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Taking a leaf from the ant notebook

Have you ever seen a trail of ants and watched them stop to pass information along the chain? Attending an online EdTech conference gives me an opportunity do that. It’s an opportunity to interact with other innovative EdTech practitioners around the world to learn from each other and share knowledge.

Most recently, that opportunity was the mEducation Alliance Symposium 2021, which focused on ‘EdTech for accelerating foundational literacy and numeracy in low-resource contexts’.

Like excited little ants, more than 100 experienced people shared their hard-earned knowledge about how to safely and successfully use smart phones and tablets to reduce the digital divide.

Our team from Inclusiv Education was invited to present about our current eLearning projects in the Asia Pacific region. We explained how our innovations are providing digital learning even when there is no internet. In Partnership with Save the Children, our project in Papua New Guinea ensured that teachers are trained and supported to find ways to integrate technology into their lesson plans. Our approach challenges the outdated definition that ‘eLearning’ means no facilitation. The Inclusiv Education team knows that effective distance learning considers the wholistic needs beyond just access to devices and apps. Our strategies acknowledged the need to build digital literacy of both learners and teachers. We also demonstrated our dashboards that aggregate data from various inputs to create visualisations that make it easier for stakeholders to understand.

After presenting, the symposium’s highlight for me was seeing the effective use of gamification techniques to harness the power of play to make learning more appealing and more achievable. These case studies show how gamification often improves results for low performing learners.

  • Rocket Learning “We send parents activities for play-based learning and give them regular feedback and support … The program doubled the time the parents spent with children on learning on a daily basis. Thrice the number of parents reported increasing their engagement with children on learning in the past 6 months.”

  • Onebillion “Despite a brief time using the onebillion maths apps, of just eighteen 30-minute sessions on average across the 14-month study period, girls’ attainment in mathematics was similar to that of boys. In contrast, for usual, class-based, teacher-led instruction, girls started to lag behind boys in learning mathematical skills.”

  • Can’t Wait to Learn “Curriculum aligned serious game in foundation numeracy and Literacy. In Children in the Can’t Wait to Learn villages improved significantly more in mathematics - almost twice as much.”

The symposium’s broad audience included Venture Capitalists, Ministries of Education, Academics, EdTech companies and Entrepreneurs. It is essential to have these multistakeholder platforms to align ourselves and share our knowledge. In an increasingly data driven world, we still find ourselves with an absence of adequate information to answer the question ‘how do we know it’s working?' I was disappointed to hear that a meta-analysis by EdTech Hub found that 71 per cent of low to middle income countries had no studies at all on research on tech for teacher professional development, with East Asia and the Pacific coming in with the lowest proportion among the regions.

As EdTech professionals we must collectively advocate for greater investment in research and evidence and commit ourselves to contribute our project learnings. The School-to School International session recommended focusing on reach, dosage, nature of participation and outcomes when measuring EdTech projects. We hope the post-COVID decade will balance this research gap and Inclusiv Education are looking for partners to create more evidence-based decision making for EdTech in low resource settings.

If you missed this year, enjoy the recorded sessions and please join us at the next mEducation Alliance Symposium! All are welcome to do short poster presentations, panels or presentations. Please ask me if you would like some guidance on how to submit a proposal for 2022. We all need to hear what you are doing in this time of great innovation.


Photo by Poranimm Athithawatthee from Pexels

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