Syncspace for iPads and Android Tablets

SyncSpace, a whiteboard app for iPads and Android Tablets could turn out to be the next best innovation in educational technology after the techbook.
According to www.free4teachers.com, the app can be used to create drawings and documents on the Tablet and has the advantage of freehand drawing tools, typing tools or a combination of both.
“Your drawings and documents can be sent and synced with other users so that they can comment and edit your drawings and documents,” says www.free4teachers.com.
Application for education
“SyncSpace could be a great app for collaborative brainstorming sessions across multiple devices”.
By Patrick Wameyo Otundo

Technology Enhances Learning – Infographics

In a poll carried out by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation teachers were asked on whether they think technology has helped enhance learning in their classrooms and almost all of them seemed to agree that the adoption of technology in classroom instruction was untenable.
Out of the statements posed to the teachers, 57 percent strongly agreed that “Digital sources such as classroom technology and web-based programs” engaged their students in learning.
Forty four percent of teachers polled strongly agreed that digital resources helped their “students’ academic achievement.
But that does not mean that hard copy material are no longer useful as 43 percent of the teachers said that magazines and books engaged their students in learning.
Responding to a closely similar statement posed thus: “classroom magazines and books other that textbooks help my students’ academic achievement,” 38 percent of those polled strongly agreed.
On whether traditional textbooks help the students in learning, only six percent strongly agreed with the statement, with only 12 percent saying that the textbook helped enhance learners’ academic achievement.

By Patrick Wameyo Otundo

Six Emerging Technologies in Education

Across the world, emerging trends are posing a challenge to Kenyan educators to adopt new technologies in teaching and learning. In the USA, grade K-12, the equivalent of form one, there have been identified six emerging technologies which promise to revolutionize education.

According to the 2011 Horizon report, the new technologies include, cloud computing, the use of mobile technology, gaming, the provision of open content, the use of learning analytics and the adoption of personal learning environments.

Cloud computing, which is the use of internet-based tools which enable teachers and students to to collaborate online is a cost-saving intervention that has been adopted by may schools across the USA.
According to www.peterpappas.com, schools in the US state of Michigan “are already using Google Apps for email and document collaboration.”
Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are also increasingly in use in most schools as they are less expensive than most laptops and need less infrastructure to support them.
In a report appearing on www.peterpappas.com 5th to 12th graders are already “using iPhones for gathering and and tracking GPS-tagged bird sitting for Wild-lab, a scientific research program.”
Gaming has also been identified as an area that is having impact on education as “it allows for experimentation, the exploration of identities and even failure.”
An example is given of Palm-Beach High School which is said to be using a web-based game show format in their language arts program.
The broad availability of open content where schools develop and share content id another of the trends that is revolutionizing the way we access classroom content.
This model is already being experimented in Kenya through www.elimuportal.net where teachers from various schools come up with content and post it for free access on the web.
Learning analytics contains strategies aimed at students studying early math concepts such as fractions to learn via alternative methods that involved manipulation and visual approaches.
The adoption of personalized learning environments in which an individual student designs a system that best works for them is also widely being adopted.
Although the Kenyan experience is still a whole world away from what we have in the USA, it is expected that, with the wide adoption of technology-based learning, these new and emerging technologies will eventually be present with us.
By Patrick Wameyo Otundo

New York City’s Pop-up Libraries in Phone Booths

As Kenyans grapple what to do with the outdated telephone booths, it seems New Yorkers are thinking ahead. John Locke an architect in the city has found a new way to use the old metallic booths that have been overtaken by new technology including mobile telephony. He is converting phone booths in the City into pop-up libraries complete with custom bookshelves and small selections of books. He spoke on the project in this interview with The Atlantic Cities 

By Patrick Wameyo Otundo

Here Comes the Techbook

Like many other countries, the Kenyan education system is largely based on learning materials presented in the for of a text book. This is set to change if the Ministry of Education implements ICT in all public schools in the country.
But as the government struggles to spread the use of technology in education, elsewhere, huge strides have been made with the gradual replacement of the traditional textbook with what is now being referred to as a ‘techbook’ becoming a reality.
According to www.techlearning.com, the Discovery in Education Science Techbook in more than a digital book.
“It is a different way of thinking. Thinking outside the box, perhaps. Or more appropriately thinking outside the book,” says a report on www.techlearning.com.
This mode of learning, which is being used across the USA includes a model lesson for teachers to use with every concept, assessment questions for each standard, a teacher’s guide and a DVD for use when the internet is not available.
It is expected that the Kenyan ICT for schools program will eventually meet the standards that have been set elsewhere in the world.
So far, secondary schools that have embraced ICT have only been provided with a DVD containing learning and teaching content for form one, which is the first grade. Material for senior classes are still at the development stage with teachers from different schools expected to contribute content to the national education portal www.elimuportal.net.
The American techbook has integrated features such as “virtual labs, reading passages, video segments, science sleuths, explorations and interactive glossary.” It provides teachers with an easier and creative way to build lessons using technology resources and content.
The lesson resource for teachers is presented in PDF format with links to connect to different resources.
By Patrick Wameyo Otundo

