The EdTech Lab is a concept conceived as part of ICT4EEDU, the Finnish-Eritrean Cooperation Project. This project is designed and managed by ICT & Tele-Education Center of Eritrea Institute of Technology (EIT) in partnership with University of Eastern Finland (UEF). In addition to establishing this lab, this project aims to revamp the ICT infrastructure at EIT, and to set capacity to develop learning content for the Eritrean Education Institutions. The EdTech Lab is positioned to accommodate this by creating a suitable environment for technical and education professionals.
The launching of the lab took place in March 2017, which coincided with the visit of the UEF partners and with the delivery of the project equipment from Finland. An outreach program was conducted then with students from a nearby high-school. Students took part in hands-on sessions on robotics. The students assembled, disassembled, and programmed Lego Robot kits. This kind of outreach activities will be an ongoing endeavor at the lab in an effort to inspire younger students in technical subjects.
The main purpose of the EdTech Lab is to provide a platform where the teaching-learning community, at EIT and beyond, can incubate creative initiatives related to educational technologies to support their activities. The lab is also open to senior students who want to do their final year projects with focus in the use of technology in education, mainly from computer science and computer engineering fields. They can use the tools and space in the lab to come up with a more creative and innovative IT solution in education, with the assistance from the EdTech Lab coordinators. At the lab, the students have access to digital tools, such as laptops, smartphones, audio-visual equipment, a 3D printer, Raspberry Pi, and robotic kits, which can motivate innovative solutions to local educational challenges. The lab also has a flexible seating arrangement that is intended to create a conducive atmosphere for creativity and innovation.
Since March, many students have taken part in this lab working on their senior-year and other mini projects for their college courses. In their projects they have developed systems and mobile applications that could be useful tools in the context of the Eritrean digital realities. Among the projects are the “Low Power Low Cost Computer Lab”, which packages a scalable and easily implementable lab for Eritrea or any other developing nation; “Eri-Markato”, an online based shopping system mobile application; and an “Offline Navigation Mobile Application Tool” which is useful for tourists visiting Eritrea. A group of students are working during the summer break to further with their EdTech Lab projects and also to help the ICT & Tele-Education center. Their projects would support the accessibility and reliability of the ICT services for the EIT community, and develop learning and dissemination material for students and visitors.
The direct link and assistance of the Finnish university, in terms of technical and material support, is paramount in the successful establishment and initial stage operation of this lab. The lab has been inspired by the EdTech lab at UEF, which was visited by EIT staff at several stages of the project. The support from the College of Engineering, especially the department of Computer Engineering at EIT to this lab at the initial stage was also instrumental.
Eventually, this lab would be an influential part of EIT, and its impact would reach a larger part of our society. It would entice students to solve real problems that need ICT solution, mainly in the education field. It would be a space where other educational institutions around the country benefit in acquiring, developing, and adapting tools to improve the quality of education and in getting their faculties trained. The enhancement of the quality of education, in addition to its increasing provision of services and access to, is surely important in the overall national development of the country.
By: Samuel T, Rediet K. & Andres M.
ICT4EEDU Project, Eritrea Institute of Technology