This blog post first appeared on Tablab. It is written by Indranil Das, a rising executive with Ericsson. Indranil participated in a leadership development program alongside Zach Mbasu, TabLab’s Tanzania teacher trainer and Chief Executive Officer of African Maths Initiative.  This program, called Ericsson Global Perspectives, was facilitated by a team that included Ross Wehner, TabLab Founder.

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Few months back, on a bright sunny afternoon I was waiting for my ‘homestay’ host to arrive and pick me up from a school compound in Tanzania. We were there for a global training program and ‘homestay’ was a part of our immersive learning experience — moving us out of our comfort zone, understanding new culture and country. While waiting, I struck a conversation with Zach whom I met few days back.

Zach is one of the NGO leaders who is working on an ambitious project ‘TabLab’ . He is energized by the dream of enabling 250 million kids in rural areas across the world who cannot read or do basic maths. Rather than just relying on traditional educational system, TabLab provides tablet based education material to students in remotest rural areas in Costa Rica, Tanzania, etc. Students learn on their own from the content provided in the tab which ranges from Khan Academy to online materials, quizzes on many topics and subjects.

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Zach Mbasu (blue checkered shirt) in training at Orkeeswa Secondary School, Monduli, Tanzania

While I was talking to Zach trying to understand the novel initiative of TabLab and how it is transforming many lives, my mind was transcended to a news article I read sometime back. It was about Julius Yego, an athlete from Kenya. He won Gold Medal for Kenya in 2015 Beijing World Athletics Meet. When you think about Kenyan Athlete what comes to our mind is a marathon runner. But Julius Yego is not a marathon runner, yet he is becoming a new revelation in World Athletics. He won Gold medal in Javelin. Javelin and Kenya? Doesn’t it sound odd? There is almost no history of Javelin greats in Kenya.

In his early teens Julius Yego was with few other boys and tried his hand in throwing a long stick, not really a Javelin. And at that very moment he realized that he wanted to be a Javelin thrower. He continued to pursue his dream against all odds including his father telling him to quit Javelin. There was no proper infrastructure, no academy for Javelin in Kenya which is predominantly a country for runner. But Yego was a man possessed … he had the conviction and courage to pursue his dream relentlessly. So how did he go about learning tricks of Javelin? He started watching YouTube videos of great Javelin greats and started learning on-line. Rest is history …

 

Numerous changes in education are sweeping through Africa and other parts of the world. The world is increasingly becoming digital in almost all aspects including, education, governance, trade among others. There has been increased calls to adopt technology in learning and teaching. This has prompted us to champion for it's adoption in schools. This photo blog highlights one of our projects in Oreekeswa Secondary School, Tanzania where we are promoting the integration of technology in learning.

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A form four student at Orkeeswa Secondary School, Tanzania using Tablab tablets to study. The tablet has a set of educational materials from a wide array of subjects that are taught in school.

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills.

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills.

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills

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Libraries offer students a wide range of learning materials. Many schools are poorly equipped with books and therefore students do not have adequate materials or revision and self learning. These tablets give students an opportunity to access reading materials in PDF form, education mobile applications, videos, puzzles and quizzes which can be used for teaching and learning.

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Students from Orkeeswa Secondary, Tanzania watching keenly educational videos during a classroom session.

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A form four student at Orkeeswa Secondary School in Tanzania studying using educational content from Tablab.

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A student watching educational videos using tab lets. #edutech

 

 

 

 

Form four students excited after discovering the numerous biology resources on TabLab

Form four students at Orkeeswa School, Tanzania excited after discovering the numerous maths resources on TabLab

 

TabLab Education utilizes technology to enhance pedagogical approaches that support creativity, Innovation and critical thinking in rural schools. The need for technology integration in teaching and learning cannot be overemphasized. I recently spent two weeks at Orkeeswa school in Monduli, Tanzania, sharing and training teachers and students on how to use Tablets for teaching and learning. Orkeeswa school is located deep in the Maasai village about 10Km from the nearest small Monduli town that has an interesting history that I will share another day. Along the numerous meandering paths to the school you will notice the tropical Savannah rich with diverse vegetation that colonizes the secluded and unused extensive areas around the school. Magnificent forest and hilly landscapes full of wild animals like elephants, hyenas and buffaloes overlook the school from a far. You would enjoy the view of this forest and escarpments from the school.

Orkeeswa school  is eight years old with a population of 300 students with 53% girls and 47% boys. This is a day school and all students come from the nearby Maasai villages with some walking as far as 20km to get to school. It has 45 staff members who commute to and from the nearby Monduli town. The aim of the school is to impact the local area surrounding the school and the community. The strength of Orkeeswa is placed on extracurricular activities such as basketball, athletics and other clubs. While at the school, I worked with small groups of teachers and occasionally had one on one sessions with individual teachers. Students were also very eager to use the tablets and each day including weekend,  I would have a session with a selected class. The dedication of teachers and students to attend TabLab sessions really encouraged me and I always looked forward to the next day at the school.

