The better side of ICTs and learning of children in Kenya

Monday May 6 2013

One of the key roles of ICT in Kenya is the dissemination of information and teaching materials to learners. Photo/FILE

One of the key roles of ICT in Kenya is the dissemination of information and teaching materials to learners. Photo/FILE NATION

By ESMOND SHAHONYA [email protected]

Pupils at Intimigom Primary school in Kilgoris are among beneficiaries of e-readers distributed by Worldreader.

Here, the marvels of technology can be felt in the way their reading culture has been transformed by Kindles or e-readers.

Worldreader has so far distributed more than 441,000 e-books to children in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda.

The impact of the Kindles in the classroom has been felt in the improvement of the reading culture among pupils, with many of them spending more time reading through the gadgets.

Kindles at Intimigon primary are transforming the way children study and spend their free time.

As a matter of fact, text books are a rare commodity in some primary schools. Incidentally, the unavailability of books extends to institutions of higher learning where you would come across students illegally photocopying text-books in a bid to harness knowledge.

The scene of ill-equipped libraries is commonplace in the country. Hopefully, the situation can be changed by in-corporation of ICTs in the learning institutions.

One Kindle or e-reader can carry as many as 300 books compressed as e-books.

The children at Intimigon are in essence walking around with hordes of books on their gadgets. Technology has helped to put a whole library in the hands of the cildren with all the flexibility of easy access and convenience of use.

Besides, teachers can help students in downloading more relevant books from the Internet since the Kindles are also connected to the Amazons cloud storage store which has millions of e-books.

It’s a fact that electronic books have some crystal clear advantages over paper-books. They are not prone to aging or getting torn and can be updated easily by authors.

Kindles are designed for reading and access to e-books. In the Kilgori’s case, the Worldreader organisation works with publishers including Penguin, Random House, and Amazon, as well as African authors and publishers, to ensure that both local books as well as international books are available and affordable. Laptops, just like e-readers or Kindles, can also be loaded with hundreds of books in soft copy format.

Teachers can also load the gadgets with soft copies of material for their students.

If there is one major role for ICTs in schools, then it would be the disemination of information and teaching materials in particular.

With the aid of ICTs, it is possible to compile a mobile library in form of soft copy books that a child can take home or read anywhere at their own convenience.

The case of electronic books or e-books solves a lot of the production and distribution problems in teaching materials, as well as allowing easy updates as per the changes in the syllabus.

In essence, laptops or Kindles in a learning environment are an enabler in boosting the reading culture.

ICT is a key driver in life. Notably, access to information is a vital factor in industrialisation and socio-economic development. Most of the developed economies bear testimony to well established information flow channels through which viable data is transmitted, disseminated and utilised with tangible results.

Now, looking at the concept of laptops for children in Kenya, the idea sounds good if well implemented. The provision of laptops to them will make an active contribution in bolstering the scope of ICT in learning, communication and development of the appropriate life skills leveraging on technology. Of course, hurdles do exist, but the better side will have a positive impact on the reading culture of pupils.

As demonstrated by the Kindles in Kilgoris, development of e-reading culture and related computer skills can start at an early age as long as there are substantial resources and support. 

However, there is need to promote the skills of early years’ teachers so as to enable them to develop effective policies and appropriate teaching strategies which exploit the potential computers and other technology tools in the ICT sphere.

This is happening in a number of countries on the globe and initiatives like Worldreader and one-laptop-per-child (OLPC) are succeeding in enabling millions of children access learning material.

Worldreader uses digital technology evident as e-readers and existing mobile phone infrastructure to put a huge range of digital books in the hands of lucky children in the developing world.

The writer is an ICT analyst and a telecommunication Engineer

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