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
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.
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