In Practice

The VSO Schools App in Rwanda

In Rwanda, VSO is testing approaches to blended CPD for Early Childhood Education teachers to improve the use of play-based approaches to ECE. The approach combines digital content provided via the VSO Schools App with Communities of Practice and support from school-based mentors. 

Tablets were purchased to test the approach. In the long term, a web-based version will be available building on the commitment of the Government of Rwanda to supply one laptop per teacher. However, laptops would reduce the opportunities for ‘redefining’ the approach and providing learners with opportunities to experience a ‘unique, novel, constructive learning experience’ for example by easily capturing and sharing photos/videos of learning. 

The VSO Schools App provides digital interactive content for asynchronous self-study on learning through play for ECE teachers. The App allows for the use of text (with audio), photos and videos, quizzes, games and interactive tools such as image pairing and drag and drop exercises. After uploading content, learners can progress through the modules offline. An internet connection is required to upload data on progress to be tracked, and to use the chat function. Content for the App in Rwanda is structured in 13 modules. Also, teachers can upload and share materials and examples which creates opportunities for teacher portfolios.

VSO considered the local context and structural limitations when designing the approach to testing the App in the Rwandan context. The SAMR model was used to assess the added value of the App. It shows the approach represents an ‘augmentation’, as it replaces in-person approaches with an alternative way of learning. It also represents a ‘modification’, as learning outcomes can be improved through interactive and engaging learning experiences. There is also potential for the approach to ‘redefine’ approaches to CPD because of the function in the App for learners to engage in chat rooms and share examples directly through the App or use other Apps installed on the tablet to create a virtual CoP. 

The approach requires strong data management to track learners’ progress through the modules and knowledge acquisition (through pre and post module surveys). The App has an in-built data management function that allows for different levels of (secure) access. Progress tracing can be done in ‘real-time’ although this requires the devices to be frequently connected to the internet. Where connectivity is a challenge, VSO volunteers visit schools to ‘tether’ their tablet to the teachers’ tablet to upload data. 

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