calendar_today 7 August 2019
Teachers, ranging from IT clubs for young children to IT college teachers, all shared their experiences of teaching with technology.
Teachers stated that IT lessons are not prioritised, in comparison to core subjects. The only interaction children have with technology (computers specifically) are in IT lessons or if a family/diaspora has sent it over.
Lack of hardware
Unanimously, all teachers stated they were desperate for hardware. Teachers found it difficult to teach their lessons or exam students in practicals, as hardware is usually old. Some teachers stated that they wish they had more computers or laptops, and others who ran the IT clubs, wished they had more interactive physical computing resources i.e. micro:bits or robots. These teachers received a donation from an external charity of Makebots and found the kids enjoyed the sessions but there were not enough devices to teach everyone.
Lack of software
Teachers stated that the software for all computers in the country is largely outdated.
Whilst some centres or schools have received devices, they explained that if teachers are not taught how to use them, they become largely unproductive and are not used. For example, a donation of VR headsets were provided to the centre but no one has used them, so they believed it was ‘not compatible’ with their system.
There is a concern that devices brought need to match the equipment available for example, as explained in the Issues post, the computers needed NET 4.5 for the MakeCode editor which took time to install running back and forth from the UNICEF building (which had WiFi).
University IT teachers stated that some students joining their class ‘had never switched on a computer before’ despite being top grade students. They then explained that for some students, exposure to technology occurs at a later stage i.e. college, whereas for others, mostly in the capital, children are taught at 14/15 year olds. Those students are taught Microsoft applications such as Excel or Word.
For the resources available, teachers explained that students with the highest top grades have exposure to IT clubs and are invited to these activities. This includes children as young as 10 years old. Otherwise, none of the teachers have ever exposed children under the age of 10, to any form of technology in class or centers.
Teachers explained that ‘language is the biggest issue’ as they are cautious of young children using the devices available since they wouldn’t understand english. When I explained that the 7/8 year olds did not know any English for the most part, but managed to build laptops, use VR technology and code a simple ‘Hello’ command, they seemed confused/surprised as to how.
As mentioned, children within the capital or close to any centre with devices, are at a benefit. Teachers explained that ‘if you are outside Asmara, it is very difficult to learn IT’.
Communication and Providers
Teachers explained that volunteers like myself, whilst welcome, are not a sustainable solution to introducing technology to young children across the entire country and that they need government funding and support.
Volunteers also have no idea of what the needs are or what is useful or what products would help. Therefore greater communication, despite limited internet access, would be ideal.