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Rwanda’s Youth Receive College Opportunities Through Open Sourced Programs

Road to NyanzaCollege-aged Rwandan youth will now receive low cost and high quality learning thanks to Kepler, an education program offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) and competency-based degrees. Kepler launched their program from Kigali, the nation’s capital, and was established with Generation Rwanda, a scholarship program for Rwanda’s most vulnerable and gifted youth.

Kepler’s revolutionary project provides open sourced and online content from prestigious Western universities, on-site classroom instruction, and an associate degree from Southern New Hampshire University’s competency-based program, College for America. Kepler’s 10 year plan is intended to reach up to 100,000 students through a network of replicated programs in the developing world.

50 out of 2,696 students who applied were chosen to pilot the program. The program is currently free for all students and hopes to keep tuition below $1,000 after expending the anonymously donated start-up funding. The few universities in Rwanda require a tuition that runs between $1,500 and $2,000 a year – about three times the average annual income.

According to the World Bank, only 6.6% of college-aged Rwandans were enrolled in universities in 2011. Kepler’s website wrote, “progressive countries like Rwanda have achieved incredible growth by building knowledge rather than oil refineries or diamond mine. But without the institutions to train their home-grown talent, true knowledge economies remain out of reach. Kepler is specifically designed for this role: training a new generation of creators and builders for the developing world. Kepler’s pilot campus in Rwanda is built to deliver top academic and career outcomes at a price that is affordable to anyone with the talent and determination to take part.”

International audiences are optimistic, emphasizing the program’s potential to serve as an example for educators using MOOC based curriculum. Paul J. LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, said their partnership with Kepler will allow the institution to “test the waters for what we think might grow, “and “the idea was to work with partners that could be part of the student’s individual learning ecosystem, and for many adults that might mean a range of community-based organizations. We see the Kepler pilot in that light, and we love their mission.”

Creative Commons Love: Graham Holliday on Flickr.com

Open Educational Resource Nonprofit Launched in Myanmar

Myanmar - Classroom

A new nonprofit project titled New Education Highway (NEH) works to provide free and accessible education for students in “remote and rural communities.” The organization, launched in Myanmar earlier this year, connects with existing local organizations to establish free education centers that utilize the aid of electronics–i.e., tablets, laptop computers–with pre-loaded resources to offer educational tools once considered unaffordable and unobtainable to far-reaching communities.

Uniquely, access to most of NEH’s resources do not require internet connection. Additionally, NEH aims to customize their electronic interface and learning spaces to accommodate the particular nature of each local community it reaches.

The NEH completely relies on open educational resources (OER) to supply its curriculum content.  The resources, created and contributed by NEH and its partners, are available under Creative Commons licenses. Its pre-loaded materials includes resources on a wide variety of content: comprehensive K-12 curriculum, standardized test preparation, vocational skills, health/HIV education, sanitation, critical thinking, community development, foreign language training, and environmental and agricultural science.

The NEH project may be a significant part of the solution to Myanmar’s cry for greater development in their education sector. Currently, Myanmar universities are networking with prestigious education experts and officials to learn how to further develop their education system.  Burmese officials are continuing to call for greater investments in all their schools.

Creative Commons Love: worak on Flickr.com

 

Open Access to Books for Arabic Science Education

Arabic Books

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced, as one of her last acts in office, a new project that may change the way Arabic speaking teachers and students access information.

The Open Book Project (OBP) was launched last month during a ceremony held at the State Department, where representatives of arabic countries, such as Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Syria, were present.

The project, which is a result of a joint effort between the US State Department and the Arab League Education, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO), aims “to expand access to free quality open education materials in Arabic with a focus on science and technology.” Several High Education American Institutions are working to translate american textbooks into arabic. Those will then be available through the OBP website, so that anyone can “read, download and print these materials for free or adapt a copy that meets the local needs of their classrooms or education systems.” The project is also intended to help Arab professors and intellectuals create their own open courses.

Through this project, Clinton hopes to “build friendships and partnerships, and deliver the benefits of open education to more people and more places,” and do away with “lower economic, geographical, and even gender based barriers to learning”.

 

 

Creative Commons Love: Hishaan Siddiqi on Flickr.com

6 Advanced Things to Teach in Computer Class

TracesA while back we published 10 Free Things to Teach in Computer Class Besides Typing. It covered some basic activities and topics for teachers to use in classes where computers are available but resources are otherwise scarce. The final activity, Scratch, gives students a basic introduction to programming and programming languages. By using this open source visual programming language, students begin to learn the basic concepts, sequencing, and ideas behind how programming languages work.

But what’s next? Once students are comfortable with their machines, a bit older, and capable of grappling with written (or typed, or spoken) English, there are many resources that will help them continue with their education and become genuine IT experts, for free!

