KAMPALA, Uganda – As part of Microsoft’s holistic approach to Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) that aims at transforming the way students’ access learn and study information at schools, Gayaza High school
today showcased their e-learning centre that integrates classroom study with technology.
Ronald Ddungu, Deputy Head Teacher of Gayaza High School said that Gayaza High School has adopted an inclusive approach to e-Learning where teachers have actively integrated technology into teaching such that students can access class notes, homework and carry out research in a timely manner to further compliment the education curriculum in Uganda. Ddungu added that the e-learning initiative has already enabled Gayaza High School to win 15,000USD for having one of the most innovative worldwide ideas during the recently held Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain in March 2014.
“The use of technology in schools in Uganda will help improve the delivery of the curriculum. Gayaza High School will work closely with other schools and mentor their teachers in adopting the use of
technology in their work,” says Ddungu.
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Commenting more broadly on eLearning in Africa during the school tour, Mark East, General Manager of Global Sales and Operations at Microsoft, said: ‘Government of Uganda needs to set a policy and
infrastructure for schools to access internet and technology because Information technology is a tool that each student needs to have a right to.’
Mark East added, ‘The introduction of eLearning into classrooms needs to and will look different in every school. Many governments and organisations have, up until now, been approaching eLearning in a one-device-fits-all way. They deliver devices to schools and think the problem is solved. But what about addressing the schools’ specific needs and challenges?’
Microsoft’s approach to eLearning is a not a one-device-fits-all solution. With access to ICT in schools still unevenly distributed, schools across Uganda are at different levels of implementing eLearning programs and therefore have different needs. For instance, there is a high teacher absenteeism rate in Uganda, as reported by the BBC, meaning that 40% of public school classrooms don’t have teachers teaching in them.
For several years, Microsoft has been creating tailored eLearning solutions for schools across Africa to address these challenges through understanding individual school objectives, preparing teachers
for the change, and adding the relevant content and services to create a productive and sustainable learning environment. Microsoft has also taken into consideration schools that may already have computers, but lack access to internet connectivity. Through the Microsoft TV white space technology, learning institutions in remote areas are able to access low-cost, high speed broadband because they are solar-powered, which means schools do not need electricity to enjoy the benefits of
Although access is a fundamental pillar of eLearning, it will not solve Uganda’s digital illiteracy problem on its own. For eLearning to work, access to technology needs to be coupled with teacher training.
“Teachers, like those in Gayaza, need to learn how to effectively integrate ICT into their curriculum and classrooms. It helps create immersive learning experiences that improve students’ experiences and
skills through technology,” says East.
To help upskill teachers and create a holistic eLearning experience, Microsoft has, for the past 10 years, been offering several educator programmes, including Teaching with Technology and Partners in
Learning. All of these programs provide free training courses and tools for teachers, and a platform to connect with global educators and share best practices. The programs have already reached more than
12 million educators in 134 countries worldwide, and have benefitted 13 million students in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
Microsoft has also made provisions for self-learning, where learners can take eLearning beyond the classroom and further develop their skills. The company recently launched the Microsoft 4Afrika Virtual
Academy, which delivers free IT training from Microsoft experts, and covers topics such as app development, coding, business intelligence and virtualisation.
Microsoft plans to continue delivering relevant, effective and scalable technologies, services and programs. As eLearning progresses in Africa, the company looks forward to focusing the contributions of
many on improved learning outcomes for all.