By James Ratemo
Kenya is firmly on the path to establishing digital learning in schools to boost quality and access of education countrywide.
Kenya Institute of Education has already produced digital content in a format accessible by ICT devices such as TV’s, radio, Computers and mobile phones.
KIE Director, Mrs Lydia Nzomo said the Institute uses TV, Radio and DVD’s as part of e-learning in schools, and has already produced digital content for standards four to seven in Primary schools and Form one and two in secondary level which is currently being rolled out.
"The Institute has already produced 14 DVDs for Science and mathematics for primary schools. This covers class four to seven. We are in the process of producing digital content for class one to three and eight in primary schools," said Nzomo.
Nzomo said the Institute has prepared the digital materials in readiness for the country’s switch from analogue to digital broadcasting frequencies, adding that quality of education depends on curriculum implementation and that is why the digital content comes in.
Kenya plans to completely switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting in 2012 ahead of the global deadline of 2015 set by The International Telecommunication Union.
Digital broadcasting is superior to analogue broadcasting in terms of quality and space utilization. The switchover will definitely affect the e-learning programme, which utilizes the broadcasting platform thus need to produce content compatible with the digital broadcasting format.
According to Nzomo, KIE has also developed an online orientation system to train and conduct orientation for teachers. The system dubbed "Elimika" will soon be ready to be rolled out for use.
She said this as Education Assistant Minister Calist Mwatela called on MP’s to embrace e-learning in schools within their constituencies as he lobbies for more funds to be allocated in schools to enable acquisition of digital content, which is a key component of e-learning.
Mwatela spoke last week when he made a courtesy call at the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE), to assess the capacity of the Institute to roll out e-learning concept in schools.
Mwatela said schools countrywide should make an initiative of acquiring the digital content in the next 12 months.
"We are looking forward to a time when all schools will have this digital content package to improve performance. With this simplified version of e-learning, pupils in standard three level can conceptualize the idea of e-learning so as to create interest amongst learners in schools. Most learners do not learn effectively due to lack of interest," said Hon. Mwatela.
Mwatela recommended the Ministry to give sh60, 000 to 20 schools in each constituency to acquire the digital content as a first step in rolling out e-learning in schools.
"The amount of money might not be adequate but it would make a difference. Teachers have been fighting for increased capitation but instead they should be facilitated to acquire the digital content," said the Assistant Minister.
"Schools can still use the DVD’s and radio as the country awaits to switch from analogue to digital frequency for TV and radio. If we manage to convert half of the MP’s to embrace e-learning in their constituencies then the country would make a big impact, meaning that we would have won a major part of the battle," said Nzomo.
Mwatela stressed the need to look for a way to reach out to all students in areas where there is electricity across the country.
"I understand it takes time for people to get out of the usual and with this I am going to interest other MP’s on the need to embrace e-learning. MPs have the money to invest in schools in their constituencies hence the need to sensitize them on the importance of e-learning," he said.
Nzomo said the e-learning initiative should be part of the economic stimulus package to schools in order to curb the challenge of inadequate funding for the production of digital content.
KIE’s production of digital content she said is not commercial as the sales only helps to cover the cost of production.
According to education experts, the integration of ICTs in education is a global concern. The use of computers in education in particular promises better and improved methods of content delivery, as well as expanding the available teaching and learning resources.
According to Nzomo, KIE is the unofficial centre of excellence in curriculum development in the East African region. This is demonstrated when the Institute often assist neigbouring countries such as Uganda and Tanzania in the production of quality curriculum and curriculum support materials.
She praised efforts by the Ministry of Education to equip schools with computers and stressed that buying computers alone in schools is not enough but equipping the computers with the content is also very important.
Mrs. Nzomo advised schools to use digital content hat has been validated by KIE as is the case with the print curriculum support materials.