Technology is increasingly providing instruction and support to teachers in the world’s poorest places. A quick global scan reveals an increasing variety of technology options to help teachers acquire basic skills, learn new instructional methods, deliver content and curriculum, provide “just-in-time” and “just enough” instruction, and share models of best practice.
One example is interactive radio instruction (IRI), an approach that uses one-way radio to reach two audiences (students and in-class teachers). The radio “teacher” orally delivers content and directs the in-class teacher to apply a variety of instructional approaches within his/her classroom.
Radio is still the most commonly owned technology in the world. In Africa, home to the world’s poorest teachers, radio ownership rates in some countries (e.g. Rwanda) exceeds 90 % (Winthrop & Smith, 2012). This degree of familiarity has three immediate advantages for teacher professional development:
- Teachers need little training compared to other technologies, to use a radio
- Radio’s reach means that it can deliver instruction to teachers in rural areas as well as urban areas, thereby narrowing the very common global urban-rural teacher divide when it comes to professional development. Its broadcast nature means that IRI can provide instruction to un- and under-qualified teachers, the bulk of whom (in Sub-Saharan Africa at least) reside in rural locations
Radio’s reach, and relative ease of use have helped to make IRI effective modes of educational content and instructional delivery for teachers in the world’s most fragile and impoverished environments.