The eLearning Fundi

Random reflections about eLearning in Africa

All for Text Books and Digital Publications

Today I woke up two hours late than I usually do. Immediately after doing the morning rituals – showering, having breakfast etc, I turned on my computer to catch up with what has been happening in preparation for my first work-day in the year tomorrow. After more than three weeks of a restful break. I have several dozens of emails to read – and maybe act on – but what first caught my attention as I was going through my news alerts of my favorite topic – eLearning – is a digg from Kenya’s eduvision entitled PDA’s instead of textbooks in Kenya. As I went through it, I remembered a similar project by the International Association of Digital Publications in collaboration with the South Africa Institute for Distance Education. Both project aim at bringing low-cost educational technology, and access to educational content to the developing countries. The former focuses on Primary Education (and secondary), while the latter’s focus is on Higher Education.
The principle behind the two projects is identical – availing cheap technology, and educational publications to the poor students of Africa. How cheap this is, is my first question. Secondly, if it is just content, without customization, localization, or contextualization, how is it going to enhance teaching and learning – or we are just making our students the legendary donkey that carries loads of books but does not have an idea of what it is carrying? The other question is the sustainability of these projects, what would happen when the donors support dries out? Seeing the the technology in use is foreign, mainly single sourced, and with no local expertise, I see a gloom future. For sustainability, we should have local experts who can drive the projects, processes and the technologies beyond its pilot. Do we need, for instance, to send the eSlate used in Kenya to its manufacturer when a reprogramming of the ROM is necessary? And in the same note, opening up these technologies for competition, and for using open standards will make them cheaper over time or at least avail more enhanced and better tools for the clients.
A question for eduvision: on this page, it is stated:

(and does so inexpensively: the necessary bandwidth to equip every primary and secondary school child in Africa with EELS would cost less than $2,000 per month)

Is the $2000 the cost of bandwidth for the whole of Africa? Am persuaded not to believe it.

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