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Technology Enhanced Learning For All

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A transmedia narrative of the Technology Enhanced Learning for All (TELA) project. 

Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob
Kenechukwu Nwagbo








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In war-torn societies, where schools have been shut down, radio can be deployed as part of an international or domestic humanitarian response plan to provide education for displaced children. This was the objective of the  USAID-funded Technology Enhanced Learning for All (TELA) project in northeast Nigeria.   At the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, the project provided basic numeracy and literacy education to thousands of displaced children and challenged widespread apathy towards Western education.  

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Schools are one of the first institutional casualties of violent conflicts. This has been the sad case with the Boko Haram insurgency in Northeast Nigeria. The violence has led to the destruction and suspension of hundreds of schools in Northeast Nigeria, further disrupting the already precarious educational foundations of the region. According to Human Rights Watch, by early 2016, an estimated 952,029 school-age children had fled the violence.

We developed an alternative model of radio instruction for use in non-formal learning spaces in societies where schools have been shut down due to conflicts.







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Our TRI model is anchored principally on constructivist approaches to learning. TRI takes learning as a social process and thus seeks to forge a more sophisticated interaction between instruction and the lived experiences of learners. Synchronized workbook activities help to get children engaged in learning while the radio stories and songs arouse their imagination and engagement.

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One of the main setbacks of Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) is the difficulty of getting pupils to engage and imagine when there is no teacher.  IRI is made to support teachers within a classroom context. TRI on the other hand is developed specifically for situations where there are no teachers or schools.  




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Learning takes place in a social context. Radio - the medium of instruction, must necessarily be exponentiated into a symbolic social environment for spontaneous learning to take place through it. In TRI, the storylines, characters, songs, ambient sounds, and language create a pseudo-social environment that mirrors the children’s lived experience.  Every episode seeks to unravel and creatively confront the social, religious and cultural obstacles that interfere with learning.  

Essentially, the TRI model does more than teach, call and recite as is often the case with IRI.   The model transacts with the lived experience of learners by embodying stories and normative appeals that help learners overcome cultural, religious and psycho-dynamic interferences to their learning.



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The Numeracy program,  Mallam Nuhu Ya Je Makaranta (Mr. Nuhu Goes to School), is a radio drama series.  Kaka, an intrepid grandma, tells her grandchildren the story of a rather awkward uncle, Mallam Nuhu, who goes back to school at 60. At school, Mallam Nuhu is confronted with different problems - ranging from missing his many kola nuts to mixing up house numbers. He brings his many problems to the classroom where Mallama, the ever-patient class teacher works with the children on radio to resolve them while children at home follow the story and lessons in synched workbooks. The numeracy lessons are located within the gaps in Mallam Nuhu’s understanding of basic numeracy.

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The Literacy program, Mallama Rasheeda da Abokai (Ms Rasheeda and her Friends) is also a radio drama series. It is an exciting story of a group of care-free children as they have fun while learning letter sounds and words in the outdoors. Lessons emerge from the sights and sounds in their environment as they go to various places where they learn to blend sounds to form decodable words.

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To bring the radio characters to life, we created and deployed dolls for each main character.  This helped to create strong bonds between the children and the characters in the stories.





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The girls particularly loved the dolls, they named them after their favourite radio characters.

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The dolls were made by women from the local Yola community. 
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In addition to becoming a symbol for the program the dolls quickly became part of community stories and anecdotes. This in many ways helped to extend the program beyond the listening centers - into the communities and various social settings. This was important in facilitating the continuous support and engagement of parents and guardians.  

We learned important lessons from conversations with religious leaders who felt that the dolls were un-Islamic. They were also willing to listen to us.
  






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A vast majority of the 750 TELA listening centers were located in very remote areas, thus making it difficult for our Monitoring team to visit and collect daily attendance data. To make up for this, we designed an SMS-based reporting system where center facilitators could send attendance data and feedback via SMS at the end of each session.  A random sample of texted attendance data were tracked and checked through visits by our M&E team and also tracked by staff to ensure validity.
By tracking attendance data almost real time, we were able to not only monitor attendance and obtain feedback, but also assess the popularity of the programs in hard-to-reach areas almost real time.


  



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TELA Beneficiaries

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Some 22,000 children gathered twice a week across 750 listening centers to listen to the programs on the local Gotel Radio FM.  This is their story.

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Evaluation

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Conclusion

We found that TRI was particularly beneficial to girls who are most often deprived the opportunity of going to school.

During post-project dissemination activities, we shared the TRI approach and findings with Nigerian government officials, journalists and humanitarian/aid agencies.  We also made important recommendations on how to build a mass education intervention into the heart of the national humanitarian response plan. 

The project was nominated by Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Education in 2017 for the UNESCO/King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the Use of ICTs in Education.




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The radio programs, as well as the videos and songs in this narrative were produced by a team of students and staff in a Community Development course - Literacy Using Radio (CDV 101) at the American University of Nigeria.

The course was taught over three semesters by Professor Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob who led the Radio component of the TELA project.  

The Principal Investigator for the TELA project was Dr. Margee Ensign. Dr. Ensign is now President of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA.  

Kenechukwu Nwagbo who worked with Dr. Jacob as a graduate Intern on the project has recently completed an MPhil in Education, Globalisation and International Development at Cambridge University, UK.

To find out more about Professor Jacob's work visit: www.jacobudoudojacob.com 

To find out more about the American University of Nigeria visit: www.aun.edu.ng

All TELA songs can be used with permission. 





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Students that took the CDV 101 class and participated in creating the programs had no previous experience of radio production. They all took the course as part of their required community development course.

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© 2017 by Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob, American University of Nigeria




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