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Our duties teaches us more than what we expect!

March 26th, 2015 By: Sawal Acharya · No Comments

The afternoon of January 18, saw me and Peter seated in a Buddha Air Flight to Dhangadhi. Our final destination was Chainpur, Bajhang. We had to deploy XO laptops and E-Pustakalaya server in 4 schools and subsequently, provide support to the schools. Since we were there primarily for support, I would be talking solely about it on my blog. But for a good read, I encourage you to read Bishnu dai’s blog to know about deployment elsewhere on this site

The first school we went to was Bhawani Primary School Luyanta. Considering its distance to Chainpur (headquarter of Bajhang) the walk to this school had been relatively easy. However, given our lack of physical works over the past few months, we felt tired very easily. Few minutes of rest became obligatory in between our hikes. First day of our two-day visit was dedicated for teachers. We started off by iterating important points, such as basic networking, registering the XOs with the server, and the basics of XO and E-Paath. Since these had already been covered in the basic training, we decided to focus more on other significant things. We talked about E-Pustakalaya, highlighting its features and navigating through them. It was around 1:30 pm when we were done with the session. We could not resist but run right for our lunch.

Oh I was so hungry!!

Later that day, we mainly talked about common problems regarding XOs, such as malfunctioning keys, display problems, XOs running slower than usual, and how to solve the problems. After explaining the remedial verbally, we conducted hands-on sessions for them to try it out. It was a fruitful day ovefinrall.

After our breakfast next day, we headed out to school. Like yesterday, we were resting when Mrs. Anita Sharma, one of the teachers approached us reporting some problem she had encountered. We were glad to see teachers following up on the training sessions, which clearly indicated their interest and dedication towards the program. As I was resolving the issue, students gathered around. They were flooding me with questions about the XO. I could clearly see the spark of desperation and excitement in their eyes to use the computer. Unable to hold our patience, we cut short our resting period and then began teaching the students. Since they were completely new to the XOs, we had to start with the basics like opening the lid of the XO, switching it on, using the touch pad, opening and closing applications, etc. During this time, I was continuously amazed to see how quickly they caught up. Furthermore, it was more pleasing to see them trying to new things, exploring more and more.

Once done with the session for students, we went on to fill the baseline survey form. Prior to this, we had not studied the form in detail and were not aware about the length of it. Contrary to our assumption, it took us nearly an hour and a half to fill them. We had to make series of calculation to find the average of class attendance and examination results. Performing the calculations was not difficult but time consuming. Fortunately, we also managed to meet with the chairperson of the school management committee. We informed him about the program and its potential benefits in improving student’s learning experiences. He was very positive about the program and assured that he would do his best to take the program further.

Bal Bikas Primary School located in Khetkot was our next destination. The travel to the school was challenging because we had to walk for about two and half hours along the narrow and uphill paths. Also, the heavy weight of our bags added to our woes. Nevertheless, we managed to reach our destination without any problems. Immediately after reaching the school, we had our lunch. It greatly helped us overcome our fatigue and energized us for the day. The works that we had to do in all the schools was roughly the same, and as in Bhawani, the session at Bal Bikas also went smoothly. Since Chainpur was far from this school, we decided to stay there that night to prevent unnecessary time loss. To ensure that everything goes well, some teachers also stayed with us. Besides giving us company, they used this as an opportunity to learn more about the XO and its usage. The stay in the school also gave us an opportunity to closely interact with the teachers and learn more about Bajhang.

After two nights stay, we headed for Durga Primary School, Galechaur. In terms of distance & location, it was the farthest of the schools we went. But since we were going from Bal Bikas, we had to walk for about 45 minutes only. Although the journey was relatively short, walking along the slippery path was tough. Small amounts of water flowing alongside had frozen, causing slippery pathways where our feet had slid many times. However, on reaching the school we experienced some delightful sight. Unlike the previous schools, this school had resumed after the winter vacation. Thus, we got a chance to teach more number of students. We began the training for the teachers. But unlike the previous times where both I and Peter conducted the sessions, this time only one person took charge of the training. Meanwhile, the other person would go to the classes and interact with the students. For the next day, the number of students we were teaching increased in number. We simply decided to divide them into two separate groups. Although it took us more time, we were glad that more number of students had got first-hand experience of using the XOs.

