Kenya EdTech Summit: Conversations that consider the whole learning ecosystem

The convergence of technology and education is reshaping classroom dynamics, influencing teaching methodologies, and shaping societal trajectories. EdTech East Africa spearheads collaborative dialogues, uniting visionaries to innovate educational paradigms. The recent Pwani EdTech Summit exemplifies the transformative power of collaboration and creativity in leveraging digital tools for inclusive learning environments globally.

How do EdTech regional summits help deliver these stronger foundations? A lot of work goes into bringing communities together for coordinated conversations and actions and the summits have created an environment for relationship-building and forging a way forward as a community. Through this community, evidence is used as a common language for what allows for the most informed decisions on how technology can be used to support teaching and learning. With evidence as a common language, there is a clear path to finding a way to create a connected evidence-driven movement. 

We have the opportunity to use technology to make that transformation happen,”…“We have evidence that is showing us the direction that we need to go and we have the technology that allows us to make learning inclusive and resilient.” 

Jennifer Cotter, EdTech Hub Country Co-Lead for Kenya

Addressing the summit on behalf of the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform (PWPER), Dr Eng Robert Juma underscored the shift towards policy integration. With a mandate to shape Kenya’s educational future, the Working Party advocates collaboration between the Ministries of Education and ICT. Recommendations from the working party prioritise infrastructure development, digital literacy enhancement, and inclusive education for marginalised learners.

Additionally, the working party guides the Ministry of Education to spearhead foundational learning guidelines for early years education; positioning EdTech as a pivotal player in shaping the educational landscape. 

When it comes to foundational learning, we are not only thinking about learners but also solutions that will help teachers improve their classroom practice for better learning,”…“We believe it is time to pivot such conversations as they lead to the provision of critical evidence that will guide decision-makers towards contextualised technology solutions that will work in Kenya.” 

Dr Eng Robert Juma, Presidential Working Party on Education Reform (PWPER)

Building onto this discussion Verna Lalbeharie, the Executive Director of EdTech Hub emphasised that collectively such conversations can drive solutions that will result in stronger foundational learning for children and support the shared vision of improved student learning outcomes.

At the summit, Lalbeharie touched on the importance of co-creation with both teachers and parents or caregivers and shared some of the lessons from the work in Kenya. Can we leverage the enthusiasm and empower teachers as vital collaborators to foster wider acceptance of technological interventions? This remains the pivotal question for attendees and the broader ecosystem. Despite the widespread enthusiasm and initiatives aimed at integrating technology into schools, insights from the summit reveal that certain educational institutions still require guidance on utilising technology for teaching purposes. Concerns about technological mishaps, fueled by teacher apprehension, contribute to these gaps. 

In Kenya, EdTech Hub has been fortunate to partner with EIDU and Women Educational Researchers of Kenya (WERK) on a research project that has shown that the role of the teacher is central. We learn that collaborating with teachers in exploring the pedagogical implications of using digital personalised learning (DPL) tools in classrooms can optimise learning outcomes in foundational literacy and numeracy. We have also come to learn that adaptive DPL tools can make predictions of a student’s success in certain learning domains and help determine the kind of scaffolding activities needed for a student to master a particular competency.  

But, why do we still have a long way to go to optimise learning outcomes? From the learning out loud discussions held at the summit, it’s clear that while schools have access to gadgets and connectivity, there’s a crucial need to equip teachers with technology skills. Many educators hesitate to utilise devices due to outdated skills, requiring both training and incentives. In Kilifi County, employing younger teachers proves effective in driving tech integration. Modernising the teaching profession is imperative for widespread technology adoption in schools. 

While the focus of most solutions discussed and presented at the summit was predominantly on primary education and ensuring training on tech for teachers who are already in practice, we also learnt that there’s untapped potential in harnessing the expertise at the higher education level. Leveraging their critical knowledge can lead to the development of lifelong solutions.

Collaborating with higher education can ensure that we are introducing tech to teachers at the training level so that when they join the practice, they already have the skills. This will ensure that the new and younger teachers can train the older teachers while co-creating solutions and demonstrating innovative EdTech solutions. Additionally, they can leverage cost-effective peer learning platforms like WhatsApp groups. Finally, looking beyond the classroom and into informing policy, involving county governments can expedite the uptake of evidence-based practices and technology integration in government schools at the grassroots level.

All said, there is a need for more collaborative research to improve DPL in low and middle-income countries and Kenya is not left behind. There is also a need to include learners, instructors, and policymakers in the interpretation of and use of learning analytics. This collaboration and co-creation between education stakeholders, researchers, and developers can enhance the design of methods and platforms to ensure they are pedagogically informed and better positioned for adaptation.

In our pursuit of solutions from teachers, policymakers, and caregivers, it’s imperative to prioritise measuring learners’ well-being. This crucial aspect can significantly impact overall performance, especially in technologically-equipped classrooms. Despite being a gap in local and global discussions and data systems, it’s time to address these interconnected issues, considering the relationship between mental and physical health, academic/professional success, and resilience. We welcome continued opportunities to build on coordinated conversations and community convenings to work on these solutions as a sector.

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