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills.

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills.

Orkeeswa school teachers at the emerging stage in ICT integration. This stage is linked to discovering ICT tools, and acquiring basic ICT literacy skills.

I introduced the ideas of integrating ICT to teaching and learning highlighting the key objective that using Tablets should add value to the learning process. This was followed by numerous sessions of teachers developing TabLab integrated lessons, activities and actual simulations of lessons by teachers. During these presentations, teachers would critic each other with the main aim of improving their lessons. At the beginning the teachers were just reproducing the way they always teach. After a number of sessions and discussions, other teachers started giving suggestions on how they would offer the same lesson differently. Towards the end of my two weeks with them, I started observing a few lessons whereby they planned activities on the TabLab that promoted students higher order thinking. They began valuing the appropriate teacher supported learning that is initiated and directed by the students.

 

Offline Tutor-web: Education.In.Suitcase

 

Happy Teachers

In TabLab education, continuous meaningful In-service teacher education is recognized as the key to quality education for children. After a one month’s school break in June, I have really been looking forward to going back to Banjika secondary school, Tanzania to continue helping and working with teachers to use the TabLab meaningfully in their lessons. Teachers are often unwilling to make lesson plans. Among the reasons they give is that they have a huge number of lessons to prepare for; they have large number of students of which they have to evaluate and make follow up. They also mentioned that they have a curriculum and a syllabus of which they have to complete at end of the term.

“The curriculum lists detailed outcomes for each topic and formal tests are held. Test results are used to rank schools. Teachers have to cover the entire subject content. We can’t teach anything outside the curriculum. First, time is not enough, because we have to cover the whole curriculum.” Chemistry teacher

As a teacher trainer I do understand the immense value of lesson planning and preparation. I decided to take the bull by its Horns by focusing on lesson planning and preparation while emphasizing on students centered teaching methods. I prepared and shared with them a few templates of lesson plans integrating the TabLab resources as much as possible. Part of the TabLab’s approach and aim is to enhance knowledge deepening by adding value to the quality of lessons that teachers deliver. With this approach teachers had to identify a topic in their subject area, design a lesson plan, prepare and use specific classroom activities that address the objectives of a lesson.

This approach that they are not used to require a change in teachers’ mindset in the way they teach. This often required changes in the way they prepared for lessons to emphasize depth of students understanding of concepts over coverage of content.  The lessons were prepared such that a lesson had to be student centered and teacher’s role was to make appropriate tasks, guide student understanding and support students as they tackled a given problem collaboratively. Lessons and classroom structure had to be more dynamic, with students working in groups even outside normal lesson time to complete their given tasks.

In guiding students’ understanding of key concepts and ideas, teachers had to use open ended-tools available on the Tablets that are specific to the topical area they were handling at that time, such as GeoGebra for data analysis in mathematics. The key to lesson’s success lied to the ability for a given teacher who is preparing to know what resources are available and structure tasks that integrate topic-specific tools available on the TabLab with students-centered teaching methods.

In one of the informal discussions with the teachers, the idea of lesson planning and preparation raised concerns in teachers: “I know it is a good idea to write a lesson plan and prepare but I have no idea how to do it. Well, I know it in theory, but how to do it in practice?” Geography teacher

The following example shows how a maths teacher at Banjika secondary recently used the Tablet to enhance knowledge deepening in Statistics, a topic taught in maths and Geography:

Lesson plan

At the end of my short stay with the teachers, I helped put a smile on their face and demystified the monster of lesson planning and lesson preparation. I hope with the wonderful TabLab resources, they keep on planning and preparing adequately for their lessons. The big question remains whether we should prepare lesson plan templates for the whole curriculum to accompany the TabLab?

 

I am training and working with 28 teachers of which 5 of them are teachers on teaching practice helping them acquire the knowledge to effectively work with tablets. With a set of 20 ipads, Rachel pi that has about 64GB of teaching and learning content, we are helping teachers to seamlessly incorporate the Tablab to support and enhance student engagement in meaningful learning and attainment of curriculum objectives.

Simply placement of hardware and software will not make learning to naturally follow. I have been enhancing pedagogical design for effective use of resources on the Tablab in teaching and learning of the various subjects taught. We have already had more than 30 sessions where teachers sit together and carefully plan lessons. They then go ahead to teach the lessons they have prepared and in some case while the other teachers observe other teachers teaching. We then sit together and discuss how the lesson went on, the strengths and weak points of the lesson and then finalise on how the lesson could be improved next time it is taught. This way, teachers have been learning a lot from one another. I have also seen a paradigm shift towards student learning since integration of the Tablab requires a teacher to think carefully and reflect on the role he or she plays in the classroom.

I have worked with teachers showing them how to identify teaching and learning tools. Them using the well thought out Khan Academy videos has been able to bring reality in the training sessions, in classrooms and is making learning more meaningful.

