Transforming learning one lesson at a time

For this teacher in Baitadi, a laptop is more valuable than gold!!

By, Kalpana Rimal (Trainer) & Anjana Shrestha (Teaching Resident)

Ms. Indra Pokharel, a math teacher at Saraswati Primary School in Maharudra, was one of the 26 participants at the training held in Patan, Baitadi on September 14-20, 2016. The trainers were pleasantly surprised when she arrived at the training carrying her own laptop, although it was not a requirement. When Indra learned that her school was selected for the digital literacy program, she acquired a laptop through the generosity of her brother, who had initially wanted to buy her gold jewelry. Indra insisted that he buy her a laptop instead of the gold jewelry.

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Indra Pokharel conducting a practice class at initial teacher training in September 2016.

But it was not just the laptop that made her stand out in the group. She was eager to absorb everything she could and was always the first one present at the training hall in the morning. She was an active participant in group discussions, and raised many pertinent questions on student management and computer-enabled teaching strategies. She was a quick learner, and prepared the integrated lesson plans very well. She was keen to learn about digital educational content, E-Paath, and spent a lot of time exploring books that she had always wanted to read on the digital library, E-Pustakalaya. By the third day of training, she was doing everything on her own with ease.

During the closing session, Indra shared that she had learned more than just the computer basics, but had gained the skills to plan and deliver computer-enabled lessons in her classes. She added that these enhanced lessons will develop her students well and make them as competent as students who have easy access to libraries and online content in the urban areas.             

It is always a big challenge even for experienced and motivated teachers to shift from traditional pedagogical methodologies to the ICT-enabled teaching-learning approach. It demands a lot of time and effort to make that shift in an effective manner.  The main objective of the training was to provide teachers with a better understanding of how ICT can be used to enhance teaching and learning process. The case of Indra shows that the enthusiasm in teachers towards ICT in education and their commitment to apply it in teaching can improve quality of education in schools of remote areas.

About 2-3 months after the initial training, OLE Nepal’s trainers visit the schools for the in-school training whereby they spend two days at each school to observe laptop-integrated classes, provide feedback, answer questions, hold discussions with teachers and meet with parents and community members. Our training team was eager to find out how Indra was doing when they visited Saraswoti Primary School on December 20-21. That day, Indra was teaching addition of fractions in grade 5.

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Indra Pokharel explaining the concept of addition of fractions to Grade 5 students, before they start activities on laptops, in December 2016.

Indra followed her lesson plan and started by explaining the concept on the whiteboard, and then explained the method of simplification. She had the students do a small pop quiz before having the students explore the concept through the digital activity in the laptops. She walked around checking how the students were doing, and helped students who were stuck and answered questions from them. She then completed the class by summarizing the day’s lesson and had students answer questions related to fraction addition.

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Indra conducting laptop integrated class during in-school training.

During discussions, other teachers mentioned that as focal teacher, Indra was always helpful when they faced issues in laptop-integrated classes. Since E-Paath has been installed in her personal laptop, she goes through the digital activities regularly to prepare her lesson plans at home. In addition to encouraging students to read books and other resources on the offline digital library that OLE Nepal has installed in her school, she herself accesses E-Pustakalaya regularly to read books and materials on professional development. She found these materials of great help in her preparation for the upcoming civil service examinations.

Teachers are the key to bringing positive change in the classrooms by molding young minds into critical thinkers and learners. At OLE Nepal, we work with teachers in remote areas to equip them with quality resources and strengthen their capacities so that children are provided a meaningful and fun learning experience. We are encouraged by teachers like Indra who show that it is possible to transform learning in rural classrooms one lesson at a time.

Fundraisers 2016!

OLE Nepal is grateful to friends and well-wishers who have supported our efforts to provide access to quality education to children in remote parts of Nepal. Their support have been critical in raising funds to buy durable laptops that we have been deploying to schools in Bajhang and Baitadi districts.


