Archive for January, 2010

Bridging the Digital Divide – The innovative way

Innovative use of ICTs in education

ICTs are bringing revolutions in every aspect of our lives making us use technology more and more to get the best out of it. Use of ICTs in education is also creating a paradigm shift in our pedagogical methods by incorporating technology: exploiting its immense potential to invigorate the cognitive process of students; capitalizing on its ability to bridge distances and divides of time and resources, by providing equal opportunity for access; relying on its inherent capability for quick replication, in other regions – predicting that the future of education is highly coupled to technology incorporation.

DSH Class

Hundreds of projects are being carried out in the asia pacific region for innovative us of ICTs in education, only a few selected ones from south asia are being covered here. Dharkan 107.8 is an example of the use of radio for imparting education, general awareness and supporting health education in rural areas of Madhya Pardesh (India).  Nokia’s LifeTools is an example of the ‘mobile application’ providing rural areas with services related to agriculture, education and entertainment. Digital StudyHall is a initiative combining traditional pedagogical methods with the digital recorded lectures disseminated through DVDs and small TV sets in rural areas (battery powered). UNESCO Jakarta’s (Indonesia) project to use open source software converting text to voice for visually impaired individuals is another outstanding example of how ICTs are facilitating special education. A similar project is being implemented in Pakistan for assisting the deaf through ICTs.

Google’s internet bus project is educating people about benefits of internet (education in particular) through a customized ‘internet enabled bus’ travelling from city to city.  Egyankosh – a national repository, is preserving and sharing digital learning resources developed by institutions all over India and also collaborating with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and several other countries. “E-learning for Kids is a global, non-profit foundation dedicated to fun and free learning on the Internet for children ages five-to-12” providing short courses (in 5 different languages) on basic subjects e.g.Science, Mathematics, Language arts, etc and has outreached over million children in 80 countries. Solar powered ePods is an example of incorporating energy efficient solutions in education.

Video (Internet Bus Project):


Nokia pledges $1m to ideas to help the poorest


Nokia has said it will provide $1m of funding to the developer comes up with a mobile product that helps improve the life of the poorest citizens in the world. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia’s CEO, made the pledge during his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. “We’ve seen what the tech community can do when it focuses on problems that are also opportunities. The competition is open top hardware and software designs, with the winning idea being chosen by a panel of Nokia staff and private venture capitalists. Entrants need to show that their idea would improve the lives of people earning less than $5 a day.

Can you match the offer? Anyone? From Pakistan?

Google Literacy Project

Google has decided to promote literacy through the Google Literacy Project. The website is dedicated to literacy integrating Google’s book, blogs, video and map services to help teachers and educational organizations communicate effectively. This new project stems from the desire to spread knowledge, says Nikesh Arora, vice president of Google’s European operations, “Google’s business was borne out of a desire to help people find information. In its quest for literacy Google has got several partnerships with LITCAM, UNESCO and several others.

Google has invited people all over world to share their projects, videos, blogs etc related to literacy, the largest collection submitted initially was the videos from project ‘same language subtitling’ (India).

One of the outstanding potential of ICTs is their ability to bridge the divides in a much rapid and emphatic manner as compared to several traditional techniques e.g. for literacy reduction the traditional teaching methods are pretty time consuming and resource intensive whereas ICTs exploit the multimedia and similar aids for reducing the human learning cycle. As a case study few innovative steps taken by NGOs, multinationals and social entrepreneurs of India are presented.

Khabar Lahariya is a weekly Bundeli language newspaper, written, edited, illustrated, produced and marketed entirely by women in the rural Chritrakoot and Banda districts of Uttar Pradesh… The paper has a print run of around 4000 copies, and a readership of over 25,000. It is sold for Rs. 2 a copy in over 400 villages in both districts.’ The newspaper is playing commendable role in domain of female literacy. ‘Waves in hinterland‘ by farah naqvi covers the story of this newspaper in detail. The initiative won UNESCO’s literacy award in 2009

Nonprofit, Planet Read, has adopted an innovative approach to combating illiteracy: Using ‘same language subtitles’ on film songs as a way to teach viewers how to read (capitalizing the Indian public’s craze for Bollywood). Conceived in 1996 at IIM Ahmadabad, SLS program reaches about 200 million plus viewers across 8 different song programs in 8 different languages. The program has a great potential for replication in similar societies and thereby has been commended at Clinton Global Initiative.

