Education portals put learning at the fingertips
Posted Wednesday, July 4 2012 at 18:10
Education technology has attracted a lot of enthusiasm as developers and other stakeholders strive to ensure that learning is not left behind by other sectors which are exploiting the growth in innovation to thrive.
This is evident in the number of educational applications and portals that have been set up both by the government and private developers to make it easier for students at all levels to get access to learning content.
The government-run Elimika portal is the largest online educational resource managed by the Kenya Institute of Education.
Elimika is used to pass content to teachers at all levels but also caters to other institutions like the Kenya Police which has a teaching programme.
Similar efforts in the private sector targeted at students and their parents are the e-limu tablet that provides students access to electronic books and the most recent Kytabu application that is a text book subscription service with an accompanying low cost tablet targeted at middle class households.
But the underlying concept in all the technology for education products in the market currently is that users require an Internet connection to use the resources.
Despite the advances made in Internet connectivity in the country over the last 10 years, the greatest majority of Kenyans cannot access it, either through broadband or mobile.
It is with this in mind that a group of developers working together with teachers at schools from various urban and rural parts of the country came up with MPrep.
The service employs simple user generated data from teachers to create an educational ecosystem that gives deprived students access to quality study tools and provides teachers with data about their students’ educational needs.
“The idea of MPrep came from the experience of Kenyan teachers living in rural areas,” says Ms Toni Maraviglia. “Technology is often pushed on teachers, and oftentimes, it distracts from the learning process instead of uniting all educational stakeholders —schools, teachers, parents, and students together.”
Ms Maraviglia says the new service which was hatched at last year’s Kenya Primary School Heads Association, KEPSHA aims to unite and excite everyone in the learning process in the simplest and yet most beneficial way possible.
There are two components to the tool; on one end is the student SMS based application. This enables students to access quizzes, and short tutorials, on every topic aligned to the Kenyan syllabus for Class 7 and 8 through simple text messaging. “To make the learning more interactive for the pupils we added in gaming elements —rankings and incentives —and the children are kept more motivated,” says Ms. Maraviglia.
The other end is facilitated by expert teachers who put together the content through a web/mobile based portal. The quizzes and tutorials are made available to schools and parents via a web or text service that they subscribe too.
Ms Maraviglia adds that the strongest point of MPrep apart from near universal access to content made possible by SMS is the fact that the content is generated by teachers hence quite direct and relevant.
“MPrep’s data is incredibly nuanced and our network is already 4,000 users strong. We have a pulse on how Kenya is doing on a topic as specific as “Kinyume” or “African Geography.