via-afrika-300x225

Many attempts at digital education have so far focused on the technology and largely ignored the knowledge requirements aspect. However, introducing technology into the classroom on its own is unlikely to improve education. The result of these rollouts of technology that did not give enough consideration to the knowledge aspects of digital education is that many schools and teachers have access to digital technologies but do not know how to use them effectively to transform teaching and learning for the better.

Digital education is, in reality, more complex and difficult to implement than most people realise. To be effective, it requires that teachers bring together at least three different sets of knowledge and use them innovatively: subject-matter content knowledge, technological knowledge, and knowledge of teaching methods and practices.

One such school is Elim Mor Primary School in Cape Agulhas, the first school to join Via Afrika’s ISupportEducation.co.za crowdfunding platform. Elim Mor received 25 tablets from a corporate sponsor a while ago, but it does not have any tablet-based programmes for its learners. Most of this no-fee school’s learners are the children of farm workers and local artisans, who cannot afford to pay the fees charged by private maths tutors.

Using ISupportEducation.co.za, the school is now looking to members of the public to help it raise funds to introduce the Via Afrika Tabtor Maths programme for its learners. The programme is aligned to the CAPS curriculum for grades R to 6. It is already making a difference in the lives of hundreds of learners nationwide, who now have access to a dedicated maths tutor through the app to supplement the lessons they receive in school.

The programme is transformative in that the trained tutor that each learner is paired with possesses the knowledge sets required to use the technology at their disposal to create learning experiences customised to each child’s needs. Because of this individualised approach, learners on the programme generally show improvements of up to five times within 7 to 10 weeks of using it for three 45-minute sessions per week. The teachers at the school will take on the role of the tutors after extensive training.

This improvement in maths performance is now within reach of learners at Elim Mor and those at the other schools that will be joining ISupportEducation.co.za in the coming months – and the public can help make this possible for them.

The platform is also open to teachers, who are already using it to raise funds for their own digital education. The unfortunate reality is that most teachers in South Africa lack the skill level and knowledge to use digital technologies such as computers and tablets to transform teaching and learning. The training generally available to them also only provides the most basic of skills – far below the level they need to use digital technologies effectively.

Through ISupportEducation.co.za, the funds they raise help them enrol at the Via Afrika Digital Education Academy, which helps teachers build towards becoming e-learning masters with the skills and knowledge to make their access to technology count where it matters most: in the performance of learners.

Members of the public who sponsor a school or a teacher through ISupportEducation.co.za will have access to information that shows them what their contribution is going towards and the results their support has been able to produce. Helping schools and teachers in need generate the funds they need through the platform to access proven digital education programmes will, in time, bridge the knowledge gap and set the future of countless learners on a positive trajectory.

This article was first published in IT News Africa on 16 September 2016.