Samsung Set to Launch Learning Hub

South Korean electronics company Samsung is set to launch it’s own education service known as “learning hub” in what is being seen as following a trend that has already been set by Apples iTunes U and iBooks platforms which are thought to have enhanced the push to have iPads in schools.
“Learning hub” is set to provide 6,000 textbooks and videos from 30 education providers across the world.
According to thenextweb.com “the Korean mobile giant intends to introduce a range of interactive features that assist learning on its Galaxy tab 10.1 and Galaxy tab 8.9 tablets.”
The features of the learning hub will include automatic scoring, note taking abilities and learning management options “providing a true self-guided learning environment.”
The new educational service – which Samsung intends to launch at upcoming Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona, Spain in just a week – will be open to people of all ages from primary school students to adults of all ages.
So far all that is known about the service is from a series of screen shots on its official Flickr account.
It remains to be seen if Samsung will face off the stiff competition it is already facing from Apple which announced in January that downloads from its iTunes U and iBook Author platforms had reached 3 million and 600,000 respectively, in five days of the launch.
The new iTunes U app gives users to iTunes U content in one place without having to surf through iTunes to find it.
The new app featuring interactive content allows teachers to post messages to the ‘class’ and get feedback as well as deliver assignments.
So far there have been 700 million downloads of iTunes app content and thousands of universities including the Open University are already using it.
Teachers can also set office hour right from the app.
Samsung is looking to expand its own “learning hub” onto smart phones, training companies and private operators so that they can deliver the content to assist with self-learning in work-based training to their employees and customers.
Details on the workings of the new platform are expected to emerge after the MWC expo.

By Patrick Wameyo Otundo

Puzzle Play Could Help Simplify Mathematics

Every year when the national examination results are released, there is a noted poor performance in mathematics and sciences.
This year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results, which are expected in a few days time may may not turn out differently as the perception that mathematics and science are tough to crack still persists among teachers and students in Kenyan schools.
But following a new study by University of Chicago researchers, all this is bound to change if we nurture the students’ spatial skills – the ability to perceive space – from an early age.
According to the researchers who carried out the study, the key to nurturing the skill required to do better in mathematics and sciences is the introduction of puzzles earlier in the child’s life.
The study published in the journal Development Science found that children who played puzzles between ages 2 to 4 had better spatial skills when assessed at 54 months old.
Psychologist Susan Levine, the study’s lead author and an expert on children s’ mathematical skills development, found that children “who played with puzzles performed better than those who did not, on tasks that assessed their ability to rotate and translate shapes,” according to the university’s website.
According to the study, early puzzle play also may help kids develop the ability to mentally transform shapes, which is “an important predictor” of whether older students will take courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and pursue degrees and careers in those subjects, the study found.
The study was done by videotaping 53 pairs of children and parents from diverse socio-economic backgrounds for four months between 26 and 46 months of age.
The study also noted that parents from higher social-economic backgrounds tended to expose their children to puzzles more than those in the lower bracket.
Concerning gender boys tended to play more difficult puzzles than girls and boys’ parents “provided more spatial language during puzzle play and were more engaged in play than the parents of girls.”
Also, boys “performed better than girls on a mental transformation task given at 54 months of age.”
By Patrick Wameyo Otundo

World’s First Free online Adademy

A new online school based in California USA is being hailed as the world’s first free online provider of learning material via media such as I-pads, computers and even mobile phones.
According to a recent report on the BBC website, the Khan Academy “has thousands  of step-by-step videos containing topics in subjects such as maths and science” meant to help youngsters to catch up on lessons and bright children to stretch themselves further.
The advantage of this new service – which according to the BBC report, is estimated to have been used by more than 3.5 million users in the first year of its launch – is that “it is interactive allowing students to test themselves again and again and then chart their own progress.”
It is estimated that, so far, 85 million videos have been downloaded from the site.
According to the BBC report, the initiative has so far received monetary support from The Bill Gates Foundation to the tune of $5.3 million; Google, the online search engine to the tune of $2 million and from the “Cloud Computing” guru, Sean O’Sullivan to the tune of $5 million.
In an interview with the BBC, Shantanu Sinha, Khan Academy president and chief operating officer, said the project is part of a “major transformation” in education adding that it’s major advantage is that “it’s being transformed by accessibility,”
It is envisaged, in the new initiative that anyone with an internet connection can plug into the resources now available online, regardless of where they live.
With the recent introduction of ICT in Kenyan schools, it is expected that schools will take advantage of such freely available materials to enhance the current education programs.
The Khan Academy website allows students to progress at their own pace, follow a structured course through a subject and learn in their own local language.

