Over the last ten years, Camara Education has been working with nearly 4,000 schools in 11 countries helping them improve education using ICT. In a sector that is riddled with unsuccessful projects, we ourselves have made many mistakes, however crucially we have learned fast and adapted quick. Camara Education is not just an education organisation but a learning organisation. Here are our top ten lessons from ten years:
1. Educational outcome first. The tendency in ICT in education (ICT4E) is to start with the technology. Don’t! Start with the intended outcome whether it be improved literacy, numeracy or digital literacy and always keep this as the focus throughout. The technology choice is the last one and generally the least relevant.
2. Needs based, curriculum aligned. Every country, school, subject and student are different. Understand their needs and ensure the solution meets it. Teachers job is to deliver the curriculum, when ICT in Education really works, they have the relevant digital resources to enhance the delivery of the curriculum.
3. Local delivery. Local is always better. In the early days, we had Irish volunteers train teachers in Africa, then local Camara trainers and in one project recently, we had local teachers train other teachers. That is why the vast majority of our 200+ global team are local.
4. Data, data & more data. The international development sector has a dearth of well intentioned projects with unknown impact. All projects need rigorous data to measure the impact, in our case on a educational level, to ensure the intended impact is being achieved. In many of our projects, we can track this in real time enabling us to tweak the project long before it ends.
5. Teacher focused. It is the teacher’s job to deliver a quality education. We need to ensure that we are empowering them with training and support to be better teachers. As such, the most important thing we have done over the ten years is train 20,000 teachers in using ICT to improve educational outcomes.
6. Principal buy-in. Just like teachers, principals are crucial stakeholders in the delivery of change in schools. They don’t need to be experts in the topic however they do need enough knowledge to lead the change. Since Camara introduced Leadership training, we see uptake and impact increase significantly.
7. Deployment is only the start. There is a tendency to think when the hardware is deployed and teachers are trained, that the hard work is done and sit back and look at the improved results roll in. Incorrect! The hard work starts here. Technology and teachers needs ongoing support to be successful.
8. Focus on sustainability from the start. Given the deployment is only the start, the total intervention needs to be clear from the beginning. Technology will break, teachers will leave and hence the total investment needs to be clear. Given this, the social enterprise model we employ where the beneficiaries contribute, is a lot more favourable than the classic donor funded approach.
9. ICT4E is not cheap! There is a perception that ICT in Education is about deploying some hardware and waiting for the impact. However the interventions are delivering organisational change and need the appropriate resources.
10. When done right, impact is very significant! For example, in Zambia last year Camara student achieved 12% improvement in Computer Studies over an average six month period. When grades improve, retention increases. The longer kids stay in education, the better their life chances are.
What have we missed? What will be the next ten lessons? Let us know below.