I read about a project from the WorldReader e-Reader Pilot in Ghana. As part of the Millennium Development Goals to achieve universal education, the project distributed e-reader technology to Ghanaian primary, junior and senior school students. After extensive evaluation of the iREAD (Impact on Reading of E-readers and Digital content) Ghana Pilot Study showed much of the projects initial success as well as challenges to address in the future. The e-reader allowed students to gain immediate access to academic and personal reading material including books, textbooks, magazines and various articles. Access to these materials allowed students to a have greater number of texts, which were previously limited to the resources available in their local library. On average, students had 107 books on their e-reader over the course of the project. The initiative also put a large emphasis on Ghanaian books, allowing students to gain access to culturally relevant information as well as outside resources. In addition to the immediate impact on students, teachers also reaped benefits by accessing current textbooks and carry out research to prepare lessons rather than relying on outdated and limited textbooks.
The outcome of the pilot study revealed the project increased student’s enthusiasm about reading and simultaneously allowed students to develop useful ICT skills. Students in primary school exhibited improved standardized tests scores, while older students did not display significant gains as a result of the technology. Unexpected challenges in the project included technical problems with the e-reader (about 40% of the e-readers broke), which hindered the long-term success of the project. In addition, the article also suggests that a lack of ICT knowledge and low literacy rates led to the accidental deletion of material and an increased distraction from its entertainment functions.
While the project has initially revealed some promising results, several common challenges (breakages, literacy, electricity, Internet) stand in the way of the e-readers practicality and sustainability to increase literacy rates and improve educational opportunities in the developing world.
For a more thorough analysis of the iREAD project in Ghana, please check out this link.