Monday, September 5, 2016

Barrier to effective use of Edtech
The use of technology in learning institutions has seen tremendous growth in the last decade; particularly due to massive revolution in the internet and mobile technology. With technology, institutions continue to boast of benefits ranging from increased efficiency, speed of completing tasks and reducing cost. Consequently, both students and institutions scramble to purchase hardware and softwares mean to support the teaching and learning process as well as administrative aspects. Much as these steps are being put in place by institutions, it is also crystal clear to me that barriers to using technology in an effective way still persist and varies from one institution or country to another. This lead to me ask the question: 
What are the key barriers to effective use of technology?
of course keeping in mind the the context variations

Based on my past experiences, careful observations and targeted discussions with colleagues and students, i was able to conclude that the answer to this question may appear broad but can be simplified. My conclusion was that the barriers to effective use of technology actually revolves around three broad areas (the 3 A's of technology)
  1. Availability
  2. Affordability
  3. Accessibility

This is to say that all the other sub-factors such as ICT competence, training and support, economic and political factors, revised curriculum, ICT policies etc, all would originate from anyone of the 3As. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Why use social media in education?

Today I want to take you down the lane of social media and discuss why teachers can no longer ignore its use in the classroom. As we all know, the potential of social media to support teaching and learning can no longer be underestimated. With the emergent of many techsavy pupils who continue to enter our classrooms daily, the need to motivate learning from the point of what they like and use every day (i.e. social media) becomes urgent. This hot topic motivated me to look into the reasons why teachers need to take advantage of social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube etc) to support student learning in the 21st century classrooms. The question motivating my search for this answer was:  Why should teachers use social media to support teaching and learning in the 21st Century classroom?

In an attempt to answer the question I was able to generate numerous answers based on my own experience as well as from continuing discussion with colleagues and students. Here, I only provide a summary into why social media can no longer be ignored by teachers by examining its potential benefits in the 21st Century classroom. Using social media, for example, you (as a teacher) can easily:
                    i.    Know your students’ thoughts based on the posts
                  ii.    Access current affairs like breaking news
                iii.    Globalize your classroom to the rest of the world
                iv.     Connect your class to experts who may impact on your students’ learning
                  v.     Connect with families including those of your students
                vi.     Make your students to think and comment about your lesson outside the classroom

It is my hope this is motivation enough to spur usage of social media for the benefit of both the teacher and students in the 21st century classroom.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Video-Based Learning
The use of Videos clips technology during instruction is growing and is thought to be one of the most effective way for supporting instruction. Videos, for example, engage both the sense of sight and hearing of the learner simultaneously. This in turn reduces the cognitive load on the learner during the learning process. However, numerous research have shown that a poorly designed video can sometimes become a barrier to learning rather than promoting it. This implies that educational videos ought to comply with 'video pedagogy' to enhance learning. A question therefore emerges: How can we design an effective instructional video that support and enhance learning?

To answer the question, i suggest five essential design guidelines to observe when designing such a video:

 1. Objective- this simplifies the learning process and draws learner attention and interest.
 2. KISS (Keep It Short and Simple)- "less is more, more is less". If content is long, do mini-videos.
 3. Use Voice-over- they support learning for the blind or those busy with other physical activities
 4.Captions- they are effective attention signals and can support learning for those with hearing impairment
 5. Interactive videos- they engage the learner e.g. you may use Vizia to add quizzes as video plays

In the near future i will post a sample of video that aligns with these guidelines. Remember, just bringing technology in front of your students will not guarantee their engagement in your lesson. 
3 Essentials for making Edtech work in a learning Institution
Introducing and using technology has remained a hard nut to crack for many academic staff within learning institutions. However, the problem may be alleviated using three broad simple rules:
    1. A visionary leadership
    2. Professional development

    3. Ongoing support

I urge institutions intending to integrate technology in teaching and learning as well as in administration; particularly those from developing countries to focus on the above simple rules. They are the simplest way to accelerate success in introducing, using and sustaining technology use in learning institutions.

