Whoa.. it’s been a minute since I’ve have had a chance to write, reflect and post anything here, and the holidays are a great time for it.
One of the coolest and challenging projects I had the opportunity to work on in 2019 was the Kenya Education Cloud. In late 2018, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development wanted to expand the content offerings on the Kenya Education Cloud (the country’s national digital learning platform), in a cost-affordable way for students, teachers and school communities. Digital learning content can be costly, and KICD wanted to understand how Open Educational Resources (OER) could be leveraged for the Kenyan context. It was fantastic to join KICD on this journey as a digital learning consultant.
70% of OER globally are only available in English and because OER emerged to disrupt tertiary education, few OER exist for primary education, particularly in Kiswahili, Luo, Kikuyu and other indigenous languages of Kenya. After an extensive review of available OER, it was established early on that it would be critical for success to approach proprietary content developers and build strong partnerships within the local ecosystem. There was just a dearth of high-quality interactive OERs. Through a multi-pronged approach which consisted of reaching out to local content producers and global content producers, we mapped about 1,000 resources (a mix of local and global) to Kenya’s new competency-based curriculum. Some offered KICD no-fee licenses for either full repositories or select repositories of content. As expected, there was a bigger bulk of OER in Mathematics, Science and English Language, and scarcity in KSL (Kenyan Sign Language), Indigenous Languages and Religious Education. Locating interactive OER which were gender-responsive in line with national policies (Education and Training Sector Gender Policy) was also very challenging. And we hadn’t even gotten to the vetting process yet…
Quality Assurance: Will these hold up to our standards?
Once we had a set of OER, we designed a series of hands-on trainings to build the capacity of KICD curators, subject matter experts tasked with vetting content across Kenya’s 9 learning areas for grades 1-3 to meet quality assurance standards. While KICD curators were experts in their domains and in content creation, OERS were new terrain for most of them. Curators were taken through creative commons licenses, the remix/reuse/share/reduce OER model, and practical exercises of how to use OER in the classroom. They also engaged in project-based activities to explore OER expected to be available in the KEC, and reviewed them against existing OER standards established by KICD. There were great learning moments around defending decisions to recommend or not recommend content for the KEC, which also made us re-evaluate some of the standards. It was good a time.
This PD expanded into a larger session a few months later with 63 public schools teachers from across Nairobi, Garissa, and Turkana on how to integrate OER into the classroom. The professional development took teachers through a cycle of evaluating and selecting an OER, designing a lesson plan with it for their students, and a dynamic facilitation of the lesson plan with peer feedback. Many teachers expressed that with more practice, they felt confident they could integrate OER into the classroom. One of the highlights of the session was watching teachers immerse themselves in the design process and recognize their own creativity.
Over the project period, we created a full circle strategy encompassing interactive content mapping, partnerships and acquisition all the way through interactive content use in the classroom.
Key Outcomes, Lessons and New Questions
- It can be a fruitful endeavor to source OER, but due to the dearth of OER for primary and even secondary education, particularly OER that are of high-quality, it is equally important to mobilize time and resources to build relationships with content producers, donors, community-based organizations and other stakeholders. KICD and international organizations like UNICEF can be key conveners and play a critical role in building a sustainable OER ecosystem that can rapidly support demand with more supply, and ensure that for all involved there are clear incentives. For this initiative, this means working with global content producers and actors like the Global Digital Library and coordinating localization sprints for high-quality OER that is not in accessible formats or available in Swahili and indigenous languages. Creative Commons who have communities across the world and in Kenya could also be great partners. It also means building strong relationships with local content producers who are creating high-quality interactive content and tapping into the local/regional ed-tech community for information on new resources, technologies and opportunities for collaboration
- Decades of educational research has shown that ICT in Education initiatives often fail due to poor teacher training and low teacher adoption of technology. We learned through this process that teacher training can benefit from undergoing a full design process. This could include follow-up trainings to build on previous skills acquired, classroom observation paired with real-time feedback, establishing digital communities for teachers to share challenges and successes, etc. I’ve written about this before, and recognize that government institutions sometimes don’t have the resources to make it a priority. How can we do better on this front?
- While it may not have been the focus of the teacher PD, incorporating basic digital literacy training for teachers is a must, especially when working with teachers from more marginalized parts of the country. Teachers from certain counties in particular, struggled with basic digital literacy functions (ex: opening a new tab in a web browser, locating a file on the hard drive). With basic digital literacy skills, teachers will have more confidence in their ability to use the devices and it will also accelerate the speed of training to cover other important topics.