Kenyan School Pilots Mobile Technology in the Classroom

NtugiGroup 91The newly developed Power of M-Learning Project aims to improve academic performance in Kenyan primary schools by using 3G enabled tablets to deliver the newly digitized Kenyan curriculum. The project is currently being piloted by 250 students and 35 teachers in Nairobi’s Embakasi Garrison Primary School.

The pilot program was developed collaboratively to address the specific challenges facing Kenyan schools. Students and teachers are using solar powered tablets, making the program sustainable for many schools with limited or no access to electricity. 3G wireless technology provides access to the eLimu platform, which was developed by two Kenyan women to specifically support youth in Kenya. The eLimu application contains content from all 6 Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) subject areas and uses games, songs, 3D animations, and quizzes to encourage student engagement.

The Power of M-Learning Project aims to address the challenge of teacher shortages in the area, where the teacher to student ratio has grown to 1:56. The tablets will make learning more personalized and will allow for more individual feedback for students.

Limited access to resources has traditionally made learning difficult in Kenya.  Typically, three pupils share a Kiswahili, English, and Mathematics textbook. The project aims to create a sustainable solution by using digital resources.  Attendance has also traditionally been a problem. In many districts, 4 out of 10 students miss school daily. The new  digital platform for learning is designed to increase student engagement and improve attendance rates.

The project was developed in partnership with Bboxx Kenya, eLimu, iHub Research, Safaricom, and Motorolla in collaboration with the Kenya Ministry of Education. It is expected to be replicated in other public schools to complement the controversial laptop program being instituted by the government.

Nivi Mukherjee, co-founder of eLimu, explained the rationale behind their approach. “When you’re showing children examples that they can’t easily relate to, part of their brain is distracted. So when we’re talking about fractions, we don’t use a pizza as an example, we use a chapatti. We also follow the national curriculum, so this content is specifically geared towards Kenyan youth.”

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Thailand Plans To Spend $110 Million On Tablet Computers For its Students

Tablet use 1 In a “One Tablet Per Child” scheme, Thailand plans to spend US $110 million in order to distribute 1.2 million tablet computers to students around the country. The plan was part of the government’s election campaign in 2011. It aims to bridge the gap between rich and poor students.

About 850,000 Chinese-made tablets have already been distributed. The government is working with two firms to supply the tablets. One is the Chinese firm Shenzen Yitoa Intelligent, the second a local Thai firm, Supreme Distribution. The Chinese firm will supply 800,000 tablets to first graders, while the local company will provide more than 725,000 to seventh graders. The goal is to equip 13 million students by the end of next year.

Some claim that the scheme is an artifice by the ruling party to increase its popularity among parents and the next generation of voters. Supporters, however, say the use of technology in the classroom will boost the standards of education in a country that ranks 50 out of 65 for reading, math and science.

Ninety students received tablets last year at Ban San Kong school in Mae Chan in the northern province of Chiang Rai. The school had previously only owned a few desktop computers and had limited Internet access. Now, for an hour a day,  students complete activities such as singing English songs and playing math games. For these students, the progress is helpful, as most of the population comes from hill tribes whose mother tongue is not Thai.

Education experts still warn that computers do not guarantee an increase in education standards. An education technology specialist of UNESCO, Jonghwi Park, stated that tablets are “just another tool,” and that, “It’s not what to use, it’s about how to use it.”

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Hi-Tech Educational Start-Ups in Latin America

A computer class at a rural secondary school in La Ceja del Tambo

Education and technology have joined hands in recent years to revolutionize the way students in the developing world access education.

Far from a duplication of USA’s business models, some ed-tech platforms have designed resources that address the specific needs of Latin American students and society.

Here is a list of nine such start-ups that incorporate Latin American needs, such as English-language learning and adult-learning:

  1. Akdemia, launched in Venezuela, is an online service that connects students, parents, and teachers and improves school management.
  2. Descomplica, started in Brazil, offers online video classes to help users prepare for entrance exams and has partnered with Vivo’s mobile networks to send lessons via SMS to reach a wider market.
  3. Easyaula, based in Brazil, offers online payment options for offline classes and its recent partnership with Macmillan Digital Education will help its gain momentum in the online education market.
  4. Educabilia, launched in Argentina, groups existing informal classes according to their city-locations, and also tracks offline classes generated by students.
  5. Oja. la, started in Colombia but co-founded by a Venezuelan, offers online classes for aspiring Latin American entrepreneurs and techies by teaching courses on app development and community management.
  6. Open English, based in Miami, offers 12-month long English language learning courses and connects 50,000 users in 20 countries with native English speaking teachers.
  7. QMagico, launched in Brazil, initially offered custom videos and exercises but has evolved into a subscription-based system, through which teachers can add lesson plans and tests. Students can access these items individually and collaboratively. 10,000 students in over 450 schools are already benefiting from this service.
  8. Qranio, started in Brazil, provides a gaming platform through which users can take quizzes and convert their points and badges into real-life rewards.
  9. Veduca, based in Brazil, provides 5000 online classes that have been licensed from some of the world’s top universities, including Princeton, MIT, Harvard, and Yale.

