This time last year, APIE started tentative discussions with Umubano Primary about what direction the school wanted to take with ICT. In 2015, the school had four laptops and APIE delivered ICT training to help the staff gain confidence in using these. However, at this point we hadn’t introduced ICT in the classrooms as a tool for learning and the only ICT exposure children got was from home or the occasional song or video being played on the laptop by one of the teachers.
We knew that the 2016 curriculum review was going to include ICT and APIE wanted to be at the forefront of this, pioneering the best ICT solution for Rwandan children. Having spent a year supporting schools in rural Rwanda, I had already experienced the One Laptop per Child initiative and XO machines so naturally these were the first devices that we considered. Although they are durable and fairly simple to use, the XO machines come with limited educational software which ultimately prevented us from being able to access the wide range of material that should be available on modern technology. So we continued to scrutinise all the other options; desktops, laptops, tablets, e-readers…..we discussed it all. In February 2016, we settled on Huawei tablets – portable, modern technology that allows numerous applications to be accessed at the touch of a screen.
Just five months after purchasing the hardware, all of our classes are now using the tablets and thoroughly enjoying the experience. 5 out of 6 Primary classes use them at least once a week. Students in P5 practise their Maths and English daily using a range of applications. Library for All, a favourite app for many students, allows access to more than 70 downloaded books, with titles in English and Kinyarwanda. Maths apps that develop calculation speed such as Maths King are also popular, especially in P5 and P6 class.
Where teachers were reluctant with laptops, they are confident with tablets, seeing the similarities between them and smart phones. Fear has been replaced with intrigue and critical thinking. APIE will continue to offer training to the teachers and to support ICT class sessions but the progress so far has taken me by surprise. All teachers are requesting for us to connect the tablets to the internet so that they can start accessing more resources with the children. This has happened much sooner than we had anticipated. So, next week we will be looking at useful websites in our Staff training, and our ICT expert (Carnegie Mellon Graduate, Stephen Odara) will be researching our best options for connectivity in class – It won’t be long before the students will be able to publish their own blog posts – watch this space!