Faith-Mutunga_Measure-Success

From Pixels to Progress: The Impact of Blended Learning on Kenya’s Educational Landscape | #EdTech

We all adore Bill Gates, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and the symphony of minds that has orchestrated the technological marvels of our age. Their journey to the zenith of success was not a mere ascent but a kaleidoscopic tapestry woven in the vibrant hues of early access to computers during their childhood.

The once-flickering screens of their youth cast a glow that illuminated their path to success, for the magic of early access to computers had cultivated not just technical skills but a mindset of innovation and possibility. As these pioneers danced with the digital sprites of their time, the seeds of their youthful fascination blossomed into the robust trees of technological empires, forever altering the course of history.

This seed of youthful fascination is what the Kenyan government wishes to instill in the hearts of every Kenyan child undergoing primary and secondary education. With the help of private partners, the government of Kenya is integrating blended learning within the framework of the competency-based curriculum.

In playing its part to ensure streamlined implementation of blended learning in Kenya, the Mastercard Foundation Centre for Innovation and Teaching, in partnership with EdTech East Africa, has been highlighting the journey of technology-enabled learning in Kenya through EdTech Mondays, an NTV program that brings to viewers the discussions on digital learning technologies every month. In November’s episode (2023), EdTech East Africa brought together three panelists to dig into the monitoring and evaluation of blended learning in Kenya.

The panelists were Faith Mutunga, a teacher at Nyaani Primary School, who has been using digital devices and apps provided by the government and Kenya Connect, a non-profit organization that partners with public schools to enhance technology education, Patrick Munguti, the director of EdTech at Kenya Connect, who oversees the provision and training of digital devices and resources for teachers and students in rural areas, and the measurement and evaluation of the impact of blended learning on learning outcomes, Vanessa Obura, the digital communication officer at Schoolap, an educational platform that offers different applications for parents, educators, institutions, and students, and supports blended learning objectives and solutions, and their moderator and show host Moses Kemibaro.

Moses Kemibaro introduced blended learning in the opening remarks of the panel discussion, describing it as a method that combines traditional teaching tools like pens, paper, blackboards, and chalk with digital tools to promote learning. Blended learning was particularly significant “in the era of COVID-19, where we saw a lot of disruption regarding how education was being delivered and how learners were accessing education. So, blended learning is quite relevant and quite timely for us to discuss today,” Moses said.

Moses Kemibaro’s compelling introduction set the stage for an insightful discussion as panelists delved into the transformative impact of blended learning in Kenyan schools. According to Faith Mutunga, a teacher at Nyaani Primary School, blended learning has infused motivation, interactivity, and personalization into her students’ educational journey. Empowered by digital devices and apps from the government and Kenya Connect, a non-profit organization, Mutunga emphasized how the approach has broadened young minds, stating, “With that blending now, our children are using their eyes, their hands, and more senses, making them brighter than ever.”

Patrick Munguti underscored the vital role of blended learning in shaping the future, preparing learners for the demands of the digital economy and global challenges. He emphasised that the, “the future of our countries, the future of the world is to do with technology, and having blended learning at the school level would be quite important for the future child.” Munguti highlighted Kenya Connect’s impactful role in bridging the gap between government initiatives and school needs in rural areas, providing essential digital devices and training.

Vanessa Obura, the digital communication officer at Schoolap, passionately spoke about the flexibility, convenience, and collaboration that blended learning offers to both learners and educators. She spotlighted Schoolap as an educational platform designed to support blended learning objectives through applications catering to parents, educators, institutions, and students alike. Obura explained, “Schoolap is an educational platform created for everybody who plays a role in education.”

The talk show included a compelling on-the-ground story featuring Kenya Connect’s partnership with Kyaani Primary School, a shining example of blended learning success. Monicah Kyalo, a program assistant at Kenya Connect, outlined their initiatives in 63 rural public schools, breaking barriers through literacy and technology programs. Winnie Kinuva, a senior teacher at Kyaani Primary School, shared her positive experience with the training and resources, using digital devices to teach science and technology. Echoing this sentiment, Dorcas Mutinda, a parent, attested to the positive impact of Kenya Connect programs, stating, “He helped me at home with a computer to study as a mother.” The holistic transformation brought about by blended learning was vividly illustrated through these powerful narratives.

