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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Kenyan Students Replace Books with PDA’s

What an interesting story! It appears that a school in Western Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria is piloting a project that give 5th graders PDA’s in lieu of books. The BBC reports the story here.

Kenyan Students Using PDA'sSo, where do you start on a topic like this? I guess I’ll first point out that I’m a gadget nut and a proponent of technology being used in Africa to help vault Africans into the Information Age. I love travelling around the country and seeing internet cafes in remote towns and areas. I’m incredibly happy about how cell phones have been used to negate the power of telephone monopolies. There’s nothing quite like bypassing top-heavy and overpowered bureaucracies with quick moving efficient new tools and practices.

Anyway, the real question here is: will it work? Good question, but only time will tell. What are it’s chances of working? Knowing only what I have read about the program in this article, and my knowledge of rural Kenya, Kenyans, and the Kenyan government… about a 20% chance. So, a totally unscientific and subjective opinion that you can choose to agree with or not.

[Hmm, it appears this is now being discussed at SlashDot, should get a lot more attention now.]

6 Comments

  1. Seems like a great idea on the surface, with the one caveat that Kenyans (generalization alert) don’t seem to be the best at maintenance. Technology and gadgetry require a certain level of commitment to care, and I worry that it’s not enough of a cultural value to be effective long-term.

  2. I think it’s a waste but not because Kenyans can’t maintain things. When was the last time you read a math textbook on a PDA? How about an english essay? I will look at the article more closely to see if the PDAs “target” certain things, but I think a lot of educational technology creates no advantage. Those of us from Rift or Rosso had great educations without laptops, classroom computers, and PDAs. And we seemed to make our niche in tech just fine anyway.

  3. I think it is a good idea to INTRODUCE them to this technology but, I do not see much practical application. In lieu of books (which I think are best), a good large chalk/marking board stands the test of time as a teaching tool.

  4. Let’s be realistic, maintenance and keeping these things running in rural Africa will be tricky business. I mean that for Kenyans and for everyone else, keeping technology up in the bush or rural areas is just plain tough. Granted, they say that there will be hardier ones coming up after this pilot project is over, but we’ve all seen what happens to stuff even if we’re just in Nairobi – it gets beat all to hell.

    I too question the use of a PDA. If they’re determined to use technology, they might as well go for something easier to use and read. Try a tablet PC (even more breakable, but I’m sure they could make one “rugged”).

    Something about this whole thing rings of a fundamentally unsound strategy.

  5. i’m so glad to see some discussion going on about this sort of thing. i was so surprised when i saw the article. i think the advantage to these pda textbooks is the ability to update them regularly rather than having second hand textbooks that have been around for years. i remember having books at school in kenya that were 8 years old. i’m not sure how necessary they would be in primary school though but i could definitely see the advantages for secondary school. as far as concerns about maintenance and/or upkeep… it seems as though the kenyan population (even in rural areas) have found many ways of keeping their cell-phones charged and in good condition, who’s to say they can do the same with these.

  6. What I still don’t get about all this is that the founders of Eduvision have been schooling in NBO just like us and so they are supposed to actually know about using advanced and sensitive technology like PDAs in those areas.
    Aren’t there more important things for Kenya than using PDAs instead of textbooks?

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