At Avallain Foundation, we want to unlock human potential and we believe we can do this through providing comprehensive education that equips students with key 21st century competencies, like Digital Literacy. But, are our best intentions actually doing the job?
To find out, we decided to conduct a Digital Literacy Study to understand if students can acquire these skills at the same time as pursuing learning goals delivered through digital channels, such as a-ACADEMY.
a-ACADEMY is a digital learning tool that we created with primary school students in mind to support both teachers and students. Besides being aligned with the Kenyan primary school curriculum, its content includes a digital lesson plan and fun learning activities offering learners interactive lessons within a classroom setting or to work independently.
Having installed a-ACADEMY in over 180 schools we came across a number of schools with no prior or little interaction with computer devices. This inspired us to study the extent to which a-ACADEMY could provide primary school students with digital literacy skills while taking them through their standard curriculum.
Where did we get started with the study?
In May 2016 we decided to carry out a Digital Literacy Study that will run until April 2017. In order to do so we have enrolled 7 schools and a total of 465 children to participate. The study involves Standard 6 students which means that they are generally above 11 years old.
Most of these schools hail from some of the most dire informal settlements in Nairobi such as the Mathare, Kariobangi and Kibera slums. Typically, the residents of these areas live below a dollar per day and as such, acquiring computer devices is not a priority for them or their schools.
Most students from the 7 schools we selected have had no interaction with computer devices at school. To enable them to access a-ACADEMY, Avallain Foundation has donated devices such as desktops, laptops, screens, keyboards and mouses. Having provided them with a-ACADEMY and the means to access it, we rolled up our sleeves and were eager to see just how this new experience would affect their digital literacy skills.
What exactly is Digital Literacy in the 21st Century?
In order to define the scope of the study, we then needed to understand just what Digital Literacy is. Our challenge was not going to be finding a definition as there are many definitions available. The challenge was finding a comprehensive definition to suit embedded digital literacy within a particular context. We also needed a definition that specified competencies which are not abstracted but achieved while pursuing specific learning or life goals.
Our definition of Digital Literacy covers students abilities to use digital tools to communicate, access, manage, integrate, synthesize and use information in order to achieve learning and other life goals within their unique context.
With that settled, we were on to the next step. Just how were we going to measure digital literacy?
How to measure Digital Literacy?
Measuring Digital Literacy was not going to be easy either. We knew we needed a digital literacy test with clear, verifiable indicators. We also needed a test that could be feasible within our context of limited connectivity and where the students interact with computers only at school to access digital learning content.
A detailed search did not reveal any viable test that we could use to evaluate Digital Literacy in this unique context. In addition, most tests available involve teacher-centered instruction where Digital Literacy, as a component of ICT, is taught as a subject, so we decided to develop a Digital Literacy Test. The test we have developed is tailored for the children we work with and their context since they represent our main target, those left behind.
As part of our test, students are observed as they interact with digital content. Their ability to use simple functions such as searching, creating and storing content, among other skills, is analysed. Additionally, the test evaluates the student’s ability to apply the digital skills and information to solve problems in their everyday lives.
So, are we on the right track to bring Digital Literacy to those left behind?
After completing the baseline study, the students are interacting with a-ACADEMY as they go on with their regular studies. The journey has thus far been full of memorable moments, to say the least. We set off with students eager and excited to begin their journey into the world of technology but who struggled handling the new tools. Now, the struggles have already faded and the students approach digital learning with more confidence and determination, as a-ACADEMY’s digital lessons are becoming an indispensable support to their daily learning journey.
This shows that a-ACADEMY is the right tool to provide Digital Literacy training with its user-friendly interface and locally-relevant content that is aligned with the local curriculum. Seeing the rapid improvement and confidence gained by students that have very reduced exposure to digital devices we can say that we are definitely on the right track.
In 2017, January through to February, we will be conducting the final tests and we will find out just how much a-ACADEMY helps improve students’ digital skills while achieving learning objectives.
If you would like to know how you can help to give more children in need access to digital education and equip them for the 21st century, please contact us.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & SECRETARY OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS