The covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we do many things today. Many sectors of the economy have been forced to adopt new norms of doing business and this includes learning too.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was panic as to how children were going back to school quickly upon the announcement that the virus was now with us. It became a reality that we had to adhere to the restrictions that were imposed by WHO and Governments across the world to prevent deaths and infections, and this included the prolonged closure of schools.
At this point, many solutions that had been developed and had not been used en masse especially in e-learning were introduced to salvage the dire situation. E-learning became a reality through video-conferencing systems. For a long time, video conferencing systems were only meant for businesses rather than learning.
The education sector had to adapt to the reforms it had been looking at as future plans. The future had come quickly and learning was to continue. Tech Giants had to rake into the crisis and mint the opportunity that was now a reality through e-learning.
Kenya was already ready with its broadband infrastructure to adopt el-earning. Kenya enjoys the power of four international broadband submarine cables including SEACOM, TEAMS, LION2, and EASSY. At the same time, the government had already laid its National Optic-Fibre Backbone (NOFBI) across the country to support the new ways of learning.
This infrastructure is today complemented by the private sector’s broadband infrastructure that emanates from companies such as Safaricom and Liquid Telecom.
As a result, the internet penetration in Kenya continues to grow significantly because of robust broadband infrastructure. According to the recent Communication Authority report, in the first quarter of the 2020/21 Financial Year, the total data/Internet subscriptions rose by 4.8 percent to 43.5 million, from 41.5 million subscriptions reported last quarter with mobile data subscriptions accounting for 98.5 percent of the total subscriptions.
Meanwhile, the Mobile broadband total subscriptions increased by 8.5 percent to record 24.6 million, from 22.7 million subscriptions posted during the preceding quarter. Mobile broadband subscriptions accounted for 97.4 percent of the total broadband subscriptions.
Kenya is also enjoying the fastest internets in the continent and as a result, many innovations are now taking center stage during this Covid-19 Pandemic. Apart from e-learning, gaming for learning is now with us.
Companies such as Usiku Games are now creating mobile edutainment games to complement the digital learning tools through gamification elements. The games are meant to improve children’s skills in memory, concentration, and the development of knowledge.
They have been created, designed, and produced through edutainment content that helps today’s children to learn in ways that are fun and resonate with them.
The games are adapted to be handled easily and specifically designed as an educational tool for the interface of preschoolers and up.
Once signed up, each week the children are presented with a collection of fun games, that have been specifically designed for each grade level.
These games have been designed to reflect on Kenya’s CBC Curriculum. The Basic Education Curriculum Framework 2017 points out Critical thinking and problem-solving are useful for learners of all ages and in all the subjects and disciplines offered in the basic education curriculum. For example, in the sciences learners need to think critically about observations and patterns to develop ideas on how to solve problems. Of which gaming embedded edutainment helps in attaining that over time.
The games also help with sensory integration which is critical in the implementation of the CBC curriculum which puts a strong emphasis on the importance of science, technology, and innovation.
UNESCO indicates that the use of games for teaching mathematics, sciences, and the humanities is becoming part of the educational landscape. In parallel, there has been a surge in game development for teaching social and emotional learning skills.
Further, games are being used in assessments and evaluations of student learning. UNESCO MGIEP, through its Games for a Learning project, seeks to embed social and emotional learning skills in learners (13+) through digital games in formal and informal education systems, to achieve the UN SDG 4.7.
On the other hand, the UN Sustainable Development Goals have positioned education (SDG 4) at the heart of the post-2015 global development agenda. Games for Learning propose highly attractive and immersive solutions. Encouraged by numerous studies and research supporting the pedagogical benefits of play, educators are now using digital games to teach mathematics, science, humanities, and social-emotional skills.
Moreover, parents are now struggling with what kind of entertainment to give their children especially when safe content is becoming a challenge with the democratization of the internet. Even with the advent of on-demand content online, not all of that content is safe to expose your children to.
Most children have suffered emotional abuse especially from content that warp thoughts and damage their self-esteem. That also applies to games that are about fighting, bikinis, and guns.
To protect them from such, expose them to good edutainment games such as Tizi Games that have been designed by Usiku Games.
US-based Susan Rivers, Social psychologist, and expert in emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning champions the use of games within traditional academic settings for social and emotional learning.
In her paper, using games for transformation and social and emotional learning that was published by UNESCO, the power of combining games and social and emotional learning can be an impactful catalyst for transformation in the classroom, especially in this time of unprecedented distance learning due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than shifting the traditional classroom context onto video conference software, we can take this moment to reimagine opportunities for engagement and meaningful connection through online means:
“We have found that learning that involves meaningful play authentically invites teens to develop their social and emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making…” She acknowledges.
Rivers points out that students who have experienced their game-based learning units in their humanities classes have said that the types of discussions they’ve had in class are like no other in terms of making them think about identity, relationships, and communication. The meaningful conversations in class have stood out for them as highlights of their classroom experience.
It is time for Kenya to embrace gaming for learning as we make good use of our internet and smartphones for homeschooling.
Alex Owiti, Communication consultant.