Using technology in remote and low resource education environments. A field guide.


I’ve written previously about using technology to enable education in remote environments where access to technology is limited.

Field testing those processes is a lot of fun and is helpful in terms of figuring out things that work best in the field in practice and things that don’t.

It’s not just about the technology but about what also about what you are teaching, where and why.

Before loading something on a tablet, here is short field guide of things to consider for remote, low and limited resource environments from a technology and education perspective. 

Education – things to consider 

  • What are you teaching, who is your audience? (Vocational education and training, primary school, high school, university?)
  • What are the objective learning outcomes, and how will you measure those?
  • Have you got structured lesson/lecture/training plans? Are these developed according to external standards, e.g. the Australian Quality Training Framework or a core syllabus?
  • Are your teachers/trainers/lecturers trained and certified with experience in a variety of settings? Are you using local teachers/trainers/lecturers? This is important to build and retain core skills within communities.
  • If new graduates, do you have the support to supervise, mentor and encourage them in delivery of teaching/training/lecturing in limited resource settings?
  • What techniques are you using to teach to ensure uptake? What activities? (audio, visual, written, reading)
  • Do those techniques fit within teaching techniques used in context? If not, how do you achieve stakeholder buy in for different teaching methods?
  • What about literacy and numeracy levels? Do you know literacy levels in multiple languages in the area in which you are working?
  • What primary language are you teaching in? Do you have at least basic functionality in the local language?
  • If English is a second language, in your context, do you have translated material available and have you worked with local counterparts to ensure the material is suited for the purpose and culturally appropriate?
  • Have you been invited into communities, schools, companies, government or training centres?
  • Are you working with skilled field partners in each context? (i.e. existing schools, development agencies, businesses, etc.)

Technology – things to consider 

  • How can technology you want to use help the learning process, learner engagement and learning outcomes?
  • Have you tested the different types of technology you will be using? For example, is a tablet for kids tablet better than a Samsung or Lenovo for a hot, humid, dusty environment? (Kids tablets are built to withstand more hardy use)
  • Do you have technical backup? Always allow for devices than you think you need due to the environmental requirements.
  • Devices break and need replacing more frequently than other settings.
  • If using solar, does the solar kit actually absorb enough charge to charge tablets and phones continually?
  • Can you purchase solar panels in country or in locally in remote areas for charging purposes  rather than the more expensive imported power packs?
  • In a remote setting, there is generally no Apple Bar. Just so you know.
  • Apple and android are different operating systems. Find out and map the use of operating systems in that community before purchasing anything to avoid unnecessary expense.
  • You are likely to have more uptake if it’s an operating system the community is used to working in.
  • The biggest brand name as it may not work in context, especially if there are no replacement parts in country or replacement parts are not easily accessible.
  • If you have access to electricity to charge devices, use a surge protector.
  • Provide surge protectors in every tech kit and education around why these are as important as the device itself.
  • Power surges are daily occurrences, as are power outages if there is power at all.
  • Allow time if using newer devices in communities with lower tech uptake to demonstrate and teach about the technology itself. This includes What it is, how it helps, how to maintain it, how to charge it, why it works.
  • What’s the cost of data, and phone calls?
  • Are you delivering online services (good luck in areas with no, slow or limited and expensive internet access!)
  • Tiny, biting tropical ants love crawling into warm computers. I once watched in amusement, as hundreds of ants swarming out of my colleagues laptop onto the office desk.

These are some of the considerations. Technology isn’t a magic answer to development, but can definitely build on good practice to enable program scale and reach.

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