In Zambia, teachers are using iPods to enhance professional training in mathematics, science, and English. As part of this creative pilot project, EDC distributed 12 iPods to sixth grade teachers experienced with EDC’s interactive radio instruction (IRI) and trained them in their use. And these are not your teenagers’ iPods. They 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 Simon Richmond of EDC's International Development Division.
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 available through the radio broadcasts.”
The initiative isn’t inexpensive. At $250 per iPod and another $250 for the generator, the cost presents a significant hurdle. But as technology costs decrease and access to electricity spreads in Zambia, Richmond believes the technology will quickly become more affordable.
When the Zambian school year ends in November, the project will evaluate the effectiveness of the iPod by measuring teacher performance. If the results are good, staff plan to distribute them to more schools across the country next year.