When students in 19 schools around Tanzania started school this year with tablets, they embarked on a different approach to working with their teachers. Because tablets enable each student to progress at their own pace and the explore materials they find interesting, students no longer had to copy notes from the blackboard. They also began to work with each other differently, using the newly found time in the classroom to be productive through social interaction and collaboration. These changes are just the beginning of how our students are learning in completely new ways.
In the recent blog post “Striving for the Same Goal: How Quest Forward Learning Aligns with Tanzania’s National Educational Policy,” Wilbert Ijumba outlines the imperative for digital teaching and learning in Tanzania’s education system.
Tanzania recognizes that digital curriculum in secondary schools holds much promise, but is also much more challenging than its proponents like to admit. Simply pointing students at a video or some other website does not lead to meaningful learning outcomes. Any digital curriculum worth considering needs to achieve several objectives: It must be aligned with the national curriculum; it must be accessible and engaging to students; it must be accessible without guaranteed internet access; and it must be useable by teachers.
Digital learning is the use of technology as a tool to facilitate learning. Technology includes access to internet and hardware, such as tablets and computers for the Quest Forward Learning curriculum content and methodology. In digital learning, technology is a tool that delivers content to learners. While people often think of digital learning as just the use of technology in a learning environment, digital learning is meant to enhance learning.
Three years ago, the Opportunity Education Foundation Tanzania launched Quest Forward Learning. As a digital learning platform, Quest Forward Learning offers Tanzanian youth a
high-quality secondary education and the opportunity to gain the mindset, habits, and skills to create value for their families, their villages, and Tanzania. This is achieved by providing students with a skills-focused curriculum and effective skills-forward mentor instruction on tablets through the Quest! app and on computers through Quest! web.
When Tanzanian students learn digitally through Quest Forward Learning, we have seen some of the following results:
- Students have more control over their learning. Unlike historic learning models, Quest Forward students are no longer limited or restricted by time, place, or pace. Each student possessing a tablet can now learn with less hands-on supervision from their mentors.
- Students are inspired, motivated, and overjoyed by their newfound freedom when learning is no longer limited by the walls of a classroom. They have opportunities to learn outside the classroom and from various sources of information found on leading websites, such as videos, blogs, and articles.
- Students enjoy more control over their own learning pathways without being affected by a single teaching style/approach a teacher may use for the entire class.
Every student enrolled in Quest Forward Learning can access the curriculum content available through quests. We describe quests as “personal journeys that emphasize discovery-driven knowledge formation, deep understanding, and skills practice.” Students can complete quests in or out of the classroom, at their own time and pace, individually or in collaboration with peers. They are free to interact with their mentors for feedback, individualized guidance, or assistance. Quests incorporate diverse digital resources like videos and authentic websites to cater to individual learning differences and needs.
Tanzanian students using the Quest Forward Learning platform have gained a deeper understanding of both the curriculum subjects and themselves. Through their development of mindset, habits, and skills, we have seen students achieve greater performances on standardized exams. Additionally, many students are inspired to challenge themselves to grow. The use of quests has ignited students’ ambition to improve their English proficiency as one of the requirements to succeed as a Quest Forward learner. Of the 9 core subjects in the Tanzania Quest Forward curriculum, which is based upon the Tanzanian national curriculum, 8 of the subjects are in English and only one is in Swahili.
Digital learning holds much promise for today’s Tanzanian students, preparing them to be productive members of a society that is increasingly powered by technology. Students must be prepared to continually learn new skills throughout their lives as they embrace an exciting future we cannot predict. To that end, Quest Forward Learning as a digital learning platform promises to have a positive profound impact on how students learn and teachers teach in the upcoming generation.