In Zambia, a select group of teachers are using iPods to enhance professional training in such critical areas as mathematics, science, and English.
As part of a pilot project, EDC distributed iPods to sixth grade teachers experienced with EDC’s interactive radio instruction (IRI) and trained them in their use. The iPods are loaded with the IRI lessons as well as with audio and video training materials designed to support teachers in their presentation of complex topics.
“The iPods bring teachers enriched professional content, right in their hands, in their classrooms, when they need it. This is highly relevant professional support,” says EDC’s Simon Richmond.
Teaching with technology
The iPods also help the IRI team in Zambia address another challenge: how to convey concepts that are more easily explained visually. Richmond explains, “You can teach people about a square with radio, for instance, but you can’t show them how to cut and fold a cube. So we shot a video of an educator cutting and folding a cube to accompany the lesson on three-dimensional shapes. Now teachers can see it being done and practice it before asking students to do it.”
Using the iPods in combination with a foot- or solar-powered generator and a set of speakers, the teachers can also broadcast the IRI lessons without being tied to the radio broadcast schedule. “The iPod affords teachers more autonomy than the radio broadcasts,” says Richmond. “Teachers can decide when to teach the lesson, they can choose to repeat the lesson, to stop and rewind the lesson, or to review a part of the lesson. None of this is available through the radio broadcasts.”
The USAID initiative is not inexpensive. At $250 per iPod and another $250 for the generator, the cost presents a significant hurdle. But as costs decrease and access to electricity spreads in Zambia, Richmond believes the technology will quickly become more affordable.
With the Zambian school year ending in November, the effectiveness of the project is now being evaluated. If the results are good, staff plan to distribute iPods to more schools across the country next year.
Originally published on January 1, 2008