The show also featured a story on the ground about Kenya Connect and its work with Kyaani Primary School, one of the schools that has embraced blended learning. Monicah Kyalo, a programme assistant at Kenya Connect, said that they partner with 63 public schools in rural Machakos County, and they offer various programmes on literacy and technology. “We are trying to break barriers to education, and we have various programmes. We have literacy and technology programmes,” said Monicah.

Winnie Kinuva, a senior teacher at Kyaani Primary School, said that she has benefited from the training and resources provided by Kenya Connect and uses digital devices to teach science and technology. “It is a nice idea to use these digital devices, especially in our area, because most of the learners you find at their homes use the analogue devices, and with the use of the devices that Kenya Connect supplies or gives us—the chrome books and the tablets that were introduced by the government in our schools—it is easier and makes learning meaningful.” Dorcas Mutinda, a parent of a learner at Kyaani Primary School, said that she has seen a lot of changes in her child since joining the Kenya Connect programmes. She said, “My son helped me at home with a computer to study as a mother.”

In addition to discussing how blended learning is being implemented in schools, the panellists highlighted the methods being used to monitor and evaluate the programme. In this regard, Faith Mutunga said that she uses various methods to evaluate the effectiveness of blended learning in her classroom, such as observation, project work, written tests, and giving students the freedom to create their projects using digital devices.

Patrick Munguti, the director of EdTech at Kenya Connect, added that they conduct baseline surveys, create training programs, and observe teachers and students in the classroom to measure the impact of their provision and training of digital devices and resources. He also said that they look at the success stories and the testimonials of the teachers, students, and parents who have benefited from their programs. He said that “measurement and evaluation are quite important when it comes to any projects that we do, and especially to report on whether this is working or not.”

On their part at SCHOOLAP, Vanessa Obura said that they measure the audience’s response, engagement, and usage of the SCHOOLAP platform and the value that it adds to their blended learning objectives and solutions. She also said that they interact with their audience online and offline and ask them for feedback and suggestions on how to improve their platform. “One way that we measure is how the audience takes what we are selling, the solutions that we are providing, and how they respond to it if it’s something they also actually need, and how we do that is also measuring the number of people who use the application,” she said.

The panellists did not fail to acknowledge that although blended learning is making remarkable progress in its implementation across the country, the programme is still facing significant challenges. From the perspective of Kenya Connect, Patrick Munguti noted that lack of infrastructure and resources, such as electricity, internet, devices, and platforms, especially in rural and under-resourced schools, is one of the key challenges facing blended learning in Kenya. “In many primary schools’ public primary schools, there is no internet connection. They may want to do that, but maybe it requires a teacher to go the extra mile to be able to connect to the internet and make sure that the students can learn using technology,” he explained.

Lack of sufficient and relevant content, such as online courses, materials, and resources, that are aligned with the curriculum and the learners’ needs and interests were also mentioned by Patrick Munguti as other challenges facing blended learning in Kenya. To mitigate against these challenges, Mr. Munguti noted that ‘it requires concerted efforts by the government and partners to support education in such a manner that all students will be on the same platform because they are competing on the same playing field.” Vanessa Obura added, “It can be a bit difficult to acquire real-life data, but I think with the data that we have, it will be able to help us understand maybe the challenges that are affecting the blended learning situation.” She also said that there is a need for continuous training, support, and incentives for teachers, educators, and parents who may lack the skills, confidence, and motivation to use technology effectively and efficiently.

November’s discussion on blended learning has provided valuable insights into the current state, success metrics, and improvement strategies for blended learning in Kenya. Blended learning, amidst the CBC and the COVID-19 pandemic, is a promising but challenging approach requiring collaborative stakeholder support. Benefits include increased learner engagement, motivation, and autonomy, while challenges involve infrastructure gaps, teacher training needs, and the absence of clear policies. Enhancements can be achieved through awareness campaigns, creative use of technology, conducting surveys, and fostering collaborative discussions among stakeholders.

This article was written by Odipo Riaga, an opinion writer interested in African-centric topics in the areas of politics, entertainment, business, and technology. He is also the managing editor at KachTech Media.

 

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