Making Ed-Tech Work in Isiolo
What does it take to launch an e-learning initiative in remote schools in Kenya? Last week I packed my bags and drove four hours northwest of Nairobi to Isiolo to find out. BRCK was invited on this exploratory trip as a potential technology partner by eLimu, an ed-tech company based in Nairobi that is bringing innovative curriculum to schools. The eLimu application runs on tablet devices is designed to help supplement classroom teaching in all six-subject areas tested by the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). With animated characters guiding students through the lessons, children are kept engaged by singing songs, taking quizzes and watching animated explanations about challenging concepts. It also comes with additional curriculum on peace building, agriculture, civics and human rights. Each November, Kenyan students take a four-day exam in order to receive their KCPE and receive a high school placement. When results are announced each year, Isiolo is consistently near the bottom of the rankings, and local politicians started to look at possible solutions. During their research, they found eLimu. During beta testing phase, eLimu has seen KCPE test results dramatically increase, and this is exactly why eLimu was invited to Isiolo on behalf of the Deputy Governor of Isiolo County. I spent two days in Isiolo with eLimu and another technology provider, offering satellite and TV white space Internet solutions, to figure out how to implement a pilot test of eLimu in Isiolo. So after two days, what did I discover? BRCK has some major benefits as a technology provider for ed-tech initiatives: Low start-up costs. Pilot projects tend to be lean. To launch a pilot test in three Isiolo schools reaching just over 1,200 students – without considering the cost of data – the start-up cost is just over $4,000 for the BRCKs, antennas and solar chargers. While it's extreme, compare that to the approximately $300 million it costs to build, launch and maintain a satellite Internet connection. Data solutions. BRCK has secured inexpensive data plans and bundles that are easy to purchase. Since the tablet content will likely be viewed multiple times, the BRCK can cache the pages through its internal storage features, which requiring less data. Coordinated monitoring and evaluation. By registering all of the pilot BRCK devices to the project, a government official could easily log-in to the online BRCK dashboard to see which BRCKs are connected, how long they have been online and if more data needs to be purchased. Both eLimu and the local government can see real-time information and intervene if needed. Simplicity. eLimu cannot introduce technology solutions into schools that are complicated. Simplicity and ease-of-use are key. Period. While there are multiple technology solutions to choose from, BRCK has the potential to bring connectivity to projects that can strengthen the future of Kenya's education system. Meghan Lazier is a summer UX fellow with BRCK. She is currently a graduate student at School of Visual Arts in the MFA Design for Social Innovation program.