Our next and final school was Jana Jagriti Primary School, Bhandar where carrying out the duties was quite easy. Thanks to the lower number of students and their abilities to grasp things quickly. At Jana Jagriti, we stayed in Gorakh sir’s place, one of the school teachers. It was around 3:30 when we were done with our work and at that very moment, both of our feelings were jumbled up. We were glad that the support visit had completed smoothly, but on the other hand, we were sad that our chance to travel and learn came to an end.

For me, the visit was a great learning experience. Personally speaking, the time I spent at Bajhang helped me get a close understanding of the district and its lifestyle. Professionally, the visit greatly enhanced my leadership qualities. Since there were not any senior members at the field, I and Peter had to carry out the entire program. This taught me various lessons on effective planning and proper communication. As an ardent traveler and someone who believes technology as an agent of change in Nepal, I do look forward to being part of similar visits in the near future.

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Solukhumbu Visit: photo series

March 17th, 2015 By: Dovan Rai · No Comments

When the Phaplu airport finally opened after a year-long closure for repair, our team immediately planned a visit to five of our program schools in Solukhumbu last November. We were glad to find the schools and the teachers remain ever enthusiastic about using laptops in classrooms. Our team provided essential technical support at Dudhkunda Lower Secondary School, JanaJagriti Lower Secondary School, Garma Lower Secondary School, Swarnim Primary School and Pike Secondary School. Most of the laptops were in good working condition, and few technical issues were resolved during the visit. Please check out the photo series captured during our trip to Solukhumbu with our Network and System Engineer Mr. Sumit Acharya.

Kids from Dudhkunda Lower Secondary School. OLE Nepal started its Laptop program in this school in 2012.


Mr. Sumit Acharya, our Network and System Engineer helping a school teacher updating E-Paati laptops with the latest content.

Kindergarten and First grade students of Dudhkunda School. The two teachers take care of those students in the same classroom. Kindergarten kids sit in the left hand side of the room while first graders sit on the right hand side.


Fourth grade students from Janajagriti Lower Secondary school using E-Paati laptops.. The school has a room dedicated for the laptops. There are custom-made wooden racks for laptop storage and charging. They use the laptop once a week for each class.


Teacher helping the students.


Kids enjoying their time outside of the classroom.


Kids from Swarnim Primary School using apricot seeds to learn arithmetic. Their teacher uses different interactive techniques to teach maths to primary level students. This is one of the schools where Government of Nepal is piloting an educational initiative that involves using activity-based milestones rather than regular exams to upgrade students to next grade.


A staff from Phaplu Community School cleaning laptops. Her one kid also attends the same school. She told us that since it is dusty and windy there, laptops need to be cleaned regularly. This is the first school in Solukhumbu district where OLE Nepal started its program. In this school, there is a laptop assigned for each kid, which they can also take home during weekends.


A little boy from Garma Secondary School marching with Khata to offer to OLE Nepal staff. The school had organized a program to welcome us :)


A second grade student who has not used E-Paati yet as OLE Nepal has not been able to reach to her school. It is our mission to reach every possible school in Nepal. 

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While deploying XO laptops in the far west

February 17th, 2015 By: Bishnu · No Comments

I was quite excited from early on. Our team of two (Basanta Dai and myself) were heading towards far-west Nepal on January 12th. It was my first visit to far-west – Bajhang to be specific, and my first experiences of deploying XO (E-paati) laptops. I had my bags ready with necessary stuffs for two weeks long visit. In addition of being a person who loves traveling, this visit had an important value of its own. We were deploying 300+ XO laptops to thirteen schools in remote location where most of the teachers and students were using computers for the first time in their lives.

After staying one night at Dhangadi, district headquarter of Kailali, we loaded our vehicles with laptops to be deployed the next day. We started our journey towards Bajhang at 9 in the morning and reached our destination Jhota Bazaar in evening where we were staying for next few nights during the deployment at nearby schools.

Starting our duties, we handed over the laptops to the school representatives and headed for deployment. We were working with two separate teams comprising of a technician and a volunteer. My team conducted total of six new deployments and one support visit while the other team headed by Basanta Dai conducted around seven deployments. We had systematically planned to meet after completing deployments in each cluster to share our experiences.


6+ hours of walking through inclined ways

Our adventure began by climbing a hill to the school from bazaar named Bagthala. We were heading for a support visit. We had two students guiding us on our way to school which was alarmingly inclined and narrow. I was quite surprised by the physical structure of the area where the school was located.

