When the school curriculum goes digital

With over 8000 laptop computers already in usage by primary school students around the country many unprecedented innovations and changes have started permeating in the lower spheres of our academic fiber on a prudent note.
Rwandan children discovering the world through their computers
Rwandan children discovering the world through their computers

With over 8000 laptop computers already in usage by primary school students around the country many unprecedented innovations and changes have started permeating in the lower spheres of our academic fiber on a prudent note.

As we speak, the atmosphere in schools is spontaneously ushering in the shift from the traditionally domesticating pedagogical model to a learner-centered model which has been widely proven to be more learner-liberating.

The incorporation of the digital content system in the academic curriculum of primary schools is empowering the pupils to assume the central position in their learning where by the teachers role will be to guide and give the learning process a proper direction as opposed to them being the custodians and givers of knowledge as it has been.

The pupils who have been using the laptops for the past five academic months since the first disbursement have displayed a great sense of independent learning where by discovery has already been evidenced to the awe of some teachers.

The outstanding challenge which can be called a positive one is that pupils have proved to grasp computer usage a lot faster than their teachers; this has braved the stereotypical arrangement ingrained in the pedagogical model where the teacher has to be the “knowledgeable” stakeholder in the learning process.

Proactively speaking the advent of the digital divide at the bedrock of our education fraternity has come as a “knight in a shining amour” to stimulate innovativeness, creativity and discovery in our people starting at that tender age.

In an interview with Richard Niyonkuru the coordinator of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project, the scheme which distributes laptops to schools, revealed that what happens is that these children through the digitally programmed laptops at their disposal have tried out many possibilities and come up with more than one approaches to a uniform answer for instance in geometry and mathematics.

“They explore the options provided by the program and come up with a variety of approaches to an answer, on many occasions they have left their teachers behind in discovery,” said Niyonkuru

This is the point where the shift unveils itself effortlessly where by the learners take the frontline in their learning there by making the teachers take up their ideal position of preparing and orienting the learners in the process.

This shift to a more learner-centered approach embraces practicability and motivates a pupil to try out as many tasks since it is packaged in a game-like format which challenges their mind hence stimulating innovativeness and creative thinking.

Since the first batch of disbursing these computers many interesting observations have been made, Niyonkuru goes a head to elaborate the progress of the process, the emerging dynamics and the plans in the pipe line.

Parents brought on board in the OLPC campaign

To make the overall goal of availing every Rwandan pupil a laptop and considering the overwhelming costs involved, the Ministry of education has come up with a scheme of encouraging some parents to buy these laptops for their children especially those who can afford.

This started as collaboration with Kigali City Council after they fronted a concern that we were only concentrating on disbursing computers to public schools.

The first schools to respond were Green hills, Kigali parents, Lacolombiel, Escaf Nyamirambo and others. So far 1650 computers have so far been bought by parents to their pupils in a period of three months.

Each laptop computer goes for 200USD and an account is going to be opened with Bank of Kigali where that money will be deposited by parents.

Pupils far a head of teachers in grasping digital content

It has been noted that pupils have consistently outshone their teachers in grasping and usage of the digital programs on these laptops there by prompting some kind of independent learning on the side of the pupils there by igniting self-discovery.

Niyonkuru observed that the young teachers have also exhibited some sharpness in learning computer usage as opposed to their elderly counterparts who have resorted to resentment of this trend since they feel they are old to attain computer literacy.

Digital curriculum

Following the challenge of customizing the available digital content into the Rwandan context, MINEDUC with the help of Microsoft has already customized six modules into the Rwandan context.

The customized contents include 2 in English, 2 in science and 2 in Mathematics “We have not yet taken the translated material because we need to taste it further to see that it perfectly fits” noted Niyonkuru.

The translation process has been done in collaboration with Green hills primary school where by its pupils voices were recorded to package the content in the English clearly understood by Rwandan children.

Capacity is also being built to enable other domestic institutions to be in position to develop digital content, a project funded by USAID. This same project is also building a web portal where all digital content and other related materials will be stored such that they can be accessed and downloaded by everyone interested in making academic use of them.