Promoting Smart Tech to Improve Education
by Amy Bernath, IREX
In a tight budget environment for education, it is tempting to view ICT equipment and training as a luxury to cut. We can all think of a case where technology for technology's sake hasn't worked: an unused laptop in the corner of an overfilled classroom, an interactive whiteboard at a school without adequate electricity to support its use, a smartphone game developed for a population of youth without access to smartphones.
In fact, now is the time for a focus on smart technology integration in all levels of education. At the core of a smart technology intervention is in-depth initial research to understand:
- What technology and expertise is already available within a school and community?
- How can additional technology or training on technology be integrated with existing ICT to support and enhance teaching and learning?
- What school and community resources are available to provide long-term maintenance and support for ICT equipment?
IREX's Center for Collaborative Technology is focused on better understanding and promoting the use of technology to reach development goals, including educational outcomes. IREX uses a smart technology approach in programming based on local needs and resources in a variety of environments.
Creating Local Language Content
In Kyrgyzstan, web content in the local Kyrgyz language is limited. The Global Connections and Exchange (GCE) program began to address this content gap by organizing Kyrgyz Wikipedia Day, bringing together students and teachers to upload articles to the Kyrgyz language Wikipedia. Attendees uploaded a total of 136 new articles to the site by the end of one day, an increase of 3% to the entire body of Kyrgyz language articles on Wikipedia.
Increasing Use of Existing Resources
The majority of schools in Ukraine lack computer labs and students have limited school-based opportunities to interact with technology. Global Libraries Ukraine is training librarians to promote use of the library's tech resources for teaching and learning. At the Children's Library of Feodosiya, librarians reach out to families with children, encouraging them to use internet-based literacy games at the library.
Preparing Teachers to Innovate
The cost of purchasing and maintaining an interactive whiteboard is prohibitively expensive for many schools in Indonesia. An Indonesian physics teacher participating in the International Leaders in Education Program (ILEP) found a way to integrate a less costly and lower maintenance tech solution in his classroom. After completing an in-depth assessment of his classroom environment, Devandra Berry found out about an alternative interactive whiteboard that can be created from relatively low-cost materials. He then worked with his host school in the United States to create additional whiteboards that he will distribute to other teachers in Indonesia.
When used appropriately, technology can be a learning multiplier. By integrating smart technology interventions into existing education systems, we have an opportunity to ensure that resources spent on ICT equipment and training will have maximum impact on learning outcomes.
Amy Bernath works in the Education Programs Division at IREX. IREX works with individuals, institutions, and governments to expand access to and improve the quality of education worldwide. Founded in 1968, IREX has an annual portfolio of over $70 million and a staff of over 400 professionals worldwide. IREX employs field-tested methods and innovative uses of technologies to develop practical and locally-driven solutions with our partners in more than 100 countries.