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Education meets technology: Why schools must embrace the digital transition

By Philip Amiola
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Technology has become a part of our everyday life. This is especially true of smartphones and other mobile devices which are being put to various uses impacting how we live, work and play. Since we have become so accustomed to digital devices, we could as well deploy these tools to facilitate learning.

While more people are beginning to embrace the opportunities that the digital transition offers for personal growth and professional development, it has not been so easy for schools to make the move. Some are doubtful about the capacity of digital devices to serve as strategic learning tools while others lack the know-how and support structure needed to drive the change.

In spite of the seeming challenges, taking a quick look at global trends will reveal that encouraging the use of technology in classrooms is not just a good idea, it is actually a necessity. When used correctly, mobile applications can create a robust learning experience while also enhancing workplace and enterprise readiness.

Almost every important activity today is being driven by technology. Keeping it out of the classroom may therefore be tantamount to living in denial while timely incorporation will give students a headstart and prepare them for their future careers. Rather than restricting the use of digital devices in schools, the relevant authorities should actually encourage it and seize the opportunity to help students learn how to use these tools in a safe and responsible manner thus developing their digital citizenship skills.

This is especially important in light of the fact that most students are 'digital natives' who have been entertaining themselves with tablets and smartphones since kindergarten age. So it only makes sense to harness the already existing interest and redirect it towards achieving suitable learning outcomes. Teachers and school administrators can easily find wholesome and age appropriate content on the various app stores for this purpose.

In addition to the general suitability for learning purposes, other factors that should be considered when choosing appropriate learning tools or apps include capacity for engaging the students' minds, encouraging interaction, alignment with global best practices, affordability and ease of access.

These are some of the factors that led my team at e86 Limited to make a strategic entry into edtech with our flagship product, Panacea e-library, a book rental service and knowledge sharing hub designed with Africa in mind. Signing up to Panacea is a quick entry strategy for schools who are ready to explore the vast potentials that technology offers for transforming learning experience.

Schools should also consider taking advantage of cloud based platforms like Dropbox for sharing documents – for example assignments and lesson notes – and ubiquitous communication apps like Slack, WhatsApp and Telegram for internal communications and class discussions especially during long breaks, internships/industrial attachments and field trips. These tools could also be used to facilitate information dissemination to relevant stakeholders. This could include sharing important notices, agenda and minutes of meetings, electronic bulletins and even class presentations.

Regardless of which path you decide to tread, the idea is to get moving. Think of the most glaring ways to harness technology for an improved learning experience and start from there. If you don't know where to start or how to get the most value from this, consider speaking with an expert. The tide of technology is upon us; some will embrace the opportunities it brings while others will get submerged or even swept away by the waves. I hope you choose the former.

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