We visited our first school but the journey was not over yet. We walked for four hours more to reach another school. Teachers were walking along with us to guide us through our way. Returning back, it took us six hours of walk to reach our shelter. We were so tired and could not wait to have a good sleep. Next morning, we woke up to a beautiful snowfall on the nearby hill. The beauty took our remaining tiredness away.

While fulfilling our agendas of the trip, I also experienced new things about the people of Bajhang. People there, especially children, processes fresh rice (Dhaan) and flour on their own. Each evening they have their duty to process the rice for next morning. One of our meals was rice cooked from their own farm and it was delicious. Their Bajhangi language was quite different from that of ours – we were struggling to understand them. Some words were similar to Nepali words but some had twisted pronunciation. Overall, the people were warm and welcoming. We were glad to have received their kind hospitality.

Children preparing rice for next morning

After completing installation at first two schools, we headed for the next one which was near Deulekh. This area was easily accessible in compare to the previous ones. Two hours walk was the longest for us to reach to the school. Nevertheless, it was tiring. But again, it all disappeared in our arrival when we saw happy faces of students and teachers greeting us warmly. Fourth school had the largest deployment with 42 XO laptops along with fourteen desks and benches. We also had to rework the electrical wiring in order to make spaces available for furnitures and laptops.


Teachers using Epaati after installation

Like Deulekh, Chainpur area was our next destination. The pathway of 2.5 hours of walk from Chainpur to school was easy, but with no one to guide us, we had to enquire with the locals on many junctions. At the school, teachers were quite excited and enthusiastic about the laptop program. We were thoroughly motivated by their response.

As our next school was near to the same school, we decided to stay there for the night. Teachers had happily arranged our stay in their computer lab. The meal of evening (bread with curry and milk) was prepared at the school kitchen and it was really delicious. According to the locals, most people traveled to India and had worked there as cooks (hence, the reason for delicious meal).

Next morning we headed for our last school which was around an hour away from the current school. As it was located quite near to the mountains, we got to see snow covered ones too closely. The view was beautiful and refreshing. It helped us carry our work smoothly – we were enjoying the moment.
On our way back, we were feeling really cold and increased our pace a little to stop by a shop for a break. Narrow width path and the height of a hill was frightening during that time of the day. We had such an adrenaline rush. We would have gone down the hill in one slip. Even though we were very careful, our friend Sawal had a minor accident. He twisted his leg and had to use a walking stick to reach Chainpur.


School where 12 XOs were deployed

Apart from all the adventure of hiking up and down the hill, we successfully completed deployment and installation at newly selected schools of Bajhang. It still feels good to remember those faces of students and teachers delighted with the joy to use laptops in their schools.

On our way back to Dadeldhura, the snowfall delayed our journey but we managed to reach our hotel that evening. We also conducted support visits to two schools in Dadeldhura and I was so glad to visit our project schools of four years back. It was delighting to see the schools still applying this innovative approach to learning which was helping students learn different concepts interactively.

Our fourteen days long deployment journey had completed. Regardless of all the adventures faced during deployment, the satisfaction came with the completion of our duties which was eventually going to help students have access to quality learning resources which was missing in those areas otherwise. I hope to see some amazing improvement among the students in my next visit to Bajhang.

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From field assistant to a programmer

February 5th, 2015 By: Sabrina · No Comments

Transition must have been boring!!

Most of you must be guessing the above statement by the title of my blog. But, I am here to surprise you all.

As a passionate explorer, I am hooked with the anxiety and the butterfly effect I get when setting out for a journey. The feeling of a vicious circle of my daily routine slowly breaking while escaping into the unknown; it feeds my desire to learn and gets me going.

The field visits of OLE Nepal are an adventure on its own. Our project schools are located in diverse locations without any sign of basic infrastructures. Most of the time we had to walk long hours to reach our destination. The walks are comparatively easy then the next task; talking to people and making them aware and co-operative. There were times I slept above a barn and ate what was served. But after seeing the happiness reflected from the innocent eyes of the children who are fascinated with our E-Paath and E-Pustakalaya, it feels rewarding. And, on top of that, the work we conduct during field visits are truly satisfying for one’s soul. It encourages us to do more for them.

Then comes the transition…… It has been 3 months since my last field visit. After shifting from a technical room to developers room, I have been deprived of all the adventures. However, I am focused as the quote says,

“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy ,
not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
- Socrates.