Post by Elisha, an edtech expert and lecturer in a Kenyan University.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reflecting on the TPACK Professional development (PD) design process

Recently I was involved in designing a TPACK professional development for elementary natural science teachers within Indonesian context. For this reason, I worked elbow to elbow with two Indonesian friends. Everything from the design process, working with TPACK, finding ways to stimulate teachers to integrate technology in education as well as thinking about the feasibility of our design in the Indonesian context was very challenging; but later it turned out to be a crucial eye opener towards becoming a better TPACK professional development (PD) designer. From this design experience, I gained insight into so many important factors that needed to be considered before, during and after the design process. In my opinion, I summarize these factors into five categories, namely: context, literature, design and implementation, assessment and evaluation and finally feasibility and up-scaling.

To start with, from our design experiences, I was able to immediately establish the significance of the context in guiding the development of an effective design. Under the context, we analyzed teachers, students, schools, Government policy and the environment surrounding the school. For example before designing, we made attempts to understand the teachers’ knowledge (TPACK), skills, beliefs and attitudes in Indonesia. With regard to students, we analyzed their learning goals, preferences and backgrounds. In the school, curriculum content, school leadership style(s), access to technology tools and the school infrastructure facilities guided our analysis, just to mention a few. The results of the analysis in turn informed our design decisions and choices. For example, the context helped us to identify the problem and in-turn the goal of the TPACK PD. In addition, it aided us in choosing the technology to use during the workshop phase with teachers in that Indonesian context. In short, the complexity of the technology chosen was entirely context dependent.

Again from that design experience, I can now from my own words define the context as the environment in which the PD design will be implemented to bring the desired change. I also intend to highlight that the context is a crucial factor that needs deeper analysis before you begin to design because it will directly determine the level of impact during implementation of your design. In other words, you can be an excellent designer, but the moment your TPACK PD design fails to align with the context then rest assured that your design is slowly heading towards the road of failure if at all it escapes from being branded irrelevant.

Finally, the design activity enabled me understand better why the first TPACK framework proposed by Mishra and Kohler (2006) deserved the scathing attack it received when it failed to consider the context in its framework. Now I know why the two proponents of TPACK had to coil their tails and forced to include the dotted line around the TPACK frame work to represent the context. Surely you cannot take a TPACK PD that works for instance in the Kenyan context and export it for use in the Dutch context. Similarly, a designer cannot adopt the design that works for school A for use in school B. That will be tantamount to professional suicide and a bad career move because of the differences in contexts. Therefore, since each context has its own unique characteristics, then each design must be drawn based on the uniqueness of that particular context. Designing with TPACK to me is not like the computer cut and paste activity.Each design must align independently in its own context.

Lastly, my advice to other TPACK PD designers is that a thorough understanding of the context for which you are designing is a big milestone towards the success of your design.

At this level of the design we went about reviewing relevant literature that helped us (the designers) to choose the right models to ground our design. For example the TPACK model by Mishra and Kohler (2008), TPACK measurement instruments like the TPACK survey (Schimidt et al., 2009), TPACK Rubric and so on. Literature review also helped us find additional information about the context as well as how previous TPACK PD were designed and implemented successfully. For those that failed, the literature can also give you an account of what caused the failure and the possible ways to remedy it. The literature thus became an important tool that informed some of our decisions and choices before, during and after the design process.

Design and Implementation
To me, this stage was made easier by our deeper understanding of the context and the literature review. Without the two, proceeding to this stage would be almost impossible. Therefore, armed with the knowledge of the context and literature what now mattered was simply translating our prior analysis into a concrete plan of activities. For example, allocations of time for all activities which in our case were the workshops, lesson study, choosing the best technology (MS PowerPoint), pedagogical approach (collaborative problem solving). May be what I found difficult in this part is choosing what activities to include or leave out, how they should follow each other logically, when to conduct them and what amount of time to allocate for each activity. This was a big challenge. In short, safeguarding a smooth logical flow of activities to promote cognitive construction of knowledge for the participants was not a bed of roses for us. Furthermore, helping teachers develop and operationalize their TPACK also turned out difficult. It took us several days to align this. From the design experience am now am aware that any slight disorganization in the logical flow can be detrimental.

I suggest that in order to guard against waste of money and time; all designers need to be careful with this stage since it’s also another potential source of TPACK PD design failure if not handled well.