Students too were not left behind! During their extra time, evening hours and on weekends especially Saturday’s, I have been working with small groups these enthusiastic students. Today’s learners are born into the knowledge society and all they see around them including mobile phones, tablets, computers etc are just but tools they can use for learning. I help them by ensuring they have access to the TabLab and show them how to access a variety of resources, information and useful software for learning. I also support teachers to integrate the tools into their lessons and into student learning activities across the curriculum. These is providing immense learning and teaching opportunities.

For example, I have seen students during maths lessons really motivated to learn subjects like mathematics which is not normally the case. The videos, interactive content and interactive software like GeoGebra are helping students interact and understand certain concepts by making abstract concepts clearer. I am seeing a lot of collaborative teaching and learning among teachers and students respectively. Teachers too are acquiring knowledge of various teaching methods to enhance active teaching and learning. The teachers are quickly getting and enhancing their pedagogical skills to take full advantage of the huge potential of the TabLab to enhance students learning.

This wonderful initiative is not lacking challenges. The teachers still need to be coached on strategies to meaningfully integrate the TabLab into the curriculum. In particular, teachers need long term skills and strategies for effectively using in the Tanzanian curriculum to enhance students outcomes and students learning goals. The ultimate student success depends on teachers using not only the TabLab but other teaching aids to support sophisticated, hands on/minds on and multidisciplinary learning projects. Teachers need a system of support at various levels for integrating technology and overcoming isolation as they grapple with new and unfamiliar approaches to teaching and tools for learning. They need real tiem technical support in resolving problems related to hardware, software. These are problems that are often interfering with and even derailing the teaching and learning process in the school. AMI is committed and dedicated to helping and supporting them.IMG_0178   _MG_4919IMG_0044

 

The Maseno University first year students of MMA 106 (a service mathematics  course) class in the 2012/2013 academic year used their own mobile phones to make teaching videos. Their motivation was the Khan Academy videos which they watched in the math lab to strengthen their understanding of certain concepts covered in class. This is part of an ongoing research on the effect of certain teaching interventions on the students achievement and motivation in mathematics. To watch a few of the videos, click here. Feel free to send your comments and suggestions.

 

From AXIS Philly's visualization application.

In December, the Philedelphia police department in the United States released a csv database of major crimes (murder, rape, burglary, etc) since 2006. Since then, community software developers have been mapping the data. The community involvement is hoped to spur the future release of large city data sets.

Within the Kenyan context, we can ask: What large sets of statistics can we get access to that are of general interest, and how can we represent that data in a way to get important information across to community members?  It is vitally important to report data in a way that keeps people informed about what is happening in their country.  A good place to start might be the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

 

Attitude is one's perception about something. There are two types: negative and positive attitude.

Negative attitude drives away the positive energy needed to do something. for instance,many students have a negative attitude towards mathematics.

This leads to poor performance in the subject because of the perception that maths is hard. Teachers and students should work together to fight negative attitude.

This can include the introduction of maths related games such card games,simple mathematical patterns or sequences with hidden rules and getting the students to participate fully.

Teachers should also try and attend to all students including the slow learners and introducing regular quizzes on what has been taught to enable the students to have constant practice.

 

ITS YET ANOTHER YEAR BEFORE US. MOST OF US ARE HAPPY AND WITH MANY EXPECTATIONS ABOUT VARIOUS THINGS IN LIFE.SOME OF US WANT TO PURSUE VARIOUS INTERESTS IN LIFE AND MAYBE EDUCATION. BUT MY QUESTION IS THAT WHAT ARE YOUR NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS?
BEFORE A NEW YEAR STARTS,ITS ALWAYS ADVISABLE FOR TO TAKE TIME AND TRY TO THINK ABOUT HOW HE OR SHE WOULD LIKE TO CONDUCT HIMSELF DURING THE NEW YEAR. WE WRITE DOWN  WHAT WISH TO ACHIEVE AND THE STRATEGY TO BE USED. THIS ACTS AS OUR FOUNDATION AND REMINDER ON WHAT IS REQUIRED OF US. MY PRAYER IS THAT YOU TRY AND WORK HARD IN ALL THAT YOU INTEND TO DO IN THE YEAR 2013. LET IT BE INDEED A NEW YEAR TO YOU. DO NOT CARRY YOUR PREVIOUS FAILURES BUT TRY AND IMPROVE ON THEM. DO EVERYTHING IN A DIFFFERENT WAY FROM HOW YOU USED TO DO IT BECAUSE THE CHANCES OF SUCCESS ARE HIGHER THAN WHEN YOU STICK TO THE SAME WAY. HAVE A SUCCESSFUL AND PROSPEROUS 2013!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Some Maths Links

Vi Hart - Hyperactive videos about beautiful math concepts. Snowdecahedron - A mathematical art installation. Tau - An alternative to pi. BBC Brief History of Math - A Documentary. John Baez - A maths superhero.
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