Two Nigerian Educators Weigh in on Edtech in the Classroom
With over 400 million children on the continent, Africa is arguably most in need of high-quality and effective solutions for education. This need was amplified post the pandemic that forced 80% of the world’s school-going children to embrace the new normal: remote learning.
These unique circumstances have accelerated the inevitable rise of Edtech in Africa.
Sure — online learning existed in different forms before COVID-19, but the significant infrastructure and capital challenges restricted access to education for students. Luckily, we took it upon ourselves to bridge this gap by providing quality, affordable, and accessible education through their platforms.
Edtech is usually associated with being an out-of-classroom tool, a test prep for additional tutoring help. But now it’s being used in schools – and teachers are becoming some of the biggest vocal advocates.
More and more schools are recognizing Edtech isn’t the competition. How can it? Teachers play the most important role in a child’s education, which is why Edtech aims to complement their teaching efforts.
But are African teachers buying into the idea of Edtech in the classroom?
We spoke to two Nigerian educators in Abuja, Mr. Joshua Ashikem, who teaches JS and SS-level technology and engineering drawing at Regina Pacis High School, and Mrs. Comfort Oyekanmi, Cherry Field Nursery and Primary School Principal, to learn their views.
First experience with edtech
Mrs. Oyekanmi had already heard parents raving about online learning and how it was helping students understand complex subjects with ease. But it was while researching ways to inspire one of her students that she came across uLesson.
Happy to learn about the app, Mrs. Oyekanmi saw uLesson as a replacement for cartoons. “Cartoons have bastardized learning. Because of them, children today are less eager to put in the effort to read and learn,” she says.
On the other hand, Mr. Ashikem recommended uLesson to the school principal after noticing how his students were struggling to get good grades in the West African Examination Council (WAEC). He also believed his students would benefit from the extra help to better grasp more complicated maths and science topics.
In both cases, edtech adoption is fairly recent. While Mr. Ashikem’s school introduced uLesson in September last year, Mrs. Oyekanmi’s school is new to the world of online learning and only started last month.
Their first impressions were pleasant, to say the least.
Mr. Ashikem pointed out the eagerness of students to learn via uLesson. “Unlike normal prep time where we have to get them to go to class, they are already seated for uLesson prep,” he laughs.
One of the main reasons behind this eagerness is the greater interaction that the app provides. Learning about concepts through animated videos and graphics feels more exciting to students as opposed to simply reading about them from textbooks.
In fact, Mrs. Oyekanmi was surprised at how instantaneously uLesson helped her student improve and take up studying more seriously, along with the accuracy of the test marking. This spurred her curiosity to explore the concept of how kids could learn from a screen.
Pre uLesson vs. post uLesson
There’s a need to cultivate critical thinking in African students.
Many cannot manage their strength and agility, causing their attention span to shrink. If students aren’t guided carefully, they may see education as boring and discouraging. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to make them see the reason why they should learn for mastery.
Mrs. Oyekanmi believes practical teaching can help by improving knowledge retention. Taught by foreign teachers at Angelican School of Commerce in Offa, Mrs. Oyekanmi says she was taught to learn and retain as a student. “Memorization was enforced. We had to learn formulas, multiplication tables, everything,” she remembers.
This is also a huge challenge today: children aren’t learning to retain. Their main priority is to pass the test instead of understanding and absorbing concepts.
“Consistent practice is necessary to excel in complex subjects like mathematics. But kids these days don’t want the repetition it takes to achieve this dexterity, which is a general challenge in all school levels,” explains Mrs. Oyekanmi.
Mr. Ashikem points out one of the main difficulties of teaching is helping students to master abstract concepts. “Arranging excursions can be difficult because of insecurity, so certain processes that students should observe at demonstrations, they cannot.”
Recognizing the need to make education more interactive, both educators used different methods to achieve it and help students.
Mr. Ashikem knew his students needed visuals to understand concepts involving 2-D or 3-D dimensions, which is why he resorted to GIFs to show rotation and other related concepts. On the other hand, Mrs. Oyekanmi encouraged parents to make kids watch Discovery Channel and National Geographic channels to cultivate their curiosity.
The advent of edtech has allowed both educators to take their efforts to another level.
uLesson has helped demystify difficult concepts students previously struggled with by giving them easy access to personalized and relevant content covering core curriculum subjects, including Mathematics, English Language, Business, Sciences, and Technology.
Studies suggest kids remember 80% of what they see and only 20% of what they read, so adopting uLesson‘s visual nature is a no-brainer. Students are using the app to watch educational videos during prep and test themselves later by answering practice questions to self-assess their understanding of the material.
In addition to simplifying complicated concepts, the app has motivated students to achieve higher. “Seeing stars in front of their names in the class and general positive motivation has created the right kind of peer pressure, without which students would relapse,“ Mrs. Oyekanmi says.
Mr. Ashikem mentions that out of the 760 students at his school, only a handful don’t have a uLesson subscription yet. Parents pay for subscriptions into the school account, after which he notifies a uLesson rep to register students, who then gives the teacher their login details.
Students and parents are showing great enthusiasm
Both educators agree students have responded positively to uLesson and look forward to learning through it.
Mr. Ashikem tells us about the time he was teaching joint variation in class when one of his students asked about partial variations. “She went on to explain how the calculation would’ve been different if the question demanded partial and not a joint variation problem.“
This made him realize the student had taken the initiative to get ahead of the class, which was a rare occurrence before uLesson. He quipped how another student told him he shouldn’t bother teaching because she studied ahead and could teach the next class.
Mrs. Oyekanmi also remembers how uLesson helped the first student she taught through the app understand he could perform better. “He failed the first time he took a test on the app. But the next time he tried, he was above average. Subsequently, he started to take a greater interest in studying and working harder,” she says.
Even parents have responded positively to edtech being integrated into daily activities in schools.
Mr. Ashikem is surprised at how readily his students’ parents paid uLesson’s annual subscriptions. He goes on to share that the mother of one of his students once told him she was using uLesson herself to relearn a concept in Chemistry she had found difficult during her school days.
Education truly has no age limit.
uLesson is teacher-approved
Both Mrs. Oyekanmi and Mr. Ashikem approve of uLesson as teachers.
While she hopes edtech doesn’t make students lazy when it comes to taking notes, Mrs. Oyekanmi sees the uLesson platform as an effective replacement for cartoons and video games and plans to buy a subscription for her grandkids. She’s also very proud of how the platform is a Nigerian company. “uLesson has given me something to be proud of for my county,” she rejoices.
Similarly, Mr. Ashikem understands that uLesson isn’t a replacement for teachers, and instead, is a useful tool to reduce the effort on the educator’s part.
He likes how the platform offers interesting features like games and virtual classrooms to engage students, but it’s the fact that uLesson videos are local content that stands out for him. “Most of the YouTube educational videos are from other continents. As a result, they have different accents and are based on different curricula, which restricts the student’s ability to gain a deeper understanding of the subject.”
“Teachers can also learn about concepts in more detail and see certain aspects from a new perspective that’ll make them better at their jobs,“ he adds.
Edtech in the classroom in the future
African schools can use edtech to visualize concepts for students, helping them better understand and absorb the study material and maximize results. They can also install blockers to certain sites to protect children from unwanted content and make the learning experience safe and effective.
uLesson helps to make learning fun again. Teachers and students can ease into blended learning that has come with the digital age. Use it to adapt to the learning evolution that comes with the current digital age.