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Indonesian Education Headed Towards a Digital Future?

ADB-IMF Joint Seminar: Nurturing New Engines of Growth Lack of facilities and internet access are some of the greatest obstacles to building the online learning sector. Fortunately, Indonesia has begun to make waves in addressing this particular issue.

Telekomsel, Indonesia’s largest telecommunications company, recently provided Wi-Fi access to 100 educational institutions and 1,000 secondary high schools. Students can access a full day’s worth of internet for only IDR 1,000 (US 10 cents). The company also plans to install 100,000 more Wi-Fi hotspots at high schools by the end of the year.

So, what does this mean for education in Indonesia? Well, for one, it could allow greater opportunities for more online educational start-ups. Current e-learning sites, such as Rumah Belajar, Akademi Berbagi, and Indonesia Mengajar, will have room to improve their content and resource sharing networks.

Normally, teachers and students have to visit internet cafes or use home computers to access online learning materials.  Bringing Wi-Fi access to the classroom may help facilitate a learning environment that encourages teachers to incorporate more online materials into their lesson plans.

Granted, these are some of the more optimistic ideas that could sprout from the recent boom in school-based Wi-Fi use. What do you think, could e-learning be the key to accelerating the development of Indonesia’s education sector?

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Ethiopian Kids Teach Selves to Read via Tablet PC

Simien mountainsWhat would happen if you handed a thousand Motorola Xoom tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never seen a written word? Well, for starters, they might learn to teach themselves English and how to circumvent an operating system.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organization delivered several boxes of tablets to two remote Ethiopian villages, where the literacy rates are essentially zero. Technicians only showed the adults how to connect the tablets to solar chargers. Once a week, a technician would come and swap out the memory cards so that researchers could study how the tablets had been used.

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte commented, “We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.”

Ed McNierney, the chief technology officer, added, “The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kids’ tablet looked different.  We had installed software to prevent them from doing that. And the fact they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning.”

McNierney continued, “What can we do for these 100 million kids around the world who don’t go to school? Can we give them tools to read and learn—without having to provide schools and teachers and textbooks and all that?”

Although these results look promising, tablets aren’t a direct substitute for basic human necessities. Building a case for them requires time and thoughtful consideration to how certain developmental, cultural, and technical components influence the tablets’ effectiveness value. In the least, the experiment shows that education can develop through self-learning, which perhaps fuels the curiosity of a life-long learner.

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Middle Schools in Israel Requiring Parents to Purchase Computers for Students

In Israel, students have access to free middle school education. However,  dozens of middles schools around the country are now mandating parents to invest extra money to purchase a computer for their child. It is now required for parents to either totally or partially purchase a notebook so that their child can participate in classes that depend on technology. These computers can cost up to thousands of shekels.My Laptop

Schools have stated that, before putting the program into effect, they had taken into account students’ different economic backgrounds. Families that cannot afford a computer will be given discount and subsidies.

However, parents are less than impressed with the new program, even with their discounts. They argue that schools shouldn’t be demanding and requiring computers in order to participate in the classrooms. Tension is growing between the schools and parents, especially as parents complain that schools are insisting strenuously on the new program.

“We demanded that the school not involve the children, but in fact, they are coming home to their parents and saying that at school they were told they have to ‘shake their parents so they will wake up and hurry up and pay,'” said a parent from Ra’anana. “One father told me his child came home saying that at school he was told his parents object and they wanted to know why. The children are afraid they will be ostracized if they don’t have a computer.”

In response to the new program, parents have been protesting against the school’s administrations that are required them to purchase computers. A school action committee has been formed to represent parents against the program. They are mainly focusing on the issue of the high financial investment that is needed to purchase the computers and doubt over the educational advantage that computers would ultimately give their children. Parents have argued that in order to use these discounts and subsidies, schools only directed to one specific vendor. Also, schools wouldn’t allow them to use the computer that they already own, due to a lack of proper programs. The action committee stated that the school would also require parents to pay additional fees for the computer such as purchasing digital books and future repairs.

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An Innovative Virtual Tribute to Laos’ Legacies of War

Hmong Village Girl

In this digital age, we no longer lack for information. Instead, we face an entirely new challenge: how do we organize and harness our information resources in the most meaningful and appropriate way?

One program is living up to that demand. Inspired by the National Legacies of War campaign, Legacies Multimedia Interactive Center (MIC), is a free touchscreen device that invites viewers to learn about the secret bombings that happened in Laos during the Vietnam War.

