We live in a dynamic world surrounded by an endless amount of information, which is supplied by the technology we have at our fingertips. For as prevalent as technology is now in society, it has also become integral to the world of education. This is raising questions, like how does it affect traditional education? Will it eventually replace traditional education? Does technology even have a place in our classrooms?
Flashback to 2001, to a Form One classroom at Mtakuja Secondary School containing 50 students. There are six columns of desks with nine rows extending from wall to wall, with the biology teacher lecturing at the front. The students are trying their best to listen to her, to pay attention to what she’s saying and writing on the blackboard. At the same time, they’re wondering if there is more to the human heart than the two-dimensional, hand-drawn diagram on the blackboard. In this classroom setting, however, students are not encouraged to ask questions or present their own ideas. Learners are inactive and minimally engaged in the learning process; they are merely receiving information. There are no activities to engage students in exploring and discovering more about their subject material; the only source of information is the teacher and the few textbooks in the classroom.
During these lessons, students would wonder why the school doesn’t train them on how to use computers or resources that would make it easier to understand and master the lesson. Unfortunately, the teachers have not had any technology training, and so they cannot see the value of using it in the classroom to increase their students’ or their own knowledge in the learning process.
In 2009, a few years later, students join university to pursue various bachelor degrees, and they are required to submit printed assignments for the first time. Students are delighted they get the opportunity to use electronic devices to research learning materials from various sources. This new way of learning is very interesting for Tanzanian learners because it is so different; they can study using several resources, and read ideas from various perspectives available on the web. This small inclusion of technology in academia increases students’ level of engagement, and makes it easy for them to get a more in-depth understanding of the content.
With technology, classroom lectures are no longer the sole source of knowledge; now, students have options. They can read information from numerous sources with less cost than what it would take to buy books. A smartphone, laptop, and USB internet stick are all students need to get connected and to experience a new form of content exploration, which makes their learning interesting and active. Technology is helping students achieve their learning goals in higher education.
Several years later in 2012, some Form One classrooms now have a projector and the few computers available at school. Teachers organize activities with learners watching, listening, and reading various tutorials from the web. These classes become the most popular and are highly recommended by most of the students, because they feel they have more agency in their education through technology.
Today, however, learning has evolved at one of our schools, Mtakuja Secondary School, in rural Moshi in the Kilimanjaro region. Students are using technology as a tool to enhance their engagement in their learning process. Quest Forward Learning supplies learners with resources to explore in different forms (Learn more about how Mtakuja Secondary School was the first all Quest Forward Learning classroom here). These learners become masters of the technology at hand, and in less than a year they can manipulate the technology in ways their mentors did not think possible. This stems from their captivation with the content and the activities they do together in and out of the classroom—including creating tangible artifacts that demonstrate their understanding of the content.
At Mtakuja Secondary School, students become leaders of their own learning very early on compared to the learners years ago. No longer limited to teachers or textbooks as the only source of information, they use their technology to lead their discovery of academic content. Teachers are called mentors and they no longer regard themselves as the knowledge masters. They relate with students as helpers, facilitators, scaffolders, and coaches, tracking learners’ progress and giving supportive feedback in order to enhance students’ skills and growth. Opportunity Education’s Quest Forward Learning platform has made it possible for these students and mentors to grow together.
Blog Post Written by East Africa Team Members: Eligrania Lema, Fredy Mollel & Leveri Mlaki