Recent publication by UNESCO “Education for All – Global monitoring report 2011” (accessible here p71 ) states that

PlanetRead, provides same-language subtitling for film songs broadcast on television, potentially reaching  hundreds of millions. A randomized evaluation covering 13,000 people from 2002 to 2007 showed a considerable impact. Among children enrolled in school, 56% of those who had watched the subtitled show at least thirty minutes a week for five years had become fluent readers, as opposed to 24% of those who had not watched it. Among illiterate adults, 12% of those watching the show became fluent readers, as opposed to 3% of those not watching it (Kothari, 2008).

Apart from local NGOs other organizations like UNESCO have also come up with simplistic projects which are contributing towards the literacy in rural areas such as Tamil Nadu. Whereas projects like Akshaya, implemented in Kerala, has extended the concept of literacy to 100% e-literacy.

Tata Computer-based Functional Literacy Program

India, a rapidly growing economy, having recorded 19% reduction in poverty over a decade, still has poor literacy rate with around 400 million people unable to read and write. Fakir Chand Kohli, widely regarded as the father of India’s software industry decided to address this challenge through software application for reduction of literacy rates. The project poses great potential for improvement of women literacy. (54% women are literate as compared to 76% men)

“Launched in February 2000 in the Beeramguda village in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh, this ground-breaking project seeks to combat illiteracy with a new approach to learning, using multimedia and flashcards to fortify the learning experience”. The Computer-Based Functional Literacy (CBFL) method, primarily focused on reading, is designed to provide a basic 300-500 word vocabulary to adults over the course of 40 hours – ‘about a third of the time of traditional training’, and essentially based on the theories of cognition, language and communication.

A typical class has between 15 and 20 people and is held in the evening hours. CBFL curriculum provides flexibility to adjust to the varied schedules of working adults with families, and does not require trained teachers. A detailed analysis of CFBL is given here and the pictures here.

“You don’t need a state of the art computer for this program to really fly,” says Tata Group Chairman Ratan N. Tata, which means that the training can be conducted on donated 486 Pentium computers deemed obsolete by many users but adequate for CBFL.”

Today the CBFL project is operational in more than 1,000 centers in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Ncomputer based functional literacyadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, and it has helped more than 50,000 people learn the most basic reading. More centers are in the process of being set up. CBFL has been field tested in five of India’s 18 languages — Telegu, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, and Bengali, with the help of government and NGOs in various locations throughout India. Tata claims that if implemented properly, the project can make 90 per cent of India literate in three to five years, thereby transforming the third world workforce.

CBFL has even been exported to South Africa, thanks to the interest of First Lady Zanele Mbeki. A TCS team is helping experts in that country to map the sounds of unwritten South African languages and develop a script for use in computer-based literacy training.

A similar program previously implemented in Nagrota Surian in 2005 was ASHA which aimed at teaching 15000 adults how to read and write in a period of 3 years.

Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development (SEED) shares science, education and technology with teachers"Students in a computer lab" and students around the world. SEED is a volunteer-based, non-profit education program focused to inspire, influence and enable educators in underserved communities where Schlumberger people live, and work to engage youth in science and technology.

The SEED School Network Program offers to disadvantaged schools located in developing countries the financial and technical assistance needed to connect them to the Internet. It provides computer hardware and software, internet connectivity and related services, educational resources, and future planning guidance. During the period of grant, SEED works in close collaboration with the participating schools to ensure the continuity of the program once the grant expires. To date, there are 248 schools serving more than 260,000 children in 42 countries.

"Students in a workshop" SEED’s Educational Programs offer students and educators in SEED network schools  hands-on workshops and online activities and projects using a project-based,  Learning While Doing (LWD) approach. So far, total 58 school workshops have been  conducted in 15 countries benefitting 1,490 students and 247 teachers, with global  themes: Climate Change and Energy; Water. 78 projects have been in completed in 18  countries on topics like Waste collection, tsunami warning systems, automatic  irrigation, smoke detection, earth science, robotics, and others

Its Online Science Center provides a broad range of educational resources and opportunities to learners and educators in seven languages – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

NASA Education Program, UNICEF and IEARN (International Education and Resource Network) are among many friends and partners of SEED program.