The program unfolds in a series of informational layers, combining the use of web-based maps, digital images, and high quality videos.  Here, visitors immerse themselves in a storyline filled with contextual details regarding the war-related operations that have since lead to thousands of Laotian deaths. Villagers give first-person accounts of the bombing events. Children describe the risks associated with playing around dormant explosives. Experts reveal their process for detecting and removing the dangerous devices.

Presenting Laos’ legacy in an engaging, non-linear fashion provides a more well-rounded perspective than that of the typical documentary or research paper. Not to mention, viewers can digest the information at their own pace.
Shy Boy, Laos

Legacies MIC was co-developed by California State University professor S. Steve Arounsack using a laptop and digital camera with video features. Arounsack steps away from traditional academic approaches, embracing a more authentic, exploratory learning experience through low-cost visual media.

“We try to use technology in an innovative way to understand students’ needs; many of them have limited resources,” states Arounsack. “It’s an evolving thought process but one that’s becoming more widely accepted.”

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WISE Awards: Six Innovative Projects in Education

The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) awarded six projects from around the world for their innovative and diverse approach to issues challenging global education. Selected from a group of 24 finalists (and 1,600 applicants), the six winners received a $20,000 prize each in addition to worldwide visibility.

And the winners are (drum roll, please):

Solar-Powered, Floating Schools (Bangladesh) ensure year-round education to students from flood-prone areas. Boats serve as both classrooms and school buses, taking students to and from school. Classrooms contain a shared laptop, mobile library, and solar-powered lanterns for night class. The initiative inspired solar water farming practices, stimulating economic growth and children’s nutritional health. The program won an additional award for “best innovative financing of primary education.”

Cristo Rey Network Corporate Work Study Program (United States) provides quality preparatory education to low-income students from 25 high schools. Students work to pay for their tuition fees while receiving hands-on training at entry-level positions. The program produced $37 million in revenue in the 2011-2012 academic year.

RoboBraille (Denmark) is a free web-based device that converts educational materials into formats such as Braille, mp3 files, audio books, e-books, and visual Braille. It presently benefits over 10,000 blind and other special needs students.

Satya Bharti School Program (India) delivers high-quality, holistic education to underprivileged children in rural India. It influences positive community organization and provides local income support through school-based job opportunities. Currently, 37,000 children (62,000 since 2006) are supported in 750 host villages.

PSU Educarchile (Chile) is the first online high school program to prepare students for the mandatory University Admission Test.  It provides free educational materials, mobile podcasts, and collaborative software to low-income students. The program now reaches 1,200,000 students per year.

Children Play with Garbage in Cambodia Slum

Cambodian Children’s Fund – Generational Change through Education (Cambodia) is a community-based program for the thousands of children who were forced to live and work in the garbage dump at Steung Meanchey. Students now have access to English language classes and computer training, as well as community medical support and care. In 2011, the program recorded 100% pass rates, 97% retention, and a less than 1% daily absentee rate for 635 children enrolled full-time.

The WISE Awards winners will take part in the annual WISE Summit from November 13-15 at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar.

For more information about the WISE Awards, please visit

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South Korea Donates 600 Computers to Students in Gaza


The Gaza Strip received a generous gift of over several hundred computers from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). Over 600 computers were donated to Palestinian refugee students. These computers will immediately benefit some 30,000 pupils and provide them with computer training and access to online education.

Over time, the computers will meet the needs of a total of 220,000 students in 243 UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools. These include grades one through nine. Most of these UNRWA schools suffer from overcrowding . However the new computers now bring an alternative method of learning. It uses computer games to teach mathematics and Arabic.

“It is a fitting gift from one of the world’s most technologically advanced nations, and as we move forward to build on this donation, I hope that we can continue to deepen and develop our relationship with South Korea, as well as deliver quality education to the next generation in Gaza,” said Scott Anderson, the deputy director of the UNRWA operations in Gaza.

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Abu Dhabi Aims to Develop Students’ and Parents’ IT Literacy

A recently announced partnership between two government agencies, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and the Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Center (ADSIC), will provide school-sponsored training workshops to help parents develop Information Technology (IT) skills.
Challenging Stereotypes

Through this extension of ADSIC’s “e-citizen” program, education stakeholders hope to facilitate and streamline parents’ access to school systems and matters related to students’ academic performance and communication.  As the capital and second largest city of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi’s government aims to develop a stronger knowledge-based economy by encouraging parents and older citizens to keep up with students’ ever-burgeoning IT skills.

Students have reportedly made strides as a result of a successful ADEC 2011 pilot program called iClass, which distributed nearly 7,000 ipads, laptops, and computers to classrooms. Nine more schools will be joining the initiative this fall with an additional 4,000 devices.

As for the parents, their program is part of an overall push to expand Abu Dhabi’s digital literacy and encourage citizens to use the government’s system of electronic services. Parents who finish the two-to-three week training will receive a certificate of completion – and one more way to keep engaged with their kids’ schooling.

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