Roll­out of tablets good medicine for SA

While the ed­u­ca­tion chal­lenge re­mains mas­sive, rolling out a de­vice for ev­ery child could make a huge dif­fer­ence

The Mercury - - BUSINESS REPORT -

ME­DIA re­ports that South Africa is again look­ing at a mas­sive roll-out of tablets for ed­u­ca­tion should be wel­comed.

The idea of “One de­vice per child” was first cham­pi­oned by Ni­cholas Ne­gro­ponte from the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT).

One of the pi­lot pro­grammes was con­ducted in the ru­ral parts of Ethiopia. It was in­tro­duced by drop­ping rugged tablets from the air as part of a re­search study. The tar­geted au­di­ence con­sisted of il­lit­er­ate chil­dren and at the time the out­come of this process was un­clear.

How could il­lit­er­ate kids use dig­i­tal de­vices? How would kids who had never used tablets be­gin a process of us­ing this for­eign ob­ject?

Chil­dren there had never pre­vi­ously

seen printed ma­te­ri­als, road signs or even pack­ag­ing that had words on them.

The re­sults were amaz­ing, as the kids fig­ured out on their own how to use these tools. Some of them learnt how to write. In one me­dia re­port it was said that one boy, ex­posed to lit­er­acy games with an­i­mal pictures, opened up a paint pro­gramme and wrote the word “lion”.

As South Africa is be­gin­ning a process of rolling out dig­i­tal de­vices, it is im­por­tant that it take lessons from the pro­gramme that was un­der­taken by Ne­gro­ponte.

It’s easy to dis­miss the idea of hand­ing out tablets to learn­ers as use­less or some­thing that will never work. While the rea­son­ing be­hind the ob­jec­tion to this process has merit (con­sid­er­ing the in­ad­e­quate lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture con­text), it is also im­por­tant to con­sider po­ten­tial ben­e­fits. One that comes to mind is re­lated to ac­cess to qual­ity con­tent.

One of the most ig­nored re­al­i­ties about the South African ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is that it suffers from the poor ed­u­ca­tion legacy of the past.

Some young South Africans are taught by teach­ers who were them­selves vic­tims of the poor-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion of the past.

A com­bi­na­tion of tech­nol­ogy and

hu­man in­ter­ven­tion is re­quired to im­prove ed­u­ca­tion.

To change the legacy ef­fects of the poor ed­u­ca­tion of the past, a new pool of ed­u­ca­tors would have to be trained.

Most teach­ers were not taught dur­ing the dig­i­tal age and are there­fore less likely to as­sist learn­ers to adapt.

Tablets with the right kind of qual­ity

con­tent can bridge the gap.

The tablet for each learner pro­gramme could al­low South Africa to break with the past.

The tablets of­fer the coun­try an op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide qual­ity con­tent. In do­ing this, it will be im­por­tant to work with cur­rent teach­ers as fa­cil­i­ta­tors and use the tech­nol­ogy

ef­fec­tively. Tablets are great for con­tent de­liv­ery, but fur­ther sup­port would be re­quired for learn­ers to get value from ed­u­ca­tion. As the world is mov­ing to­wards the 4th In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion, the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem will have to adapt swiftly.

To­wards the end of 2018 Elon, Musk, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Tesla, do­nated lap­tops to all the kids at a school in Flint, Michi­gan, US.

This move by Musk was com­mended by many who un­der­stood its im­por­tance. When Musk was do­nat­ing these dig­i­tal de­vices, he un­der­stood the ed­u­ca­tion chal­lenge at the Flint school and he knew that tech­nol­ogy could as­sist.

The ed­u­ca­tion chal­lenge in South Africa is mas­sive. The poor in­fra­struc­ture in some lo­cal schools should not be used as a rea­son not to in­vest in tech­nol­ogy for ed­u­ca­tion.

If any­thing, tablets and tech­nol­ogy can make a big dif­fer­ence and bridge the class­room gap of in­her­ited prob­lems in the past and equip learn­ers to deal with the chal­lenges of the 4th In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion.

Wes­ley Diphoko is the edi­tor-in-chief of The Infonomist. He is also the founder of the Kaya Labs, an en­tity that fo­cuses on de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy lead­ers from pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties.

ENGLISH African News Agency (ANA)

AS SOUTH Africa is be­gin­ning a process of rolling out dig­i­tal de­vices, it is im­por­tant that it takes lessons from the pro­gramme that was un­der­taken by Ni­cholas Ne­gro­ponte from the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy. I ITUME­LENG

WES­LEY DIPHOKO

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