7 Ways To Empower Teachers By Building The Right Digital Tools | #EdTech

Teachers play a crucial role in shaping the future of society by educating and inspiring the next
generation. In today’s digital age, the importance of teachers is amplified, as they are not only
responsible for imparting knowledge but also serve as guides in a rapidly evolving educational
landscape, brought about by the complex world of information and technology.

We cannot underestimate teachers’ importance to learners’ success. Hence the celebration of
World Teachers’ Day on October 5. Teachers Day is a day to celebrate how teachers are
transforming education, reflect on the support they need to fully deploy their talent and vocation,
and rethink the way ahead for the profession globally. This year’s theme, “The teachers we need
for the education we want,” was a call to action regarding the teacher shortage globally. The
celebration advocated for an increase in the number of teachers.

Digital tools are one way to empower teachers and are indispensable in enabling teachers to
excel in their roles. These tools provide educators with access to a wealth of resources to create
engaging and customized learning experiences for their students. With new digital tools coming
into the Kenyan market every other day, the October 2023 edition of EdTech Mondays delved
into how to ensure these tools empower teachers as intended. The monthly program that airs on
NTV brings together different players in EdTech to discuss the challenges and opportunities in
Kenya. The Mastercard Foundation sponsors and EdTech East Africa produces the Kenyan show.

Panelists included Stephen Ahurah; a chemistry teacher at Kenya High School, Frida Ngari;
cofounder and COO, Ntemata; Tabitha Wairimu Ngugi Science Manager, Ihub. Moses
Kemibaro, the host, led the panelists in a discussion on the different emerging digital tools for
learning, the challenges incurred, and how to ensure that innovators can meet teachers’
technological needs.

Out of this discussion, it was clear that teachers can leverage online platforms, educational apps,
and interactive multimedia to make lessons more interactive and impactful. These digital tools
are also efficient in performing administrative tasks. Furthermore, digital tools offer teachers
efficient ways to assess student progress, tailor instruction to individual needs, and collaborate
with colleagues worldwide.

Here are some of the ideas they shared that can empower teachers digitally:

Involve the teacher from the beginning:
One of the ways to empower teachers is by actively involving them in designing and developing
digital tools. This is a transformative approach to ensure the relevance and effectiveness of these
tools. When teachers are engaged in the design of educational technology, they can provide
invaluable insights into the practical needs and challenges they face in their daily teaching
routines.

Tabitha Wairimu Ngugi, the Learning Science Manager at Ihub, shared that it is important for the
innovators to integrate teachers from the beginning rather than bringing them as end users of the
product. The question “What do you need?” should come at the beginning, not when the product
is ready for testing.

By collaborating with teachers, developers can create tools that align more closely with the
curricular goals, teaching styles, and learning objectives of the classroom. Moreover, involving
teachers in the design phase fosters a sense of ownership and investment in the tools, making
them more likely to use and integrate them into their teaching practices. Ultimately, this collaboration between teachers and developers not only empowers educators by giving them a
voice in shaping their digital resources but also results in more effective and impactful
technology solutions for the benefit of students. At the end of an innovation, teachers should feel
that the digital tool addresses their needs, not hypothetical needs imagined by the developer.

2. Build the teacher’s capacity to fit the 4th industrial revolution.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR, or Industry 4.0) is a term used to describe the ongoing
transformation of traditional industries through the integration of digital technologies, artificial
intelligence, automation, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other advanced technologies.
Empowering teachers to fit into the fourth industrial revolution by building digital tools involves
a combination of professional development, technology integration, and support.

To achieve this, a multifaceted approach is necessary. First and foremost, professional
development programs should be designed to equip teachers with the necessary digital literacy
and technological skills that are relevant to the 4thindustrial revolution. This could be done
offline and online.

Another great strategy is investing in ongoing professional development for teachers to keep
them up-to-date with the latest digital tools and teaching strategies. Teachers should be
encouraged to cultivate a growth mindset, embracing the idea of continuous learning and
adaptation. This helps them stay up-to-date with industry trends and incorporate them into their
teaching methodologies.

Moreover, creating opportunities for peer mentoring and learning communities to discuss and
implement digital tools effectively is also a strategy for skilling educators. This support system
can include IT support staff, instructional designers, and tech-savvy colleagues who can assist
teachers in implementing digital tools. According to Intel, teachers and their students are the
epicenters of any learning environment, but it is upon the school administrators to provide the
support, resources, and technology investment to enable the desired learning.

3. Customize the digital tools to fit specific needs.
Learners have diverse needs. This means that teachers have to create unique teaching styles,
classroom environments, and sets of objectives to cater to them. By tailoring digital tools to meet
these individual requirements, we can enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning. It
enables teachers to create a more engaging and efficient educational experience for their
students, as they can select tools that align with their teaching methods, content, and classroom
dynamics.

