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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Egypt to Upgrade Classroom Technology

 The Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has signed a protocol with the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC) to supply new computers to classrooms throughout the country. Atef Helmy, Minister of Communications, said that the agreement would strengthen ties between the government and the private sector, as well as improve resources available to students. The computers provided will be chiefly locally produced and assembled devices, provided by Egyptian companies. The protocol aims at boosting the economy, creating jobs, and improving classroom conditions.


Egypt has recently made investment in IT and technology a priority as it aims to improve its infrastructure in the wake of the new constitutional referendum. As the state now assumes control of the schools formerly run by the Muslim Brotherhood, there is a greater demand for classroom supplies and technology. Egypt hosted a conference focusing on the possibilities of e-learning last week. Helmy said that cooperation between the ministries of education and communications was important for upgrading the educational system and increasing its efficiency.

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Israeli Online Course Brings E-Learning to Middle East

On March 2, professor Hossam Haick, of Israel’s Technion, the Israeli Institute of Technology—will begin teaching the first massive open online course (MOOC) in Arabic, titled Nanotechnology and Nanosensors. The course offers free, open enrolment (you can find the English version here), with both Arabic and English language options. Currently, about 4,800 students have registered for the Arabic version, including studetns from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, the UAE, and the West Bank.

two boys, two concrete blocks

Haik said that he thought the course was attracting so much attention “Because nanotechnology and nanosensors are perceived as futuristic, and people are curious to understand what the future looks like…. is so cross- and multi-disciplinary… It offers a large diversity of research opportunities.”

E-learning is becoming increasingly popular in the Arab world, especially now that sites like Coursera, edX, Edraak, Rwaq, and SkillAcademy are making access much easier. (Though often the content is not originally in Arabic, but translated.) Arab states are also trying to implement e-learning in public schools, but these efforts have been most successful in the more prosperous Arab states—the UAE, for example, had an e-learning market of $14 million as far back as 2006. In March, Dubai will host the seventh annual Global Education Forum conference, during which e-learning will be a focus.

Haick said of the international appeal of the MOOC, “If the Middle East was like the Technion, we would already have peace. In the pure academy, you feel totally equal with every person. And you are appreciated based on your excellence.”


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Does Your Math Teaching Have SMARTS?

Launch PadTeaching is never easy but it can definitely be fun! When you’re having fun in the classroom, kids will have fun too and learn something in the process! So ditch your worksheets and give your math teaching SMARTS!

SMARTS is an easy acronym to help identify fun ways to engage kids with math!

Songs–Who doesn’t like a good tune? Songs can help students remember the steps of long division or learn to count by 10s. Songs shouldn’t be complicated or difficult to remember and are often set to familiar tunes. Try skip counting by 4s to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat and you’ll see what I mean!

There are tons of free resources on the web but I love Songs for Teaching and TeacherTube. Other teachers are a great resource when trying to identify fun songs that work (and those that don’t) so turn to colleagues or online communities for teachers like Edutopia or Classroom 2.0. The key is to ditch boring drills and make learning catchy and fun! Research has shown that movement boosts academic performance so get your kids up and moving during songs to optimize fun and learning.

Manipulatives–Use whatever you have around you to make math meaningful! Count pencils to build one to one correspondence, cut sandwiches in quarters to demonstrate fractions and build various sized towers with blocks to teach measurement. Manipulatives help children “see” math and build meaning. Don’t fret if you don’t have access to fancy manipulatives from a learning store–pebbles work just as well as counting bears and you can create fraction tiles from sheets of paper.

Many teachers are afraid to introduce manipulatives because they fear children will fidget and lose focus. You can avoid this problem by establishing clear rules and expectations for Math Investigation and adhering to pre-established behavior plans. Most teachers are surprised to see that the children spend more time on task once manipulatives are introduced because they are engaged!

Art–Are you sensing a pattern of interdisciplinary connections here? Whenever possible, incorporate art projects into your math lessons. Have children create self portraits when studying symmetry, create beaded bracelets to reinforce patterns and draw pictures to illustrate word problems. My students only truly grasped the concept of area after creating pictures from paper mosaic “tiles”. We are trying to turn our children into budding mathematicians and encouraging them to create something always helps!

Recreation–We’re talking about games here! After you introduce a concept, give the children time to practice by playing games as an alternative to workbook practice. Students will have a blast while also getting the practice that they need! A card game of WAR can reinforce greater than/less than, Around the World with flash cards can reinforce math facts and a simple game of dice can reinforce probability. Try to incorporate games into your classroom whenever possible to increase engagement and promote learning!

