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the literacy ledgerReflections, findings, stories and the lowdown

Kilgoris Teachers Dive Into E-readers

May 25, 2011 By

Kenyan teachers learn how to use their e-readers

Motivated teachers. Check. A dedicated community. Check. Committed coaches. Check. Healthy doses of curiosity, willingness, and imagination. Triple check. Add to this about 15 hours of hands-on instruction and a week’s worth of training assessments, and here’s what you get: 14 teachers in the Kenyan countryside amped up about e-readers and the possibility of improving literacy in their schools and villages.

Monday, the Worldreader team gathered in our Barcelona office to hear about Director of Research Zev Lowe’s weeklong teacher training at Kilgoris, our pilot program in Kenya. Zev – along with Sara Rhyne, a teacher from North Carolina who won Worldreader’s video contest, our amazing MBA intern Tina Tam, our Kenyan point person Betty Kihagi, and head teacher Shadrack Lemiso – spent three hours a day for five days showing teachers e-reader ins and outs and how Kindles can be used in the classrooms. The teachers also spent two afternoons teaching students how to use the devices.

As Zev flipped through photos, played videos, and relived the on-the-ground experience, we could already see how the Books For All mission was affecting the rural Trans Mara district.

“The teachers learned how to use the e-readers as fast as we thought they would,” Zev said. “The first day they were shy and were trying to figure how the e-readers worked. But our curriculum included some amount of peer teaching/learning at that point, and they seemed to enjoy it a good bit.”

The group of primary school teachers, who will immediately touch the lives of nearly 130 kids in Kilgoris, are the first teachers in Kenya and East Africa to use Kindles in the classroom.

If that wasn’t uplifting – or nerve-racking – enough to hear from Zev, the teachers got a rousing boost from Sara, who told them they were adopting the technology as fast – or faster than – the teachers she trained back in the United States.

While the training focused on the technological nuts and bolts, the e-readers had another effect. They whetted the teachers’ reading appetites as well. In addition to browsing the thousands of regional and  international titles Worldreader put on their e-readers, teachers began downloading dozens of other free books and chapter samples. This is something we also saw with our iRead teachers in Ghana; once they realized they had access to a world of information, they couldn’t wait to get their hands on even more books, magazines, newspapers, or whatever else caught their interest.

“One teacher downloaded 17 books, and by the end of the week, she had already read four of them,” Zev told us.

In a few weeks, Zev will be back in Kenya to see how the e-readers have been synced up with the school’s curriculum. We’re looking forward to the updates.