A recent three-day workshop, organised by the Goethe Institute and mJangale, a Senegalese after-school programme, aimed to improve students’ literacy, numeracy, and foreign language skills.
Christelle Scharff, co-founder of mJangale and professor of computer science at Pace University in New York, teaches participants to use MIT App Inventor – a drag-and-drop tool which allows users create a basic phone app.
“The goal is to introduce young people to computing, as well as to make them more knowledgeable about the environment,” Scharff explained.
“So it’s applying computing to something. We didn’t want kids to just develop an app, but also to gain knowledge in another area.”
In small groups, the students developed apps focusing on environmental issues, in the format of their choice which could be a game, quiz or a platform to look up potentially unfamiliar terms, such as “endangered species”.
The Android apps will be made available on Google Play, where they can be downloaded for free.
According to Thierry Zomahoun, chairperson of the Next Einstein Forum, the African continent has been slow to adopt digital technologies in education. Therefore, more advanced equipment in schools – from computers to scientific laboratories – will broaden students’ horizon and better prepare them for the job market.
To buttress the point, a recent report by Senegal’s Telecoms Regulation Authority also shows that the country’s mobile phone penetration rate reached 113.7% in the first quarter of 2016.
Building environmental apps enables students learn about technology and the environment easily and use the knowledge to improve the environment.