Thursday, 23 July 2015

Barriers to Educational Technology Adoptions in Developing Economies

Technology can play a hugely positive role in education – from connected devices in classrooms to distance learning over vast geographical distances. It can improve student levels of achievement, increase motivation and provide supporting resources that otherwise might not be available. However, in developing economies there are often several hurdles that need to be overcome in order to implement and use these technologies.


Electrical power

It goes without saying that electrical power is required to run technology, and this can provide quite a challenge in a developing economy that does not have the necessary electrical infrastructure. In South Africa there is also the issue of loadshedding, which renders electrical power supply erratic and intermittent. Until power is widely available, reliable and affordable for many in Africa and elsewhere, educational technology uptake will be slow. At the same time there are a number of ways to address this problem. The best way is to expand the electricity grid to include as many areas and people as possible. This should be a priority. There are also solar power solutions where panels are installed to power the technology and devices. A third option is that of a generator or inverter, which will supply electrical power to the necessary devices in order to make technology in education a reality.


Internet connectivity

The next common technological requirement that can assist in education – and that makes distance education possible – is Internet connectivity. A reliable and fast enough connection is required to access the resources that are available, and this needs to be implemented in a cost-effective way. Broadband costs need to be kept as low as possible to allow people in developing countries to access the Internet. Increased Internet accessibility and increased bandwidth are unlikely to occur without commitment by governments and the involvement of private enterprise, such as the mobile phone service providers and operators. Fortunately in many countries these entities are coming onboard and rolling out connectivity as fast as possible. Easily accessible and affordable broadband would allow both teachers and students to access educational resources easily and cost-effectively. It would also allow resources and teaching aids to be used, for example video tutorials, podcasts and interactive study aids. These could be used in or outside the classroom. Students would be able to access these resources at home, to further bolster their studies and allow them to effectively receive extra lessons outside of the classroom.


Training and professional development

Teachers who have been brought up in a world with limited technology can find it difficult to use technology and support learners. This needs to be addressed by implementing technology training programmes for teachers. The training does not have to be intensive as most of the technology is user-friendly and intuitive once the basic knowledge is there.


The value placed on teachers

Teachers are the cornerstones of society, as upon them rests the responsibility of educating future generations. They therefore need to be properly valued. Here technology can play a role as well. It can help them to elevate their skills and aid their professional development, leading to them being more knowledgeable and adept, which in turn would lead to them being more highly valued in society as highly skilled resources. Remuneration needs to be sufficient to allow them to focus solely on their teaching careers – people cannot focus on teaching if they must hold several part-time jobs in order to support themselves and their families. In countries like South Africa there is also a shortage of skilled, qualified teachers, which needs to be addressed at the tertiary education level. More people need to be encouraged to take up teaching as a profession, and be given access to the right kind of teacher education.

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