Designing sustainable technologies for Africa: Engaging with local perspectives

Below are notes from the eLearning Africa session titled Designing sustainable technologies for Africa: Engaging with local perspectives.

The session focussed on the challenges of co-designing educational technologies and activities (how to be “inclusive from the outside”). The approach of “co-designing” was proposed because to build upon local expertise in equitable partnership is critical. Only then do we — external stakeholders and locals — begin to work towards sustainable technology solutions. Of course this is not easy!

For effective partnerships:

  • Clearly define the goals of the project.
  • Ensure that all partners are very clear on these.

For appropriate technology solutions consider these points:

  • Appropriate for whom: donors or the users?
  • Must be needs based and not supply driven.
  • Must begin with a comprehensive focus on the needs of the poor and marginalised. Remarkably little research has been done here.
  • Technology and science are not neutral.
  • Need to share existing findings openly.

Jon Gregson, University of London, spoke about the role of mlearning in Africa, based on a project that he has been involved in in Kenya and Tanzania. He said that it is critical not to see mlearning as stand-alone and newer and better than other forms of learning. “For a particular context, mobile learning can compliment the learning experience.” So, we should think carefully about which media are best suited to the educational content and the context of learning. Mobile phones, as much as text books, have their strengths and weaknesses. We should explore how mlearning supports blended learning.

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