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working seriously ;)

I managed to find my own adventure in coding. While it is fun to go places and get our digital educational programs implemented, it is exciting, both as a learner and as a student studying Information Management, to be able to develop these interactive activities. I can not express my gratitude in words towards our development team who dealt with my constant curiousness and guided me throughout this transition process.

I am currently working on grade 7 math activities and so far have managed to develop two activities with the help of my mentors. I feel deep sense of satisfaction developing them as students of different schools in diverse parts of Nepal will be able to learn math with the help of these activities. I feel such because this particular subject has never been my cup of tea.

All in all, it will soon be a year since I joined OLE Nepal team as an intern. And coming back to discussing my transitions, I have had many in this one year. I gained a clearer perspective, learned interpersonal and technical skills, understood the outlook on education and ICT and much more.

It is all because of these transitions, I have evolved as a better person.

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Developer’s team

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Pustakalaya in our hands

February 2nd, 2015 By: Roshan Poudyal · 2 Comments

It is very hard to tell when and how the idea to create a mobile application for our E-Pustakalaya started. However, it certainly was the advantage of applications alike these being handy, easy and accessible that attracted us towards creating one for our E-Pustakalaya. This application would give direct and free access to the massive collection of books for avid readers and book enthusiasts. It would satisfy our goal of making the books available to many users as possible.

So it started and we developers of OLE Nepal got a new thing to learn about. Oh yes! We were all very excited about the app. Utility software we used for app development – Android Studio, was in beta version, but this Integrated Development Environment (IDE) was a great tool and we coded our app in this version. We remember there being two or three design proposals for how the app would look like, before we finalized one.

First, application programming interface (API) was created which would be used by our application to connect with the server and extract the required information to be displayed on the app. The development of the client side (mobile) application was conducted simultaneously. The difficult part was to understand the database of the books in E-pustakalaya. It really took us significant amount of time to figure that out.

After a months time, we had one more friend joining our team for its development. Now there were three excited ones ready to bring the app down to the android mobile. The application was growing faster and smoother. It started to babble and communicate with the server for what it required. It was definitely growing beautiful.

Almost ready to be deployed to the play store, we had developed a fully functional E-pustakalaya app which could now get the E-pustakalaya library to small handheld android devices. Users now would be able to explore the library under seven different categories, Arts, Literature, Course Materials and number of subcategories under each of them. Also the list of the books were sortable ascending or descending based on author, date and name.
 

Category

Categories with expandable Subcategories

We also added a search feature to the app which would be beneficial for users to find the books using keywords. Home screen displays three other useful categories which would show featured, user downloaded and latest books from the library.
 

Main page

Main page view


 

The user interaction of the application is practically standard which assures our users an easy navigating system. We had options on how to access the library online via “pustakalaya.org”, offline via school server  and some other internet protocols which could server the library content. Now, there is one more easy option added to the list.

 

Settings

Settings

 

A single banook selected can show you important details including name of the book, author’s name, book size (units referring memory size for storage), brief summary about the book, etc. A download button is shown if the book is not already downloaded, else option to open or delete the book are shown.

 

Book Details

Book Details Section

Thanks to all our OLE Nepal team who helped us test it, by allowing to install the application on their devices and to spot any bugs. Moreover, there were many fixes and improvements during the testing phase which made the app more mature in compare to other android applications on the galaxy of Google play store.

There are plans to upgrade our app with more interesting features in coming days. Do explore our “E-Pustakalaya” app and give us feedback on interesting features that can be added to the application.

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Connecting local writers to read-aloud books

January 20th, 2015 By: Sawal Acharya · 1 Comment

Children enjoy listening to stories. During our childhood, we remember asking our parents, grandparents or anyone elder to us, for amusing and interesting stories, simply because we enjoyed immersing ourselves in the world of fantasy. Besides providing pleasure, hearing stories has several benefits. It stimulates children’s minds, cultivates reading habits and increases their ability to think creatively. Despite being advantageous and captivating, new read-aloud stories are largely absent in our society. Younger people are still hearing tales, such as Kharayo ra Kachhuwa, Singha ra Musa, Dhukur ra Kamila, Kalu ra Bheda, which are marvelous but old. We can clearly feel the lack of new creations. Thus, with the aim of increasing the number of read-aloud stories and encouraging authors to write more of such stories, OLE Nepal has been conducting writers workshops. This sort of workshop had been conducted in Butwal, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Chitwan last year.

Participants were all from Nepali literature background. However, they weren’t well-versed in writing stories for children. Their target audiences were mostly adults. Hence, to make the participants understand the philosophies of writing children books, we initiated our workshop with significant presentations which eventually led to concentration on the writing styles.