Customization ensures that teachers can utilize the full potential of digital tools to accomplish
their unique educational objectives in this rapidly evolving era of educational technology without
feeling overburdened by a one-size-fits-all approach.

Moreover, customization facilitates the integration of specific curriculum materials, assessment
strategies, and teaching methodologies, ensuring that these tools align seamlessly with the
teacher’s pedagogical goals. In this year’s Kenya EdTech Summit, Jennifer Otieno, CEO of
EdTech East Africa, shared that one of the goals for this year’s summit was to learn how to
customize Edtech to fit the Kenyan context.

Ann Kibara is a teacher at Ng’undu Primary and Junior School and received recognition as the
best teacher for integrating ICT into education in 2019. At this year’s Edtech Summit, she
cautioned against creating standardized digital tools and asked the developers instead to consider
the needs of learners and teachers in different regions. In this way, they can be able to meet
everyone’s needs.

4. Peer assessment:
Peer assessment can be a powerful tool for empowering teachers in the digital age. By
incorporating teachers’ ideas, innovators should build digital platforms and tools that allow
teachers to create structured assessment forms, making it easier for peers to provide feedback on
various aspects of teaching, such as instructional materials, lesson plans, and classroom
management.

These platforms also enable teachers to receive real-time feedback, fostering a culture of
continuous improvement. Take the case of Ntemata, an online platform that offers assessment
solutions to teachers so that they can track the learner’s progress. Fridah Ngari, Ntemata’s
co-founder and COO, shared that teachers can track their learners’ progress anytime, anywhere,
as long as the former is online.

This integration of peer assessment into the digital landscape offers teachers the opportunity to
grow, refine their teaching methods, and enhance the quality of education they provide to their
students.

5. Evaluation:
Empowering teachers digitally through the evaluation and creation of new digital tools is a
crucial step in enhancing the quality of education. First and foremost, teachers should be
encouraged to actively engage in the process of evaluating and providing feedback on existing
EdTech tools. This should be done in collaboration with EdTech developers and educational
experts. Their valuable insights can help identify strengths and weaknesses, ensuring that the
digital tools being developed are practical and aligned with educational needs, goals, and
classroom realities.

Ihub, through its Learning Science department, oversees the numerous EdTech products coming
into the market to ensure that they meet the set standards, namely content quality, accessibility,
and innovation. According to Tabitha, the developers need to create content that meets the
standards set by relevant bodies. They should also make sure that their products are easily
accessible to teachers and are unique while at it.

6. Balance:
Creating a balance when empowering teachers digitally is paramount in the ever-evolving
landscape of education. The integration of technology into the classroom has the potential to
revolutionize teaching and learning, but it also brings forth challenges and pitfalls. Striking the
right balance means equipping educators with the tools and skills they need to harness the
benefits of digital resources while preserving the essential human element of teaching.

Moreover, maintaining balance ensures that technology enhances, rather than replaces, the
teacher’s role, helping them engage students, facilitate critical thinking, and cultivate social and
emotional skills. By incorporating multimedia resources, online collaboration tools, and blended
learning strategies while retaining the human connection and classroom dynamics that traditional
teaching offers, it is possible to create a hybrid model that combines the best of both worlds.

Stephen Ahurah, a chemistry teacher at Kenya High School, shared that he has come to
appreciate both models of learning because he says that while technology has several advantages,
too much of it leads to passive students. He also hails the traditional learning model of using pen
and paper, saying that it leads to a high retention rate among the students.

By creating a balance when empowering teachers students will be recipients of a well-rounded
education that combines the best of both traditional and digital methodologies, making the
process of learning more effective, enriching, and inclusive.

7. Ensure that innovations are targeting learning outcomes.
“You cannot separate a teacher from a student,” goes the saying. Ensuring that innovations in
digital tools are effectively targeting learning outcomes is paramount when designing tools to
empower teachers. These tools can significantly enhance the educational experience by
providing teachers with the means to engage students better, personalize instruction, and track
progress.

However, if these innovations do not align with specific learning goals and outcomes, their
potential remains unrealized, and teachers may struggle to integrate them into their teaching
strategies effectively. By prioritizing the alignment of digital tools with learning outcomes, we
enable teachers to harness technology as a valuable educational asset, ultimately fostering more
productive and impactful learning experiences for students.

Conclusion:
Building Digital Tools That Empower Teachers underscores the transformative impact of
technology on education, emphasizing its potential to enhance the teaching profession by
providing teachers with resources, customization, data-driven insights, and opportunities for
professional growth. However, it also acknowledges the importance of addressing challenges and
ensuring that these tools are used equitably to benefit all students. To ensure its success, Fridah
says that there has to be collaboration between teachers and students, embed CBC values, and
blend the teaching methods.

#EdTechMondays

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