Another dot in the blogosphere?

What might technology leverage on?

Posted on: April 1, 2017

I often reflect on how we might leverage on technology in the contexts of schooling and education.

But what might technology (aided by change agents) leverage on? Unfortunately, the unfortunate. Disasters of different types, be they weather-driven, geopolitical, or other, are problems seeking solutions.

Several years ago at a conference, one speaker shared a story of how he finally managed to implement e-learning in Thailand. Floods had forced the shutting down of schools, but the idea of “business continuity” appealed to decision makers.

Earlier this week, I read this article on refugee education in Kenya. The refugees prioritised their phones for both life and learning, and this forced refugee educators to rethink platforms, delivery, and interaction.

Tech companies have flooded this space with possibility—new apps, online learning portals, libraries. But, often lost in this rush to help, the best ideas may start very simply and originate within refugee communities.

What were some general principles of technology integration that worked in this context? The Kenyan case study revealed these:

  • Ground-up: The teachers decided what they would use and how, e.g., using Facebook groups for feedback on essays.
  • Authentic and logical use: Teachers there already used Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate. They extended their conversations to discuss teaching topics and challenges.
  • Seamless use: The teachers did not seem to have an “either/or” approach, i.e., either face-to-face or virtual; no-technology or technology. Their use was not based on distinction by medium or tool, but on a seamless application of “and”.
  • Going beyond classroom walls: Recognising the need to change social norms (e.g., sending girls to school), face-to-face classroom discussions with males were continued in WhatsApp outside the classroom.

The principles that emerged from a refugee camp in Kenya are generic enough to apply to a “first world” context.

Technology and change agents might leverage on what teachers and learners already have with them and what they already do. Learners value their phones and they already use them authentically. Design for that instead of our preconceived notions of what schooling should look like.

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