By Hannah Brenton and Mona Ewees

Skills for an unknown future

As educators, we often talk about ‘education for the 21st century’ or ‘skills for the future’, but which future are we preparing our students for, and what expectations have we placed on this future?

The ‘future’ is a time period, unbound by social or economic constructs. We constantly set future expectations for our students which we develop them towards. There is, however, a danger in creating expectations in which a child’s socio-economic background is allowed to pervade their future, an issue never more pressing than in education programmes for children in disadvantaged contexts.

At the Breteau Foundation we aim to prepare children for a future which is bright. We believe in the importance of developing children to have ‘21st century’ skills that match up to the current rates of innovation and technology, despite the limited access to technology in their current communities. This is why the Breteau Foundation are piloting the use of ‘Kano’ tablets in South Africa to develop a range of skills and provide children access to innovative technologies. Partnering with Kano to pilot an after school programme allows us to deliver a current, innovative tech-based intervention for children to engage in and develop.

Education Technology For All

The Breteau Foundation’s belief that innovative technologies should be accessible to all is a constant thread throughout our work. Working with innovative tech startups like Kano supports us in getting cutting edge tech to children in our programmes. The Kano project goes further than the provision of access to innovative cutting edge tech at Heathfield Primary School. The project acts as a sustainability development within our South Africa Programme which currently services the Foundation stage and is implemented up to Grade 3. Evaluating our programme we realised that after Grade 3 technology was once again dropping away from the curriculum. We wanted to create a programme in which children could reach the next step with their tech skills, building in a sustainable legacy. Implementing the Kano after school club at Grade 4 level creates this platform for children to further explore tech.

What is Kano?

Kano is described by its creators as ‘an innovative accessible ‘build your own computer’’. Children receive a set of parts and an image-only instruction manual, which guides them through building the computer page-by-page. Once built and plugged in, the fun then really begins as children have access to the software that will develop them as coders and programmers, playing games that develop these all-important skills for their future. The beauty of Kano is that the software programming element has any number of development opportunities to support children, and encourages self-led independent learning.

Why Kano? The Expected Impact

 

Kano develops skills

Of course the most fundamental skills development expected through our Kano project are the advanced tech skills of coding and programming but Kano is more than just the latest way to get kids into coding. The skillset developed includes further developments of maths and science skills as well as softer skills such as problem solving, self-confidence and determination.

Maths and Science
A key benefit of the Breteau Foundation’s Digital Education Programme is the ability to take globally transcendent technology and content, and implement it with relevance to local curricula and needs. Aside from advanced tech skills, the Kano project aims to improve academic progress in mathematics performance, having been designed as a maths intervention to measure progress against the South African maths curriculum.
Anecdotal evidence from our time in the classroom tells us that in our schools maths and science academic progress is below curriculum expectations. The SACMEQ research (shown below), developed in 2007, demonstrates the challenges in the maths curriculum, and demonstrates the stark disparity in achievement between the poorest and richest students.

(SACMEQ, Maths, 2007, Taken from WIDE website)

Working with the team at Kano, Mona Ewees (our BF Country Manager) is developing the programme to increase students’ maths scores and measure its impact through a comprehensive testing plan. We hope to very soon share the benefits expected from children using Kano, and its impact on the subject area of maths.

‘Soft’ skills
Finally, BF expects to see development in children’s softer skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and confidence. The programme aims to develop children into confident, independent learners with the ability to take on new challenges and develop a skillset that can support them throughout their education and beyond.

Kano supports social challenges

Transcends language barriers

Although technology and maths is often seen to transcend international language barriers, language can be a barrier to accessing tech particularly in technology. As the ‘Rainbow Nation’ South Africa epitomises this language challenge, having 11 official languages. However, the selection of English as the national education language places strains on children and needing support to learn in a language that is second, if not third to their mother tongue. Compounding this issue, is the transition to solely English language instruction at Grade 4 – from a curriculum in which children may have been taught in their home language in the Foundation Phase (up to Grade 3) – hence the Kano pilots focus on Grade 4. The beauty of Kano is that its simplicity and accessibility supports children to engage with the tech regardless of the language barriers posed.

Kano as an Equaliser

In unequal societies technology can be a great inequaliser. Equalising access to the most innovative technologies regardless of race or socio-economic background is central to the Breteau Foundation’s ethos. Kano allows the Breteau Foundation to provide access to high quality resources for children in our project-schools. We hope that this will engage and motivate children, allowing them to aspire towards a propserous future in which their is no limit to what they may achieve.

 

Impact of the Pilot

We are currently in the pilot and testing phase of our Kano project in South Africa and will be looking to publish our impact findings in due course.

If you would like more information on our Kano pilot please get in touch at info@breteaufoundation.org

 

You can read more about Kano by visiting their website at https://kano.me/