Africa’s Revolutionary Educational Market

A History of Change

Africa: a continent with so many natural resources.  The natural richness of Africa makes it impossible to believe this massive continent is home to most of the poorest countries in the world.  Despite the economic and social disparities Africa faces, Africans carry the everlasting spirit of warriors.  These warriors have fought social and economic injustice, and their culture is rooted in the stories of African slave trade, Apartheid, and the decolonization of African countries.  During my visit at @InnovationAfric, Africa’s Ministerial Official Summit, it was apparent that the diaspora is still fighting the same injustices of the past.  

At the Innovation Africa Summit, decolonization is apparent in the faces of the people in power.  It was amazing to me that 99% of African ministers are of African descent.  But the fight did not stop when Africans were placed in power; the fight continues through the messages delivered at the summit’s panels.  There was one clear message that resonated with me after sitting in some of the panels: “Education has the power to change social and economic injustice.”  This message is the reason I studied education in college.  I was delighted to share this message with the African people, and I felt empowered to join them on the journey to change education in Africa.

 

 

Learning about Africa’s Challenges

As one of Genius Plaza’s representatives, I was on a mission to find out what part Genius Plaza can play in Africa’s educational revolution.  Unesco estimates between 30-70 million children are without access to education.  They also reported between 40 and 90% of schools – depending on their location in Africa – don’t have access to internet, technology, and resources (books, decolonized literature).  So the question that arose was, how does an educational technology company help countries with such challenges?

 

Genius Plaza’s Role in Changing Education

Below, I listed some ways educational technology companies can help Africa’s educational revolution.  The first area where Genius Plaza can help is in providing good quality, culturally relevant resources (eBooks, games, videos, exercises) to each unique country in Africa.  Genius Plaza has provided their users with a game-changing tool called “Re-teach.”  Teachers and students from around the world are empowered to create content unique to the user.  Re-teach can help in the decolonization process, because it gives people tools to tell their stories using their personal experiences, culture, and mother tongues.  

For example, Uganda’s representative, Okaka Opio Bokotum, also an Associate Professor at Lira University in Uganda, shared with us his country’s fight and struggle for decolonization.  During the summit, I noticed most African representatives have a common problem – truly teaching their students how to become bilingual.  In most African countries, students are taught in their mother tongue until the first grade.  In the second and third grade, students begin learning in the national languages (English, Portuguese, French), which vary from country to country.  It is a struggle to raise bilingual students because there aren’t many resources created in their mother tongues, making it difficult for teachers to show students the value of learning, using, and celebrating their native language.  Professor Okaka expressed this same concern.  He was delighted to learn how Genius Plaza’s Re-teach tool can be used to show students the value of their mother tongue.  With Genius Plaza, Uganda can begin creating resources (eBooks, videos, exercises, games) in fifty-two different languages. This is truly revolutionary – it can change how Africans see themselves, their cultures, and it can change how the rest of the world sees and what the rest of the world knows about Africa.  

Secondly, providing African schools with access to Genius Plaza platform and apps.  By developing an offline platform and apps, we can welcome students from around the world access to good quality resources, regardless of internet access.

Lastly, working closely and building relationships with governments and ministers to help provide funding for schools, internet, and technology for schools that still need it.

The time for change is now!  Africa is a market looking for revolutionary change to allow their future children to compete with the rest of the world.

Africa

 


Rethinking Science Teaching and Learning

I am inclined to believe that science is not learned using textbooks, study guides, worksheets, or tests.  Rather, I think science is learned by thinking, processing information, constructing models, doing laboratory activities, and testing theories.  When I think of my science learning in elementary school, I remember reading about science in textbooks and completing numerous worksheets, or only having science class when my teacher had the time to teach it – it was often placed on the back burner, and I quickly became bored with it all.  I wanted to do science, not just read about it.

 

Do something different

During middle school, my science learning was similar, however, I was introduced to laboratory activities and I soon became hooked on the discovery portion of science learning!  I wanted to learn and discover more…  In high school, I fell in love with the sciences; however, I was disappointed with how I was learning it – copying notes from a chalkboard while the teacher was reciting what she wrote, memorizing standardized test content, or being told what I needed to think.  Hmm, I thought, where was the application of what I was learning?

I decided soon after to pursue a career in science teaching and learning, and made a promise to myself, my future children, and future students: I would teach it using an inquiry approach rather than a traditional one.  I wanted my children and students to learn how to do science, not merely read about it.  To teach science to them, rather than at them.  In recent years, data collected nationally and from state assessments has indicated a need to improve student performance in science, especially in the physical sciences and in performance-based learning tasks.

Involve your students

Throughout my teaching career as a high school science teacher, I supported and implemented an inquiry-based approach to my teaching, since it was the application component of science my kids appeared to struggle with.  When my students were active rather than passive in their science learning, they experienced many “Eureka!” moments: they learned to apply what was learned by participating in laboratory activities, made the connection to what they learned in lectures and class readings, as well as to the real world.  

STELLA (Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis) is proving to be quite a reform method in science education, much like the Full Operation Science Systems (FOSS), a K-8 student-centered program that emphasizes student inquiry, thinking, and application.

Programs such as STELLA and FOSS are based upon the premise that if instructors are provided with well-developed teaching materials which promote student inquiry, and professional development that helps them learn how to effectively use the materials, they are more likely to implement hands-on science programs, so student achievement improves.  Both programs provide instructors with extensive professional development, and appealing, well-developed materials to help them use inquiry and laboratory approaches to teach science to improve student achievement.

Create a habit

Inquiry science learning is based on the following cognitive processes: observation, communication, comparison, organization, cause and effect relationships, inference, and application.  Inquiry during science learning is enriched by conceptual knowledge and supports a “habit of mind” philosophy.  Students need to be given the opportunity to demonstrate habits of mind skills which include curiosity, open-mindedness, and respect for evidence, persistence, and a sense of stewardship and care when they are engaged in science learning.

Students should be given time to explore, experiment, make observations, test ideas, construct physical and mathematical models, and be given the opportunity to think in different ways – all of which are components of the inquiry approach, where they are encouraged to be actively involved in their own learning.  Both the inquiry approach and the use of hands-on learning in science give instructors and students this opportunity.  Here’s hoping that these methodologies persevere well in the twenty-first century and beyond, so all kids learn to love the discipline as I did many moons ago as a kinesthetic, naturalistic, and logical-mathematical learner sitting in a boring, traditionally-centered science classroom.