Codecademy

Codecademy is a true innovation when it comes to self-learning by doing. After creating an account, you can choose from several coding languages and dive into interactive activities. You immediately begin performing small operations using the language in question and are consistently pushed to use the information you’ve learned to solve small coding problems such as coding a mini-program to multiply the number of words in your name by nine.

Languages available include Java, HTML & CSS, Python, Ruby, jQuery, as well how to create Apps. With a mixture of hands on and project based learning, Codecademy provides a highly engaging and effective way to get students started with coding.

Code

More Online Coursework

A few new players have come into the game of online course work. Although the three we mentioned in the first article are still good bets (MIT Open CoursewareKahn Academy, & iTunes U), Coursera and Edx have also come on to the scene as great options for your higher-level learning needs.

Both of these new-comers (As well as MIT Open Courseware) unfortunately require that you sign up for courses and take them in specified time periods. Although there aren’t class times that have to be attended, it’s not possible to direct your students to start and stop them at any time, and thus require some planning to successfully integrate them into your semester/year.

Still, they’re a great way to give your students access to a very high level of instruction in IT and computing skills, for free!

HTML Dog

If the Codecademy interactions are a bit too confusing for your students, or don’t quite get at what you’re looking for, the HTML Dog tutorials are also great tool for learning for HTML & CSS. Here, students also learn by doing, but the actual coding takes place outside of the browser and is a bit more direct (no tricky problems to work through).

There’s a bit more freedom to break up the lessons, and to allow students to experiment with variations in code. You can have them combine lessons into mini-projects, experiment with changing the code to different colors, or displaying different methods, and otherwise take advantage of the freedom of simply using a .txt file as your coding playground.

Youtube Tutorials (JREAM!)

In general, if there’s a program or skill you want your students to learn, Youtube is a great place to search. Generally a search for “ Tutorial” will turn up a wide variety of options for whatever you enter as the subject. “HTML Tutorial,” “Java Tutorial,” “Networking Tutorial,” and “Facebook app Tutorial” all turn up a ton of options.

If you can get to a location with fast internet, it is possible to save Youtube videos for later use without an internet connection, making this the most versatile of all the recommendations for those of us working in remote locations. You can save videos straight from your browser using savevid.com (so, it will work in an internet cafe where you can’t install programs). To do it with a local program, check out this article on it from PC World, or these programs that do the trick: YTD Video DownloaderKeepVid.

Jream Tutorials are so good they bear mentioning all on their own. When your students are ready to learn a wide variety of high-end IT skills, this is a great place to start. As with any set of Youtube tutorials, students can work whenever they like, go as slow or fast as they like, learn only what interests them, and watch and rewatch the tutorials in any order that suits them.

no denial

I’ve personally used JREAM to learn Adobe Illustrator, but it has a staggeringly wide array of tutorials available, HTML, Facebook Apps, Java, MySQL, Python, PHP, Adobe Photoshop, Linux, Code Igniter, to name a few.

Graphic Design!

We talked about some free art programs and tools in the original post on what to teach in computer class, but eventually your students will want to go beyond making pictures to making graphics. Graphics doesn’t necessarily mean flashy computer animations. It generally refers to a more sophisticated form of computer art: Images that provide information, lead the viewer to a conclusion, or give a desired impression.

For general overviews on graphic layout and design, searches in Youtube will generally turn up great tutorials on specific elements of design or how to use certain programs. For more general introductory courses, you an give these a try:

Teach Yourself Graphic Design: A Self-Study Course Outline

Want to Know How to Design? Then Learn the Basics

Infographics!

A more specific project to have students work on that will put those graphics skills to use is making Infographics. Infographics take a lot of confusing information and lay it out in a way that is both pleasing and easy to understand. Here are some great articles that list free tools your class can use to make outstanding informative images: The 5 Best Free Tools for Making Slick Infographics, and 10 Awesome Free Tools to Make Infographics.

morse code

Hardware

A final skill you can mix with Youtube tutorials, and some guides online, is teaching your students about computer hardware. Even simple tasks can teach them enough to keep your computer lab in tip-top shape, for free! If you’ve got spare parts, or even a spare computer, lying around, be sure to make use of them as demonstration tools. If you haven’t got a scrap of hardware to spare, it’s possible to use functioning computers as examples, albeit with more caution and supervision.

Simple tasks you can direct students to do involve uninstalling and reinstalling bits of hardware (harddrive, optical drive, fan, RAM, etc.) or switching those pieces between machines. Of course, there’s the tried-and-true young engineer’s activity of taking a computer entirely apart and putting it back together again, but that should be reserved for your advanced students or less valuable components.

Note as well that some pieces of hardware carry unexpected risks of damage, such as from static electricity. It’s usually considered a small risk by more experienced (and cavalier) IT nerds, but it’s something to be aware of for sure.

