Research in Zambia investigated mobile forms of digital technology used to embed interactive forms of teaching and learning into classroom practice. The project explored what kinds of mobile devices and uses can create an environment supportive of learning through active participation and collaborative inquiry within under-resourced and under-privileged school communities. It also examined the constraining factors. The specific focus was on using netbook, tablet and laptop computers, e-Book and wiki readers, digital cameras and mini-projectors along with Open Educational Resources and Open Source software to support students' learning in mathematics and science. A variety of educational ICTs in two Zambian primary schools were evaluated over 30 visits in a period of 6 months. Data collection methods included interviews, post-lesson surveys, classroom observations, and video recordings. The work was carried out by Aptivate in conjunction with the Centre for Commonwealth Education at the University of Cambridge, and with iSchool Zambia.
Recommendations from the research are as follows:
- ICTs should be procured in sets comprising a teacher laptop and student laptops, as well as provision for storage and transport.
- Continuing professional development opportunities are essential for teachers to become familiar with the mobile technologies and to make creative use of them.
- ICTs should be used in conjunction with non-ICT resources, such as mini blackboards, because these add significant value cheaply.
- Robust and cheap netbooks (e.g. the Classmate netbook) are presently the best candidates for classroom use. Android-based tablets can support interactive, collaborative learning effectively but technically (in version 2.2) they are not yet ready (early 2011). Keyboard-based data entry in Flash games can be particularly difficult. However, devices running Android 3.0 should be considered for future procurements, including an investigation of suitable onscreen keyboard or docking stations.
- Mixing devices within a single class is not recommended, but if more than one class set of computers was procured, it may make sense to purchase a set of netbooks (for tasks requiring a standard operating system), as well as a set of tablets. However, cost and setup/maintenance issues need to be considered
- Teacher and student laptops need to be configured well so that effort expended in lesson preparation is not prohibitive.
- Resource sharing with student laptops needs to be considered; local wireless networks can be deployed effectively to achieve this.
- Teachers want laptops to allow them to study outside of school. Microfinance could allow teachers to buy laptops which would build their skills and promote successful application of ICTs in schools.
Apitivate, Cambridge, UK/Centre for Commonwealth Education, University of Cambridge, UK, 74 pp.