Technology–Technology is a great tool to increase student engagement regardless of where your classroom is or what it looks like. For some, this may mean interactive white boards while for others this means access to a disposable camera. As more and more students are gaining access to technology in their classrooms, it is important for teachers to use these resources strategically, whether it be one tablet for an entire class or a classroom set of laptops.

Virtual manipulatives can be used to demonstrate place value, spreadsheets can be used to organize and display data and cameras can be used to photograph angles in the community. Incorporating technology helps prepare our students for success outside the classroom and opens the door to a growing library of open education resources available online.

Stories— Make math relatable for your students by placing problems in context through word problems, real life applications or picture books. Become a storyteller and encourage your students to tell stories about math through writing or illustration. Math read alouds can help introduce a math topic, math journals can be used to reflect on learning, and imaginative play can reinforce math in our everyday lives. Set up a grocery store in your classroom and watch math learning come to life!

The goal of teaching SMARTS is to keep math instruction captivating, lively and relevant in your classroom. What tricks do you use to keep math engaging and fun for your students?

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Students in Namibia Gain Significant Internet Access

WCIT 2012 - NamibiaIn countries where Internet access is hard to come by, the difference between having WiFi connections can simply mean a more enriched education or even as important as a matter of life or death. The southern African country of Namibia is no exception to that. In 2012, only 12% of the country had access to the Internet, leaving many of its students offline. Without the ability to research online and learn necessary computer skills, students would eventually lose the ability to join in the worldwide competitive economy.

People in the Information and Computer Technology for Education field (ICT4E) have noticed this issue and have taken steps to counter this problem for countless Namibian students. Microsoft recently joined forces with a non-profit in Namibia called MyDigitalBridge Foundation to bring Internet access to those in rural areas (who are usually economically disadvantaged) by using television frequencies.

This method that utilizes Dynamic Spectrum Allocation, otherwise known as white space technology, is being used to support 34 schools in Namibia and should be completed by the middle of 2014. In time, not only will the students themselves be positively affected by this access to WiFi, but their friends and family will be given the opportunity to join the global market, gain world news, and access vital information on health or other necessary topics.

After this project is implemented, it will be interesting to see how much Internet use grows in Namibia within the next few years, especially among its young students. The World Bank has already measured 650 million Africans, particularly those who are under 24, who use mobile devices. With Microsoft and MyDigitalBridge Foundation’s help, now is the time for Namibian students to join their African peers and be plugged in to join the ever-increasing competitive workforce.

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Blended Learning Enhances Online Education’s Potential in Developing Countries

The computer lab at the Jugaani village schoolMassive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) exploded in popularity in 2011, and were seen as a revolutionary way to spread higher education around the world. But education experts have noted major problems with the model, and MOOCs have quickly become devalued. A new course structure called blended learning is gaining ground, however, and is filling in the gaps between online and in-classroom education.

Blended learning- the pairing of online open courses with face-to-face discussion groups, study sessions, and seminars- is growing in popularity. The blended learning experiment is reaching university students across the world, but is becoming most popular in developing countries.

Coursera, the world’s largest MOOC provider, notes that almost three quarters of its students come from outside the United States, with most from Brazil, India, Mexico, and China. As MOOCs were first heralded as a way to enable access to higher education in developing countries, the problems with the online education model have meant enormous lost potential for students in these nations.

Problems with MOOCs include low student completion rates (Coursera’s pass rate hovers around ten percent), the displacement of professors and teachers, and the devaluation of degree programs. However, new experiments in blended learning have been showing encouraging results.

A pilot blended learning program in Bolivia, South Korea, and Indonesia found that when an online class was combined with a weekly discussion group, the completion rate rose from ten to 40 percent. New programs emerging in Rwanda, El Salvador, and India are following suit and pairing MOOCs with face-to-face coaching and study.

Data from the US Department of Education has shown blended learning to be so productive that it has partnered with Coursera to host discussion groups for MOOC students at over 40 US embassies around the world.

Carlos Martinez, a professor at the University of El Salvador, made headlines in 2012 for pioneering MOOC blended learning among his electrical engineering students.

“I want to let new ideas in, raise the bar, and change the curriculum,” says Martinez, acknowledging the success of his project. “The world has changed and you have to do something in a different way.”

