Over the course of the past semester, I teamed up with fellow RPI IT student, Lorena Nicotra, to develop a project that would promote curriculum-driven technology use in primary schools in Tanzania. In response to the problem of neglected computer donations in Tanzanian schools, we wanted to come up with an idea that would help schools make effective, intuitive use of technology in a way that would supplement the existing curriculum.
The basic premise of our project was to develop a web interface that lists Tanzanian curriculum objectives for standards one through four in Mathematics, English, and Science. Under each of these objectives, the interface offers several links to external online resources that have been screened for relevance to Tanzanian education. Games, videos, simulations, and audio are provided to offer a wide range of resources that can augment an instructor’s daily lesson plans.
While math curriculum is very transferable among cultures, other subjects vary a great deal. For example, in Tanzania, a focus is placed on teaching sanitation, hygiene, first aid, and disease prevention in science classes. The way that these topics are taught in Tanzania is very different from the way that they are taught in other, Western cultures, making it difficult to find online content that can be used in this area. Luckily, we were able to find some resources developed by USAID and its partners that addressed these objectives particularly well.
Finding ESL resources was also difficult because most online content is developed for teaching English to a demographic with existing knowledge of Spanish or French. In this instance, it would have been helpful to have a native Swahili speaker working with us. We did end up finding several resources that were intended to support teaching ESL to any demographic.
With an overwhelming amount of content and information available on the Internet, it can be intimidating to mine through and find relevant educational material. This bottleneck prevents teachers and administrators from taking advantage of the wealth of online educational resources. Our solution eliminates this concern by plopping relevant learning content in a central location that is extremely easy to navigate.
A second, and more important, value lies in its ability to provide relevant content. As I highlighted in my Challenges spiel, it is difficult to find relevant resources in Science and English. All of the resources on our interface will directly address points within the Tanzanian curriculum standards, however, so it can be verified that all of the site’s content is extremely applicable to Tanzanian education.
With easy navigation and applicable content, teachers are able to direct their students to the site and immediately locate resources that will address the day’s lessons. In this way the technology is able to support the role of the teacher and reinforce a student’s understanding of educational concepts.
I will be spending my winter break in Arusha, Tanzania, and I will have the opportunity to introduce this solution to teachers and students in a local primary school. The introduction is expected to highlight areas of success and needs for improvement. Development will continue as more resources are discovered and issues are identified.
If you have any suggestions for ways that we can boost this project or comments on our progress, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.