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During the workshops, the brainstorming session was an interesting part where the participants had to think about the plot of their stories. To make this activity more enjoyable, we urged the participants to reflect on their own childhood experiences, identify subjects they found entertaining and base their stories on such subjects. Once the stories were completed, our team of experts along with the participants organized group discussions to evaluate the first drafts. The feedbacks and suggestions that emerged from the discussions helped in re-writing the stories. This cycle of evaluation and revision went until the best piece of work was produced. By the end of this session, we were able to produce new revised stories.

To make these narratives more engaging and imaginative, OLE Nepal will give relevant pictures to the stories making them visually appealing. Once the illustration is complete, the stories will be edited and published through our E-Pustakalaya.

 Challenges were expected. And, most of them arose from the fact that the writers were not used to children’s writing styles. It was hard to make authors write stories that touched the themes of fantasy, adventure and likewise. They mostly wrote about themes that were realistic and inclined towards giving some serious morals of life which is not really expected from story books for children. It was also challenging to make them write short stories as they were used to writing lengthy books. Furthermore, many of them wrote on a poetic prose rather than the preferred narrative prose. Nevertheless, through the dedicated efforts of OLE Nepal and our team of experts, we were able to conduct the workshop successfully. The program was highly fruitful in terms of encouraging the participants in writing more for children.

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Given their engaging potential and intellectual benefits, stories greatly improve learning experiences of young children. For OLE Nepal, which is dedicated to enhance primary level education, collection of stories provide children with wonderful options to choose from. Likewise, it will serve as another fitting medium to increase the collection of learning resources for children in our E-Pustakalaya. We eagerly look forward to organizing similar events in near future.

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Preparing XO-4 Laptops For Bajhang Phase II

January 9th, 2015 By: Peter Kayastha · No Comments

I enjoy watching Factory Made. I have always been keen in understanding and knowing the effort behind creation of products I use. They fascinate me. I got a chance to understand  similar creation of a product at OLE Nepal. It was to test 53 boxes of newly arrived XO-4 laptops.

It all started with an email about arrival of laptops from Mr. Upaya, our finance director at OLE Nepal stating “We are expecting 53 boxes of XO-4 laptops to be delivered probably today.” All the interns were invited to check external damage in XOs as well as to store them in a safe place. I found this to be a great activity in my learning process and skill development as an intern. Also, it gave me chance to know the laptops inside out.

 Exploring the product such as XO laptop was an extraordinary duty, for we do not easily get this opportunity. We interns got to delve into this system and prepare them for the Bajhang deployment. I feel content to realize our contribution in this process, giving students an access to digital educational resources. Saugat, Sawal and myself were assigned to test XOs’ basic hardware and update operation systems. Checking 53 boxes of XO laptops seemed never ending, but eventually it became interesting for us. Initially, we divided our work. Me and Sawal decided to unpack the boxes and test the laptops while Saugat primarily checked the charging ports of laptops along with its charger and cable. As a result of our team effort, the boxes that once seemed never ending were being tested and packed in no time.

“Damn” shouted Saugat grabbing our attention, “I just got an electric shock.” It was the first defect detected during  our testing process. This event broke the silence in the room and we started talking about childhood mishaps with  electricity. I did not have any similar story to share but was listening to their stories with great interest.

After one and half days of work, we completed checking 31 boxes of laptops leaving only 22 boxes of XOs. This time around, we could not resist but to take it easy. Sawal discovered a print mistake in keyboard. MAYOS. We figured the word was Shift in Spanish. There is a saying “If you find two mistakes in a row, you are likely to find the third one.”  Continuing our last few boxes, I finally got my share of errors. It was a non functional screen rotate key. Therefore, all faulty machines were separated in a box and we gradually ended our testing activity.

C:\Users\Kayastha\Desktop\OLE copy.jpg

Apart from checking the defects in the laptops, we also upgraded the operating system of the XOs for deployment. After the upgrade, operating system now provides Nepali interface along with E-paath and other necessary activities in the laptops. Initially, we interns were upgrading the XOs and eventually new volunteers for Bajhang also assisted us making it a good team effort. With helping hands, we successfully updated operating system of 260 laptops in one and half day, fully preparing the XOs for deployment.

Now these XOs are on their way to the schools and I cannot wait and see students using these laptops in my next visit to Bajhang.

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