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Russian Schools Benefit from Video-Enabled Classrooms

NECC 2008 in San AntonioSince 2007, the Gymnasium Union of Russia (GUR) program has provided more than 1,400 high schools, colleges and military schools with video technology. The goal of this program has been to utilize videoconferencing as a way to connect students and teachers through gymnasiums and lyceums throughout the country.

Russia has implemented videoconferencing technology to improve several aspects of its educational system. Through this application of technology, students and teachers now have access to lectures, seminars and training that would otherwise be unavailable in most regions of the country. It has also helped Russian schools to develop international relationships with educational institutions in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Moldova and Australia.

This alternative approach to learning provides students with access to both guest speakers and specialized teachers who are located at a distance. Teachers similarly benefit from this technology by gaining access to a wide array of training and collaboration opportunities that help them maximize their teaching skills and resources so that they can deliver a higher quality of education to their students than would otherwise be available.

Developed by the non-profit organization Russian Foundation for Education Support, this program initially began with just seven schools in the St. Peterburg area. Now it has spread to become the largest national educational project in the country with video technology being provided to 350 regional education centers that reach more than 35,000 students, teachers and educational leaders. To achieve this, the program has provided each of these educational centers with video-enabled classrooms where students and teachers can interact with one another at a distance in real time.

To put this program into action, the Russian Foundation for Education Support partnered with the technology company Polycom RealPresence. This company has provided the GUR with the equipment and software needed to facilitate this extensive video collaboration project.

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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.”

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30,000 Nicaraguan Students Receive Free Laptops

Nicaragua One Laptop per ChildThanks to the One Laptop Per Child program, 30,000 Nicaraguan students from low-income neighborhoods are starting school this fall with their own laptops. A representative of the Zamora Terán Foundation, distributor of the laptops, says that eventually the organization plans to give all 600,000 of the country’s grade school students their own computer.

The program’s XO laptops are designed for learning and come equipped with 52 educational activities, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a camera. Schools that participate in the program are set up with a free Wi-Fi connection.

Despite he controversies that have surrounded free laptop programs in other countries, teachers in Nicaragua say the program helps increase student enrollment.

“Enrollment is up 15% since we started providing the computers because the children get excited about receiving a device like this,” says Martha Patricia Hernández, director of the San Francisco de Asís School in Diriamba, which has participated in the program since 2010. Hernández notes that without One Laptop Per Child, computers would be unaffordable for her students and their families.

Teachers and school directors also receive a laptop as part of the program. According to Hernández, this allows educators to conduct research and stay updated with the latest educational practices.

Félix Garrido, Zamora Terán’s director of education and operations, says that the goal of One Laptop Per Child is to transform Nicaragua’s educational landscape. Currently only 56% of Nicaraguan students finish grade school. In 2013, according to the Global Information Technology Report, Nicaragua ranked 125th out of 144 countries in the capacity to use information technology.

Worldwide, over 2.4 million children use laptops provided by the One Laptop Per Child program.

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Tuition Hike in Armenia Leads to Student Protests

At the College

The recent tuition hike in many of Armenia’s schools of higher education has led to student protesting from August 13th onwards. In response, the Armenian Minister of Education justifies the tuition hikes as being beneficial for universities. However, he claims that he is open to discussing different proposals.

Plans to raise tuition fees in Armenia by thirty percent have caused students to protest in the capital city of Yereva. Students have been gathering in front of the Education and Science Ministry since August 13th. This hike in tuition, according to protestors, could have devastating effects on those seeking university education.

Additionally, protestors are suspicious of the current use of tuition; they do not believe an increase is necessary to contend with administrative and professor salaries, technical upgrading, and social issues. They are hoping for investigations by the Finance Ministry Control Inspectorate into the use of such funds.

Students all over Europe have become increasingly concerned with these developments and are supporting the struggle of the Armenian National Student’s Association (ANSA) through petitions, letters, and appeals.

In response to student protests, Armenia’s Minister of Education, Armen Ashotyan, has claimed that current budgets for universities do not cover future developments and technologies that are needed to provide better quality education. Ashotyan also believes that tuition hikes at specific universities will attract foreign professors and experts to Armenian universities. He has claimed that he is looking into possibilities to strengthen state funding to those that need help covering tuition. He also claims to be open to meeting with students to review proposals and has promised to hold public hearings.

Armenia’s student revolution joins a growing body of international protests led by youth–many of them, including the Chilean student movement, have seen success in recent months.

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