School and Community Connectivity Initiatives in Asia Pacific Region

Connectivity and quality access to ICTs is essential for survival in this era of digital revolution. Mahabir Pun foresaw this in 1997, when due to his immense efforts his mountain village of Nangi in Nepal first embraced computers. By now, his initiative has evolved into Nepal Wireless Networking Project which has connected around 22 villages in rural Nepal through wireless technologies, creating new opportunities of education, agriculture, Tele-medicine and E-commerce for the villagers. In many parts of the developing world, it is still difficult to provide connectivity either through fixed infrastructure or wireless technologies.An innovative solution  United Villages pioneered  by Amir Alexander Hasson provides people in such rural areas of India, Cambodia asynchronous drive-by Wi-Fi through buses which deliver web content to the computers which have otherwise no direct connection to internet.

Provision of funds and required equipment is crucial for connectivity whether through sole government assistance or in partnership with private sector. Computer Technologies for Schools (CFTS) Project in Australia, Setting up of IT village and computer labs in Bangladesh are instances of government/ local assistance. Under E-gram Vishwagram Project, Gujarat Government (India) partnered with Bharty Airtel to connect panchayats and Common Service Centers (CSCs) across 13716 villages in the state. Now technology market leaders like Google, Microsoft, Intel and Cisco have also agreed to aid the project. OLPC is collaborating with many state governments in Asia Pacific region to provide low cost, connected laptops to schools in rural or underserved areas. Through OLPC India, two government organizations and one private-sector entity placed a 250,000 XO laptop order which will be distributed 1500 schools. Altai Technologies Limited provided wireless connectivity support to OLPC charity project in Bhutan.

Technology service providers companies have been collaborating with governments, other companies and international organizations in serving the communities’ connectivity needs. Intel (r) Rural Connectivity Platform is a low cost solution which promises to provide efficient connectivity even in remote mountainous or rough hilly areas. Data Stream Technology (DST) Group ,Ericsson collaboration is going  to provide 4000 students in four schools of Brunei high speed broadband connectivity. Nokia Siemens network has joined ITU’s Connecting villages initiative and initially they aim to connect villages in island countries of pacific region through its village connection program.

ICT Interventions in Education, India

Adapted from:

According to the spotlight review on the website the ‘India, a successful ICT powered nation, has always laid a lot of accent on the use of ICT, not only for good governance but also in diverse sectors of the economy such as health, agriculture and education etc.’

The use of ICTs in education has certainly been improved over the years with several initiatives worth mentioning. According to the review the ‘most vital contribution of ICTs in the field of education is easy access to learning resources’, enabling the students to have easy access to resources. The examination results (held by several Boards/ Institutions/ Commissions) are now available online and also through email, SMS and IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System). Online admissions counseling is available for admissions to professional degree courses as well information regarding scholarship opportunities and educational loans are disseminated to the meritorious students across backgrounds and financial status. Information related to admissions to foreign universities is readily available to the students.

Several Distance Education programs are being run which make it easy for students in remote areas to continue their education. The textbooks of the national curriculum (NCERT), from grade 1 to 12, have been uploaded online for convenience of students and teachers. Sample papers for many entrance exams and other competitions are also available online. Such a facility is also being provided by Indira Gandhi National Open University.

One of the most vital ICT initiatives is the development of Brihaspati, a virtual classroom; an endeavor is by The Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Brihaspati is a web-based e-learning program, which enables instructors to enhance on campus learning by sharing course materials, having class discussions, and making assessments on the web. It can also be used to deploy e-learning content for off campus self as well as mentored learning. This tool is open source software and can be used by any university.

INTEL ICT Programs in Pakistan

The Intel® Teach Program launched in Pakistan in March 2002, which focuses on giving ‘extensive training and resources’ to promote ‘effective technology use in the classroom’. The program offers several courses to train the teachers, though all focus on incorporating technology into teaching, yet the course titled “skills for success course” is particularly designed for the ICT teachers. According to Intel’s official stats they have successfully trained more than 220,000 teachers reaching out to over 70 districts and cities so far … targeting remote schools like ‘Dewan Farooq Memorial School’ (Badin, Sindh) as well as developed school systems like PAF or Fazaia School System (having 25 schools nationwide). Recently Intel, Pre-STEP & USAID have made an agreement for strengthening teacher training institutes.

The ICT integration into the curricula has not only paid off in terms of improving the education standards but also has led to several community based initiatives, cleanliness drives and awareness campaigns!

The National Science Olympiad affiliated with Intel® is held in collaboration with ministry of education as well as science and technology, for students from grade 9 – 12 aimed at promoting research based learning among students, particularly in Science and Mathematics. The winners of the Olympiad are then selected for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair which “is the world’s largest pre-college science fair competition, where students have a chance to explore, discover, and innovate.”

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