The Drive to Keep the Education Industry Ahead of the Technology Curve
Rachael Afolabi knows that one person, or one company, cannot change the world. But she is working hard to change it for people starting with Osogbo, Nigeria, and Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.
With a passion for technology teaching and learning, Rachael’s focus is on creating access for those who have little or no options to modern technologies, educating individuals and organizations how to integrate technology into new and existing curricula on an interdisciplinary level.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I have been an entrepreneur since my teenage years. I made and sold handmade festive cards for friends and family members. I had my son in my third year of college and I wanted to create an opportunity for myself where I could earn an income independently. I specialised in textiles design in my Industrial Design program in university. During that time, I attempted to sell my designs to a textiles manufacturing firm in Nigeria. Unfortunately, I was super naïve and inexperienced, so I got paid a few thousand Naira and was sent my way with no royalties negotiated!
That was a hard lesson, but it also began my journey to learn as much as I could about business. I briefly owned and ran an art gallery in Brooklyn, New York from 2010-2012, representing artists around the world. I learned a lot but did not make huge financial profits! It did afford me the opportunity to expand my global network. I closed the business when it became too time-consuming and financially impractical. I focused on developing my technology skills to pivot my art business and advancing my career in instructional design.
What does your business do?
Paradigm Global Education works with clients in the U.S.A., Europe and Africa, developing digital learning content, implementing learning management systems, and developing curriculum and learning pathways.
New opportunities have emerged in the need for content development and integration of new technologies into existing curriculum and training needs for teachers at every level, from primary to secondary school education (K-12) to corporate education.
I started this as an independent consultant and started to expand as the need in education continues to grow globally. Industry leaders need to continue the upskilling of their employees to keep up with the technologies that have emerged and will keep emerging and improving learning processes, creating smart cities, and creating job opportunities for economic development.
My digital transformation and education agency started in 2016 with expertise in education technology development, delivery, and creating access to learning. We help to identify gaps and develop learning plans for colleges, universities, and corporations. We are in the business of strategy and sustainable implementation.
Starting this year, 2019, our partnerships have expanded in the U.K. and Africa, creating innovation centres with a focus on integrating emerging technologies into learning in different disciplines, and educating on the essential skills and leadership development needed in the continuous development and implementation of these technologies.
What problems do you hope to solve?
We hope to develop educators at all levels to continue to learn new technologies to enhance education, and to contribute in providing access to learning these new technologies in communities that do not have existing or limited access.
What is the best thing about your job?
The creativity and diversity of people and technologies we get to work with is exciting, and also discovering new places where we can provide access and opportunities in technology.
And the most challenging?
One of the most challenging parts of my work is still the recognition of women in technology, especially women of colour. It is still tough to walk into a room and be accepted despite working in this field with successful outcomes for thirteen years! There is progress, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. It doesn’t stop me though, if anything, it provides the encouragement and gusto needed to continue.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business so far?
The most satisfying thing in business for me is when a client is satisfied. That is satisfying. But I do have to say that we just opened our first education innovation coworking centre in Osogbo – Atunse (meaning Renaissance in Yoruba language) Innovation Coworking Space. Hardly the place you would expect an innovation centre but that’s exactly what we’re about. Creating access to places that would not otherwise be considered in this technology boom that is occurring globally. Starting September 2019, we will be providing opportunities to individuals in that locality creating access to technology education and training thereby playing our part in not leaving Nigeria and Africa behind in global technology advancements. Having already secured early partners from the United States, and the U.K., we are stoked that this will be a success and our contribution to the renaissance of Nigeria, and Africa. We are also working with a non-profit organization in Pittsburgh, PA. U.S.A. launching a digital skills program training youth and connecting them with businesses with technology needs in a local area.
I am also very proud of our work in launching our platform on Africa Interactive, an interactive platform that tells the story of Africa from the perspective of Africans utilizing immersive and interactive learning approaches. This is a brand-new education platform we launched recently in the Netherlands and we hope to grow extensively in the next few months.
About Rachael Afolabi
Rachael Afolabi was born in Indiana, U.S.A. and grew up in Zaria, a historical city in Northern Nigeria. Her career started off at a small graphic design firm in Lagos, Nigeria, where she worked as a graphic designer. She later moved to the U.S. where she has worked for higher education institutions and international Fortune 50 companies in the U.S.A. as an instructional designer and technology and workforce development specialist. She is currently a researcher in Europe working in immersive education technologies and an adjunct professor, teaching courses in web design and development, and instructional design. She has an 18-year old son and has been married to her husband for three years.