June 20, 2013 | 04:50 AM (BD Time)
20 June, 2013 Thursday
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Local content for digital learning
Md. Masum Billah :
Integration of technology in education is becoming increasingly essential for a nation's development. Developing south Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka as well as African countries like Ghana, Sudan have been struggling to introduce ICT in schools for quite some time (Afele, 2003; PNLA Quarterly, 2011). With the growing need for achieving computer literacy or skills for citizens, the demand for digital content development is also rising (Aedo & Landoni, 2003). Localised digital content applies to a specified form of digital content which may be related to language, geographical context, national curriculum and encompasses the use of a wide variety of aspects of technology such as animations, audio, graphics, images, videos and so on (knolBETA, 2009). Moreover, it is recognised that localised contents with the inclusion of local examples as teaching and learning resource facilitate learning.
Research on digital contents for education includes various issues like bridging digital divide, use of web based materials for teaching, conservative and participatory teaching styles, conflict of localised content with curriculum, change in classroom practices and teachers' belief in education and so on (Koper, 2006; Afele, 2003; Papanastasiou, Ferdiq, 2006; Selwyn, 2002).
This paper describes development of computer based teaching and learning materials by Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), a non government organization (NGO) in collaboration with rural secondary school teachers and its implementation. The localised contents are based on National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) specifications, a government owned organization responsible for publication of national curriculum in Bangladesh. The aim of this initiative is to ensure an interactive and engaging teaching and learning environment by using examples in digital contents that are familiar in their surroundings. Also as the title indicates rural context is given utmost preference when examples are applied in concept building, explanation or activities.
Localised contents give the impression of novelty blended with liveliness and present ideas in complete form that help learners to comprehend with ease. The localised contents with lively and attractive animations are applied to make concepts and ideas visible and perceptible which otherwise would have been difficult to comprehend. Visuals are favourable in terms of retention of learning. Visualisations made in the digital contents appear to be motivational for students' learning. Animated characters and events prove to be memorable for young learners (Sempere, 2005). Moreover in English textbooks places, characters and events like space technology, dinosaurs, airport, road signs and so on which are unfamiliar or more urban are animated so that learners may benefit from visualisation. Attempts have been made to simplify complicated mathematical and science concepts with animations and games. Also visualisation of problems in the end of chapter exercises in mathematics, experiments in science, grammar exercise, vocabulary in English have contributed to facilitate learning. In this case interactive activities and games have also been included. Pronunciation in English has been addressed with providing audio support.
Various familiar local examples have been animated to include in the contents to explain difficult ideas and situations. For example paddy fields, a tool for grinding seeds called a 'ghani', fruits available in rural areas, pulling water from well, blacksmith at work, balance used in rural market places, chilli plant, prawn, flood, Bangla new year and so on have been animated so that learners may benefit from these applications.
Mathematical problems which come with textual statements are animated to visualise the situation. Specifically problem solving in mathematics is presented through various activities like games, cartoons and animations to make learning joyful and participatory. Application of local examples has enriched the contents and made those unique in nature in order to facilitate students' learning. For example, in unitary method, an example of farmers working in paddy fields has been applied to find out labour and days needed for plantation, measuring mango with a balance in a rural market has been used to explain simple equation, water melon is used for explaining fraction, children distributing marbles for average problems. As geometry is one of the difficult areas, attempt has been made to simplify fundamental geometry related to point and line with beads whereas basic idea related to locus with the help of a 'ghani'. A trigonometry problem where a tree breaks in a storm and forms an angle is presented and solved with animation to bring a real effect.
In general science, measuring sugar and puffed rice or 'muri' using a balance in a rural market place has been used to show the importance of measurement, a blacksmith heating iron to bend iron and make utensils is used visualise properties of metals, the ability to work, termed as power, is shown when a rural female pulls water out of a well, chilli plant mostly abundantly available in rural areas, is used to show the parts and functions of flowering plants; while two main types of prawn like galda and bagda, which are important for our country from economic point of view, have been used for their description and use.
In the textbook 'English for Today' a unit on Bangla new year called 'Pahela Baishakh' shows a variety of items like earthen pitcher, hand fan, drum or 'dhol', rice husking tray more commonly known as 'kula' which are used in rural places, in an attempt to bring out the spirit of festivities of new year.
Graphics designers have been involved with the task of transforming of these scripts into animations which are field tested before the materials are put forward for final review. Afterwards CAL materials are finalised after a series of review and feedback sessions involving stakeholders. Experts from all types of educational institutions from all over Bangladesh who are involved with secondary education have contributed in reviewing the CAL contents. More importantly Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE), National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), Teachers' Training College (TTC), National Academy for Educational Management (NAEM), etc have been generously making contributions to the process.
The final copyright materials are produced in CD forms.
The goal of developing localised contents with emphasis on rural examples in order to facilitate learning complements and supports our nation's slogan to build digital Bangladesh. Although the entire set up in the school environment may become burdensome in rural context, government's support would be enormously helpful in materialsing country's future aspirations of becoming digital. More and more educational endeavour should be undertaken by the government, non government organisations and private enterprises to make an all out effort so that the future generations may be able to achieve computer literacy which is the twenty first century's most outstanding demand.
(Masum Billah is Program Manager: BRAC Education Program, Email: email@example.com )
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