How PhET Simulations and Offline Technology Training Are Bridging the Digital Divide in Africa

PhET training session with teachers

Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives and is rapidly transforming the way we learn and teach. We have been working with educators, schools, learners, and partners to support the effective use of technology in teaching and learning. We recently conducted an ICT integration training in learning while using PhET simulations for teachers in Birunda and Kiminini Primary Schools in Trans Nzoia County. The training was aimed at introducing them to PhET simulations and other technologies that can be incorporated into their classroom teaching. 

The training content is accessible through our Moodle cloud platform, and it was then downloaded for offline use using the Moodle offline app since teachers and learners can access the content seamlessly without the hassle of internet connectivity, making it a useful tool in rural contexts or areas with limited internet access. 

40 teachers from the two schools who were excited to learn and discover new ways of integrating technology in their classrooms attended the valentine’s edition training, which was held on 14th Feb 2023. 

PhET simulations are a series of interactive, research-based simulations developed by the University of Colorado. These simulations cover topics from physics, math, and chemistry to earth science and biology, providing students with a virtual laboratory experience that can help them understand complex practical scientific concepts. They are a powerful tool for teachers who are keen to supplement their lessons with interactive learning materials and engage students in the learning process.

“These simulations are so helpful, especially now that I will be teaching fractions next week. It will make my work easier!” Alex Anyova

“I am happy I can use the simulations offline, especially in cases of internet instability” Benjamin Otenge

Before this training, the teachers had already made efforts to integrate technology into the classroom by streaming videos from YouTube to demonstrate games. This demonstrates the inspiration of the teachers to already enhance their teaching and learning to use technology. Our training introduced additional tools, such as PhET simulations, and demonstrated different simulations on Earth Science and Math. The teachers accessed these simulations using their mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. The teachers were delighted with the practical demonstrations, especially for the primary level, and many of them expressed their appreciation for the training as they highlighted that these tools will greatly enhance their learners’ experience.

Some of the teachers who attended the training sessions had worries about using government-provided tablets in their classrooms. They were concerned that relying too much on technology could have negative effects on their students’ learning and development. Additionally, they expressed their apprehension about the time it would take to adapt their teaching techniques to effectively use the tablets, considering the significant number of students, which were over 60 students per class they had to teach.

They also had questions, like “how can we customize this PhET to fit our own needs and how easily can the teachers get it as a mobile application?” asked one of the teachers.  This brings out an important component of the role of teachers in the design process of Edtech solutions‌. Teachers are the ones on the front lines of education and understand the needs of their students, and thus they are well-positioned to contextualize tech solutions to fit their specific classroom needs. This also ensures that different technologies are being used effectively and efficiently, which ultimately maximizes their potential impact on student learning. The PhET training was an eye-opener for the teachers, who realized that technology could enhance their teaching and make it more interactive and engaging. It is a fact that technology has already become an essential tool in education, and teachers need to keep up with the changing times to give their students the best possible education.

In conclusion, the PhET training by Edutab Africa was a resounding success, and the feedback from the teachers was overwhelmingly positive. The success of the PhET training using offline Moodle highlights the potential for technology to bridge the digital divide and improve access to quality education for all learners, regardless of their location. We hope that this training will inspire more teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms and equip their students with the skills they need to thrive in the digital age.

Written by Mercy Ouma

Education Programs Officer

Edutab Africa