Creative Commons Love: splorp, mutednarayan, Solo, and jenny downing on Flickr.com

From Smartclass to Education Cities: India Plans for IT Education Boom

According to recent reports, more and more Indian technology companies plan to fuel virtual classroom growth across the country. For example, Educomp Solutions is a pioneer in this field, having launched the curriculum-building digital content library software Smartclass in 2004–the software is now utilized in more than 12,000 K-12 schools across 560 districts in India, with a growth rate of nearly 20 schools a day.
Demonstrating a computer-based training course to students

Faster learning assessment tools, like a teacher’s ability to display questions about the current lesson while students submit real-time answers on their own personal answering devices, allow instructors to quickly review or repeat concepts that students have not understood. However, with a population as large as India’s and in a country where many rural schools still lack basic necessities like electricity and plumbing, some wonder whether there is a greater need for infrastructure improvements across the board. In the meantime, companies like Educomp have offered three-to-five-year payment programs in order for more schools to participate.

India is a country with more than 1.3 million schools and the world’s largest population of youth between five and 24 years of age. In a 2012 Education Outlook report, New Delhi-based consultant firm Technopak estimates that India will require at least six million more trained teachers by 2020 to attain the world average in student-teacher ratios. With huge illiteracy and teacher training gaps, India may be looking to the private sector for cutting edge education tools. Yet, for the time being, private schools seem to be disproportionately reaping the benefits. Only 20% of India’s schools are private, and only ten percent of those private schools currently utilize multimedia classroom teaching. The remaining majority of government schools are reportedly making little to no progress in utilizing information and communications technology.

Despite this glaring disparity, tech stakeholders hope to see the market for digitized school products (1) reach between USD two and four billion by 2020 in private schools and (2) grow to five times the current market value of USD $750 million in government schools. Much of this classroom IT growth is already concentrated in large cities.  Studies also show high growth rates in slightly smaller tier-two and tier-three cities, like Barpeta (Assam), Sohagpur (Madhya Pradesh), and Balia (Uttar Pradesh). Smaller cities view digital classroom products as a proactive step in boosting competitiveness. In order to attract this smaller-city demographic, India’s Pearson Education Services is offering monthly payment models equivalent to about two US dollars per student a month.

Broad technology initiatives to develop “smart schools,” distribute subsidized electronic tablets, and utilize Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) are making inroads as private/public partnerships work to experiment with projects’ feasibility and affordability. Moreover, northern India has its eye on attracting international students to the region by building education hubs. The government of Punjab recently announced its plans to develop four education cities, aiming to attract satellite campuses of prestigious international universities.

Creative Commons Love: thahs on Flickr.com

What’s the Secret to Finnish Schools?

The world’s educators will be watching the upcoming 2012 OECD Programme for International Study Assessment (PISA) results, and many Western countries will have their eyes on Finland. For a country that prides itself on prioritizing equity over competition, promoting ample outdoor play between classes, and eschewing standardized testing — Finland has surprised many industrialized countries by skyrocketing to the top of global education rankings over the last decade.
finnish-kids
With only about 5.5 million total population, Finland ranked third overall  behind huge STEM education powerhouses Shanghai-China and Korea, known for their grueling school days, high-pressure standardized testing, and competitiveness-boosting after-hours tutoring sessions. In fact, Finland was the only non-Asian country among the top five scorers, surprising the world — not least of all, Finland, a country where there are no rankings, competition, or comparisons between students, schools, teachers, or regions.

In the 2009 PISA, Finland came in second in science, third in reading, and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide. So what’s their secret? Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility, has been in such high demand to visit inquiring nations that he has written a book: Finnish Lessons.

Some Finland education facts:

  • All students in Finland receive a free education from when they start at seven years of age until they complete their university studies.
  • The Finnish believe there is no reason to rush a child into school before the age of seven, pre-school for all 5-year-olds is free and play-based, and women have three years of maternity leave.
  • There are no private schools or universities in Finland.
  • 93% of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools — 17.5 percentage points higher than the U.S., and 66% go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union.
  • Though Finland is still considered relatively homogenous, at least some elementary-level  schools report that more than half of their students are recent immigrants from countries like Somalia, Bangladesh, and Iraq.
  • In 1979, education reformers required that all teachers earn a fifth-year master’s degree from a state university, at state expense. All teachers are chosen from the top 10% pool of graduate students. Teachers in Finland have unprecedented autonomy, can form instructional partnerships freely, and are revered at the same level as doctors and lawyers.

And, with recent news that President Barack Obama is planning to launch a national STEM “Master-teacher corps,” the U.S. may very well be taking a few notes from the lesson book of Finnish education.

Creative Commons Love: Juan Freire and Claudio.Ar on Flickr.com