Assessment and evaluation
Professional development in science education is grounded on continuous improvement (Blank de las & Smith, 2008). Right from the start, I was able to notice how difficult it was to come up with one final excellent TPACK PD design because humanly as a designer you may overlook certain factors or issues that may emerge later on and thus affect the impact of your design. Your design therefore needs to be flexible enough to allow for revisions during the implementation process. For example, the views of teachers that will arise during the workshop and implementation stages will need to be accommodated to help improve your design. It is due to this fact that an on-going assessment and evaluation become a key aspect in informing our revisions. In our case, we designed a pre and post continuous assessment instruments for use throughout the process. For instance, the TPACK survey and TPACK Rubric were to be used. We also developed TPACK lesson observation instrument based on the standards of the International Society of Technology education (2007) and Partnership for 21st century skills (2008). Also catered for was summative evaluation using TPACK survey (Schimidt et al., 2009).It was meant to enable us measure the degree of TPACK knowledge and skills acquired by the teachers at the end.
It is my belief that the knowledge gathered from evaluation of the PD program, coupled with on-going monitoring indeed would have influenced my thinking to a larger extent about the design framework and how designers collect data to improve their TPACK PD design programs.

Feasibility and up-scaling
A TPACK PD design to me is worthless if it comes to a halt after implementation and fails to consider its feasibility and up-scaling. Feasibility is ensuring that the design is doable while up-scaling is spreading the tentacles of the TPACK PD knowledge and skills to other teachers within the district and beyond whom for one reason or another did not find the opportunity to learn from the workshop. In our design we considered these factors well in advance although I later came to realize that we overlooked some factors. For instance, budget estimates, source of funding, motivation to participants such as certificates, provision of lunch just to mention a few were overlooked and could slightly disturb the feasibility and up scaling of the design. Therefore, whoever is tasked to design a similar program should not repeat the same mistake we did but to learn from our mistakes.

Integrating technology into classroom teaching and learning is complex according to the TPACK framework. For teachers to effectively integrate technology in their teaching; they must synthesize their knowledge of curriculum content, teaching strategies and the affordances and constraints of technological tools and resources. Layered behind and underneath these three intersecting domains of knowledge is the context of the classroom, including social, political, and cultural factors, plus student learning styles and preferences, among many other considerations during the design process of a TPACK PD for teachers.

A better way to help teachers plan for technology integration is to base primarily upon their students’ curriculum-based learning needs that is grounded in the TPACK framework. Our emerging understanding of how teachers plan for instruction and the contextual constraints teachers face daily in their classrooms should guide the design of the TPACK PD. Only then can we be able to design Learning Activity Types (LAT) to assist teachers in connecting curriculum-based learning goals with content area-specific learning activities and complementary technology tools.


1.Blank, R. K. & de las Alas, N. (2008) Current models for evaluating effectiveness of teacher professional development: Recommendations to state leaders from leading experts. Council of Chief State School Officers: Washington, DC.
2.Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record 108 (6), 1017-1054.
3.Schimidt et al.(2009).Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK): The Development and Validation of an Assessment Instrument for Pre-service Teachers. ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 800.336.5191JRTE, 42(2), 123–149

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Challenges facing ICT integration in kenyan schools

