Our mission at Blackboard, “everyone educated,” is admittedly ambitious, but this past week, we teamed up with the U.S. Embassies in the Philippines and Thailand to take a step toward this goal in those countries. Blackboard hosted two round-table discussions with world leaders in higher education on how we can work together to provide students a world-class education as a means to improve those nations’ economies.
These events featured engaging conversations with key education leaders from the Philippines, Thailand and abroad on regional educational technology imperatives, and how technology can be used to drive economic growth and move these countries to more knowledge-based economies. Speakers shared how Blackboard technology was used to train close to 7 million citizens to build a better labor market and improve local economies in Latin America.
We at Blackboard are proud to share our expertise in using technology to enhance learning, and will continue to partner with world leaders to lead the discussion around the future of education in the U.S. and abroad.
In a few short days, the impact these mobile devices have had on the students at Nangwanda Secondary School has been profound. 97% of these students never touched a mobile phone before this week, but now their mechanical functioning of the phones increases exponentially every day. And they just love using these devices! They are highly engaged and you can see their minds transforming right before your eyes as they attempt to solve new problems in new ways.
The smartphones we are using have the Blackboard Mobile Learn
application installed along with content developed by Stanford University and the Seeds of Empowerment team. The mobile learning exercises developed by the research team allow us to measure the cognitive functioning and technological aptitude of the students.
Mobile technology in the classroom
Male Students Enjoying the Mobile Devices
Female Students with Mobile Devices
We visited the teachers at Nangwanda Secondary School in Newala last week so we could begin to understand how they teach their students and what issues they face in that process. Some of the issues they face here are startling: large class sizes ranging from 45-75 students each; limited number of teachers, only 13 teachers available to teach a school of over 600 students; minimal access to textbooks; and lack of reliable electricity. In fact, we ourselves lost power last night when preparing for the week’s sessions but were lucky enough to find a generator to charge our laptops, ad hoc servers, and mobile phones. It would have been interesting conducting a mobile technology workshop without any mobile devices!
Today, we began our 9-day project of two workshops per day consisting of 65 to 75 students each. The students ranged from grades 8 through 9. The wonder and excitement plastered their faces as we handed each group their phone were alone worth the 19-hour flight here from the US. Within the first 20 minutes and with a good measure of trial and error, they had a reasonable grasp of the mechanical functions of the phone that many of us take for granted such as: how to turn the phone on; unlock it by swiping their finger across the screen; use the camera to take pictures; and type words in the text box using the on-screen keyboard. It was remarkable to watch how quickly students began to learn how to use the phones, especially since most of them have never seen a touch-screen smartphone before in their lives.
After the workshop, when asked if she had fun today one of the students replied softly, “We have had a lot of fun because today we learned things we did not know before.”
What impact can education have on a country, a city, a village, a family, a child? And what impact can an educated child have on their family, their village, their city, their country, and the world? These are some of the questions Blackboard seeks to ask, understand, and answer through Project Activate.
Partnering with Seeds of Empowerment
, a non-profit organization developed through Stanford University
is spending 2 weeks in rural Tanzania to understand the educational imperatives in a region very different from that shaped our beginnings. We will work with 140 students in grades 8-9 in Newala, a rural town in the Mtwara region of southern Tanzania, to introduce them to different mediums of learning technology. Our goal is simple and may sound familiar: To significantly improve students’ education experience through the use of easily accessible mobile devices and applications.
Students in Tanzania
Students Participating in Project Activate 2012