By Patrick Wameyo Otundo

The Use of ICT Takes Root in Kenyan Schools

It is a hot sunny day at Kilingili Secondary School and students are struggling to concentrate as Fred Bwire the mathematics teacher in form 3 West shouts at the top of his voice to catch the attention of the sleepy class.
Chalk dust fills the air when, Mr. Bwire, who has been scribbling illegibly on the rugged black wall, hits the duster against the teachers’ table. From the far right corner, a students coughs as others gasp for breathe in the hot and humid classroom.
This is the agony of the teacher in contemporary Kenya. “This is what we have to go through every day. When you come to class without a dust coat, all the dust lands onto your clothes, almost permanently,” Mr. Bwire says pointing at his whitewashed black trousers.
And he is not alone in this unfortunate predicament.
Although the teacher’s tools of trade have changed with the metamorphosis of the chalk from one full of dust to a dustless one, Mr. Bwire is hard pained to deliver content to the learners amidst the futile struggle to avoid contact with chalk dust.
“I have to be careful to avoid the dust. That greatly affects my delivery of content,” he says.
However, for teachers like Mr. Bwire, the future has never been brighter as schools across the country adopt new technology – projected to eventually lead to dust-free classrooms – in teaching and learning.
For the past one year the ministry of education has been implementing the pilot phase of the ICT in education project in which six secondary and three primary schools in 210 constituencies have been provided with ICT infrastructure including computers, a projector, white board and free unlimited broadband internet for one year, after which the benefitting schools will be expected to renew contacts with network providers.
As part of the project, teachers are being equipped with the skills required to:  carry out research on the internet; prepare digital content and deliver e-lessons. The training is being done over a ten-day period at the end of which the teachers are issued with certificates and allowed to join the MOEs ICT portal www.elimuportal.net – a sort of teachers’ social networking site –  where they can share digital content and interact with teachers from other regions of the country.
According to Mrs. Pamela Okelo, DEO, Emuhaya district, the project is a sign of changing times. Speaking during the launch of the ICT laboratory at Kilingili secondary school she challenged both teachers and students to embrace new technology not just in class but also to access information outside the syllabus.
“Students should use the new facility to read newspapers…teachers can further their education through distance learning programs on the internet,” she said.
The school received 11 computers donated by the ministry of education through a grants program aimed at promoting the use of ICT in schools for teaching and learning.
According to Barongo Onkangi, the ICT champion in Emuhaya the training of teachers will emphasize “the changing role of the teacher”, which is shifting from a “know-it-all reservoir of knowledge to a mere facilitator” in the acquisition of knowledge.
Mr. Barongo says digital content is meant to appeal to the learners’ audio, visual and tactile senses. “They will learn by doing and by being involved in hands-on activities,” he said.
In a 2007 World Bank survey titled ICT in Education in Kenya it was observed that, although Kenya had “placed considerable emphasis on the importance of ICT in education”, there were “challenges concerning its access and use.”
The challenges identified in the report included high levels of poverty, limited rural electrification, and frequent power disruptions.
However, the initiative by the ministry of education to provide ICT infrastructure to schools is being seen as an attempt to address the challenges posed by high poverty levels that have been made worse by high inflation rates, as recent statistics released by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics indicate.
According to Mr. Barongo, the aim of the ministry of education is to promote “access to ICT infrastructure by connecting all remote educational institutions through the internet.”
Teachers from the 1260 secondary schools and 630 primary schools participating in the pilot phase of the project are required to register at www.elimuportal.net where they will share “experiences” as well as any “digital content” they would have developed.
Through the website a teacher in the far-flung North Eastern province will be able to connect with a counterpart in say Nairobi and share information on how to: make abstract concepts easier and topics interesting; make teaching more interesting; make abstract concepts understandable. They will also learn from their peers and get to access new trends and relevant information and ideas, according to cemastea.wikispaces.com/file/view/www.pptx
Mr. Barongo says, the piloting schools will also “be the model ICT centres for others both in their locality and nationwide.”
Integration of ICT in education also aims to improve both classroom management and school administration.
The national ICT policy encourages “…the use of ICT in schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions in the country so as to improve the quality of teaching and learning,” and has the general objective of improving the livelihoods of Kenyans by ensuring the availability of accessible, efficient, reliable and affordable ICT services.”
It is expected that the new technology will eventually replace chalk blackboard whose dust is thought to be harmful to both teachers and learners – in the long run.
According to www.educationinsight.com, “changing from traditional chalkboards to white-boards decreases allergy symptoms and attacks in the classrooms eliminates the negative effects that chalk dust leaves on all surfaces and air and increases student retention in a school.”

 “Although, the main ingredient of chalk dust is non-toxic, chalk dust can accumulate in the human respiratory system creating long-term health problems where there is chalk dust overexposure. Inhaling chalk dust for a number of years could create or trigger respiratory problems,” Says Riziki Makokha writing for The East African Education Insight, an E-zine.

By Patrick Wameyo Otundo