Learning InSync With The Mission to Improve Tanzania Education

Lisa Walker, Founder and CEO of Learning InSync Being around youths has always been my thing. You get to inspire them, hear a lot from them and learn with them. Currently, most of them are shaken due to the poor Form Four results from last year and are wondering how the so-called generation of science and technology is helping them. There are no ways for a student in Tanzania to learn through the evolved technology using methods such as eLearning because no resources are available on the internet /IT sphere for a Tanzanian student Right now, more than ever before, youths in Tanzania have knowledge in ICT and are really enthusiastic about it, I do not doubt that. What I doubt is if tech in Tanzania is serving them well as students. If we consider countries like US, Sweden or other developed countries, more emphasis is put on youth education and how technology can be used to make learning more comprehensive. Geniuses aren’t born, geniuses are made. What we should be targeting, however, isn’t to have million geniuses but rather a better class of youths who will be able to learn and study in a way that ‘works’ for them. The concept of eLearning has been adopted and put into implementation in various countries which are now experiencing improvement in their education systems. Various countries….except Tanzania. There are no gateways and systems to improve the use of eLearning and technology in general here in Tanzania. But that was before last Monday at KINU when I finally had a light bulb moment as a presentation was made that changed all that! We are on the brink of change. Learning InSync is developing a solution (finally) to enhance Tanzanian academic performance through the fostering of a more supportive and technologically savvy learning environment. The more the presentation was being made, the more my smile curved. It couldn’t come at a better time considering the worst performance ever produced by the latest Form Four results. So what is Learning InSync Learning InSync is a Nonprofit Organization dedicated to the creation and implementation of educational programs that bridge the gap between homes and classrooms, local and international languages and national and global needs. Their current mission is focused in Tanzania, where they are working to develop a virtual library to support literacy and learning amongst Ordinary Level Secondary School students. Tanzanian youth are becoming more engaged in the internet, and particularly social media. SocialBakers, a company that provides social media network statistics and analysis, reports that more than 700,000 users are registered on Facebook alone. According to research most of the Tanzanians in the technology sphere are youths. Learning InSync will build on this interest in technology, providing a digital platform which youths have been seeking for a while without success. Learning InSync is developing a database which will be responsible for content storage, management, and delivery. What really impressed me about Learning InSync is their focus on ease of use. In a society like Tanzania, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication as most of the students and teachers have only a basic understanding of ICT skills. The simplicity of the Learning InSync application is evident through the simple interface whereby the teacher is given the option of choosing what content students will be learning on a particular day, week, or month. To ensure ease of in-class implementation, Learning InSync will be recruiting Tanzanian educators and preparing them to work side-by-side with secondary school teachers to successfully integrate the new technology and student centered pedagogy into the classroom. The content is stored in cloud-based secure servers. Once new content is uploaded to these cloud servers, it is automatically downloaded to the Tanzanian National Hub. The Tanzanian National Hub is a small computer called a Raspberry Pi. It is deliciously simple, and it’s tasty. The Raspberry Pi will be located in future LIS Tanzania headquarters in Dar es Salaam. As LIS elaborates in the presentation, each of their partner schools will have a Raspberry Pi computer that will enable them to store LIS content for their students. However, seeing that most schools around Tanzania lack a reliable, inexpensive connection to the internet LIS coaches can use SD cards (memory cards) to transfer new content from their office to all of their schools. An automated syncing system makes this process extremely simple and requires no technical expertise. An LIS coach plugs the SD card into a school’s Raspberry Pi, walks away for a while, and then unplugs it once the sync process is completed. Once content is on the school Raspberry Pi, it can be sent to student tablets either through wired connections or through a wireless router. This syncing is actually a two-way process. New content is downloaded to the tablets, and student performance on quizzes, tests, and other activities is simultaneously uploaded to the school’s Raspberry Pi computer. Thus, when an LIS coach next visits a particular school and transfers new content to the school’s Raspberry Pi, in addition to downloading new content from the SD card to the school, all student performance data that has been moved from the tablets and stored on the school’s Raspberry Pi is uploaded to the SD card. All risks are then avoided. Then, when that SD card returns to the LIS Tanzania office in Dar es Salaam and is plugged into our Raspberry Pi there, student performance is downloaded to that Raspberry Pi and automatically uploaded to the cloud where it can be analyzed by Learning InSync. Currently, Learning InSync is working on the development of a huge Virtual Library of which the students will have access to a wide variety of texts relevant to the readers. This will provide the resources that were not available in the first and hence eliminate the problem that kept youths stuck in the social networks as they will now have a place where they can actually learn online. Texts which will be contained in the Virtual Library will include a variety of genres and topics, to ensure students feel motivated to keep reading. Digital quizzes will be available on the completion of reading the texts to measure content understanding and application. Youths are competitive and enjoy awards, but most of all they like to see that they’re making progress in what they’re doing. This is essential for motivation, which is a key to fostering a student population interested in learning. LIS realizing that have set the application such that Once students have completed the quiz, they are presented with their score and the ability to rate the content they have just read. Once students have completed the quiz, they are presented with their score and the ability to rate the content they have just read. That way, it is easy to monitor the areas of weakness and concentration both on the texts and the application. It is not unarguable that Learning InSync will revolutionize education in Tanzania. Student –centered learning and easy-to-use application such as that from Learning InSync will take Tanzania youths to the learning environment that not only teaches them. But also understands them! The Virtual Library is yet another big thing LIS will bring to Tanzania. Hopefully all will go well and the implementation will start soon.

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