While ICT continues to advance in western and Asian countries, African countries still experience a lag in its implementation, and that continues to widen the digital and knowledge divides. In a recent study by Kiptalam (2010), observed that access to ICT facilities is a major challenge facing most African countries, with a ratio of one computer to 150 students against the ratio of 1:15 students in the developed countries.
Whereas results indicate that ICT has penetrated many sectors including banking, transportation, communications, and medical services, the Kenyan educational system seems to lag behind. Further, recent report by the National Council for Science and Technology (2010) indicated that computer use in Kenyan classrooms is still in its early phases, and concluded that the perceptions and experiences of teachers and administrators do play an important role in the use of computers in Kenyan classrooms.
I therefore, see many challenges facing integration of ICT in Kenyan schools. They are:
  1. Lack of qualified teachers to teach ICT in schools; The demand for ICT learning has been tremendous and the number of teachers who are trained to teach ICT cannot meet the demand. There are more students willing to be taught computing skills than there are teaches to transfer the skills.
  2. Lack of computers; Computers are still very expensive and despite spirited efforts by the government agencies, NGO, corporate organizations and individuals to donate computers to as many schools as possible, there still remains a big percentage of the schools unable to purchase computers for use by their pupils.
  3. Lack of electricity; Many schools are still not yet connected to electricity; Kenya being a developing country, the government has not been able to connect all parts of the country to the national electricity grid. Consequently those schools that fall under such areas are left handicapped and may not be able to offer computer studies.
  4. Computers are still expensive in Kenya, in a country with a GDP of $1600, majority of the individuals and schools cannot afford to buy a computer and consider it as a luxury item, more expensive than a TV. While 2nd hand computers cost as little as $150 and branded new computers being sold at $500 or higher.
  5. Broken down computers; while a good number of schools have benefited from donated used computers, they have not been adequately equipped with the same on maintenance and repair, hence its very common to see a schools computer lab full of broken down computers, some repairable and some not. This has actually been a major problem, and the government has now put strict measures on any person, NGO or corporate bodies willing to donate 2nd hand computers. (It is seen as a dumping ground); e-waste management.
  6. Burglary; the fact that computers are still very expensive in Kenya, makes them a target for thieves who usually have ready markets to another party at a much less figure. This has made many schools to incur extra expenses trying to burglar proof the computer rooms. This extra expense makes some schools shy away from purchasing computers for their students.
  7. Fear by the administration; there is still a strong perception especially by the older generation that computers require highly skilled personnel to operate them, while this may not be the case, some school administrators also fear that their students will be exposed to adult sites and other undesired sites, through the use of the internet. Some also fear the infection of viruses to their computers leading to data loss, while this may be true to some extent, proper education on the safe use of computers and help alleviate some of this fears.
  8. Fear by the teacher, the teacher may fear being rendered irrelevant by the introduction of computers in his/her class. The ‘feel’ that the teacher still remains an authority and a ‘know it all’ in class is something that most teachers cherish, and anything that makes them otherwise is deemed an enemy of the classroom.
  9. Lack of internet or slow connectivity; most schools are not able to connect to the world wide web, due to the high costs involved in the connectivity. On average, it may cost approximately $120 per month to connect to about 15 computers on a bandwidth of 128/64kbps. This is considered as very expensive for a very slow speed.
  10. Lack of initiative by the community leaders; the community leaders who are charged with looking at the interests of a given community do not see the need to purchase and subsequent installations of computers to their schools as a priority. They consider health care, provision of water and other amenities as more important than buying computers for their schools.
  11. Obsolete computers lower the morale of both the teacher and the student; it is very common to find some schools using very old computers running on win98 or win 95.
  12. Increased moral degradation – internet pornography, cyber bullying and other anti-social behaviors is a worrying emerging problem.
The dilemma which arises in providing educational technology stems from a lack of financial resources and a limited distributive capacity. In addition, many African countries have not been able to employ teachers, and provide resources to keep up with this demand. This brings about compromised quality of education. Further, many African governments face the predicament of educational expansion that corresponds with economic development. Despite the setbacks, access to education is a strong focus of most governments.
Kenya as has put in place an ICT policy that aims to improve the livelihoods of Kenyans by ensuring the availability of accessible, efficient, reliable and affordable ICT services. The national policy addresses several sections, among them includes; Information technology, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Postal services. However, it is the section on information technology that sets out the objectives and strategies pertaining to ICT and education.
The relevant objective in this section states that government will encourage:
“…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.”
ICT can play a significant role in equalizing opportunities for marginalized groups and communities. But the paradox is that for those groups that are unable to cross the technology divide, ICT is yet another means to further marginalize them. Education has a major role to play in resolving this problem. Thus, unless ICT becomes part of both the delivery and content of education, the disadvantage will deepen and development will suffer.
But the failure to use ICT is itself a result of the digital and knowledge divides that exist, and their causes are deeply embedded in the complex historical and socio-cultural context of the country. Fortunately, with the Vision 2030 goals, the Kenyan government has begun to implement strategies that will address these paradoxes.