech in education as the mini-PCs that we buy for children.
One of the buzzwords that were thrown around at the conference which would easily make one think that this was a private school event, was personalized learning. This phenomenon that every child actually could benefit from, is actually available to a lot more people than one would think. Take the myTopDog platform for instance. This platform gives multi-sensory content to the learner from Grade 4-12, across all subjects at less than R100 per month. This truly does start to level the playing field.
Our thoughts around technology in the education field has got to take into account the cooperation of the teacher, parent and learner. While some teachers are reluctant to adopt these new methods of teaching, others are diving in head first. Take Dr Renee Nathanson from Stellenbosch University for example, who has already implemented tech, through creating a project for her final year Bachelor of Education students, through the use of iPads. While it may come across as expensive, if there are private sector partners on board, it becomes very easy to lease these devices loaded with data, for the purposes of school.
The teachers who are resistant to adopting technology and project-based learning are really becoming fewer in the sector – because tech is also making the life of the teacher easier. The mily application from India offers a full service admission, fees, attendance, timetable and notices dashboard for schools. Other applications in this field include the D6 Communicator and what is important to note about both of these is that the main aim is to make school admin easier for all involved.
There are so many more applications that one could speak about and exhibitors that one can mention in terms of the conference, but I think I have waxed lyrical long enough. One thing that did though stand out in terms of the speakers and exhibitors is that we do need more people of colour, in this field of education. While there is a lot of money to be made in what is known as edTech, there is an even greater need for more and more platforms and applications in the local languages. While most people are trying their best in this field, we do need more of them to seek out how they can develop solutions, not just for the upmarket or middle class but rather for the vast majority of this country.
The many many applications and tech that are available, ought to be there in the public schooling system. Those who think that MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s IT drive is a bit much, would faint at this conference. Our learners need it and should be given a chance to utilise it. We need teachers and learners at schools in Venda, in Lusikisiki, in Mamelodi, Soweto and even in Krieskama to be using virtual reality to keep learners motivated and in touch with content.
We need public schools to be able to, if they don’t have the money to build a library, to allow their learners to use the eLibrary services that exist. Everything that you can think of is online and this makes life much easier and way more connected. The question is, is the Department of Basic Education able (financially) and willing (through its teachers) to embrace technology to solve problems? More importantly, as stakeholders, are we ready to allow children more time with their tablets and iPads and phones or do we think that schooling ought to be done like how it was when we were there?