Avinash Oojorah, head of digital pedagogical innovation at the Centre of open and distance learning of the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), tells us more about the place of new technologies in Mauritian education.
Since 2011, a vision for Mauritius: large-scale digitization
It was in November 2011 that Avinash was sent to France to discover the Sankoré program of the Interministerial Delegation for Digital Education in Africa (DIENA). Behind this project is an ambition: to enable French-speaking African countries to bring digital technology into their classrooms and train their teachers so that they can achieve the Millennium Development Goals defined by the UN.
In Mauritius, a team of 15 people has been set up to devise new teaching strategies that include digital technology. Starting in 2011, Avinash and his team have been using and training teachers to use video projectors in their classrooms. In parallel, they have developed and ensured the distribution of DVDs as educational resources.
The Avinash team, who call themselves the Learning Factory, are mostly former teachers. They are therefore very familiar with the issues of the teachers in the 300 primary and 200 secondary schools in Mauritius that they accompany.
The Learning Factory, from video projector to interactive ebook
The Learning Factory now has 30 people and is working on a prototype digital platform in partnership with Microsoft Research India. This platform aims at sharing educational resources between teachers.
“We first spent a lot of time integrating the use of digital equipment (computers, video projectors, etc.) into teacher training. Today, our challenge is to have them create and share their own digital resources,” Avinash explains.
The team is also working on creating interactive ebook educational programs for elementary school children, planning to introduce these ebooks in pilot classrooms as early as 2018. The activities offered by surebook are multi-sensory with audios, widgets that require touch, videos and texts to read. “Everything is designed in-house, we have also invested in a studio to shoot the videos. It is important that the ebook programmes we offer are adapted to the Mauritian context and not copied and pasted from programmes in other countries,” Avinash explains.
To be at the forefront of innovation, the organization of the first Educathon
In order not to limit itself to ideas developed internally, the MIE, in partnership with the incubator for educational technologies and the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie, organized its first Educathon last September. Over a given period of time, aspiring teachers were invited to reflect in teams on new digital resources and innovative teaching strategies.
As a result, a blog project for sharing between teachers and students, a project of learning through Serious Game, projects of pedagogical resources videos… A whole lot of ideas that confirmed that this Educathon would be the first of a long series!
An exciting and challenging job
“We are pioneers in everything we do here in Mauritius, and the evolution of the world towards more digital forces us to be in constant anticipation. Some of tomorrow’s jobs don’t exist yet, and it’s also our job to prepare teachers and students for this reality,” Avinash explains.
Code, robotics and augmented reality are some of the innovative topics on which the Learning Factory team seeks to advance in partnership with experts such as the Mauritius Research Council.
However, the team knows it must adapt to the challenges on the ground. For example, some Mauritian schools do not yet have access to the Internet, which makes it difficult to carry out certain projects.
The Learning Factory team knows that its challenge is not to be limited by these barriers. The key is to support teachers and professors through training that will allow them to continuously adapt their classrooms to the world of today and tomorrow.