OLE Nepal Benefit Luncheon 2016  

SelectedRam Khattri Chettri and Karen James hosted the annual OLE Nepal Benefit Event at their home in Middlebury, Indiana on November 12, 2016. As in previous years, the communities of Middlebury and neighboring Goshen came together and contributed generously towards our cause. The event raised over 20,000 USD for laptops for children in far west Nepal. Their generous donation will go a long way in helping us reach hundreds of students in remote schools of Nepal. Thank you Ram and Karen for your continuous support!


Sushma’s 100 Miles for 100s of Smiles

On December 10, Sushma KC Manandhar ran 100 miles (160 km) at the  Daytona 100 Ultramarathon  to raise funds for the children of far-western Nepal. Sushma dedicated this amazing feat to something that is close to her heart – quality education. “The DAYTONA 100 course is North Florida’s first point-to-point ultramarathon, spanning over a dozen cities, four counties, and stretching from Atlantic Beach (Jacksonville area) 100 miles south to Ponce Inlet, a gem of a town located on the southern tip of a secluded peninsula, just 10 miles south of Daytona.”

Sushma collage

Photo Courtesy: Heather Davenport/Ignite Health and Fitness

OLE Nepal would like to congratulate Sushma for completing the Daytona 100 and thank her for dedicating the run for children of Nepal. Her campaign has helped raise over 3,000 USD for laptops for children in far western Nepal.


School Life in Baitadi : A Photo Story

By, Shishir Pandey (Program Coordinator) & Anjana Shrestha  (Teaching Resident)

A aphoto story about daily school life of students at our program schools in Baitadi, as captured through the lenses of our team of trainers during the in-school training program. Two teams travelled to 15 schools spread across the district. We’ve selected a few photos from a 21-day field visit in December 2016.

 

 

 

Right: Most of the program schools do not have access to the road. Getting to all the schools meant walking anywhere between 3 to 7 hours, mostly on rough mountains trails.


Morning Assembly at Gopanchal Primary School, Jhusil

Morning Assembly at Gopanchal Primary School, Jhusil

At the morning assembly, students are lined up by their grade, as the teacher holds up a megaphone mic to the E-Paati laptop speaker to play the National Anthem of Nepal streamed from the digital library E-Pustakalaya.


 

It is cold indoors… let’s study outside in the sun.

Cold weather and inadequate indoor lighting urges the teacher, Mr. Krishna Bahadur Chand, to take his grade 2 students outside. Sitting on stones, class is resumed under the warmth of the winter sun.

Cold weather and inadequate indoor lighting urges the teacher, Mr. Krishna Bahadur Chand, to take his grade 2 students outside. Sitting on stones, class is resumed under the warmth of the winter sun.


 

Grade 4 students learning math on laptops

Teacher from Netra Jyoti Primary School, Melauli, teaching her students through E-Paati laptop. According to her, the best part of teaching through E-Paati is that it allows each students to learn at their own pace.

Teacher from Netra Jyoti Primary School, Melauli, teaching her students through E-Paati laptop. According to her, the best part of teaching through E-Paati is that it allows each students to learn at their own pace.


Laptop Integrated class in Janachetna Primary School, Gangapur

Students were will into their second month of E-Paati/laptop-integrated classes in this school

Students were in their third week of E-Paati/laptop-integrated classes in this school


 

In-School Training : Observing E-Paati Class

OLE Nepal’s Senior Training Manager, Tika Raj Karki, observing laptop integrated class at Nanigad Primary School in Nagarjun. Trainers from OLE Nepal visited each program school to observe and provide feedback regarding their integration of digital content.

OLE Nepal’s Senior Training Manager, Tika Raj Karki, observing laptop integrated class at Nanigad Primary School in Nagarjun. Trainers from OLE Nepal visited each program school to observe and provide feedback regarding their integration of digital content.


 

WASH your hands before you eat!

Students at Singapur Primary School, Sungada washing their hands before eating. Along with the School Meal Program, UN World Food Programme is also running WASH Program in most of the schools in far-western districts, including Baitadi.

Students at Singapur Primary School, Sungada washing their hands before eating. Along with the School Meal Program, UN World Food Programme is also running WASH Program in most of the schools in far-western districts, including Baitadi.


 

Lunch Time

Students enjoying their plate of nutritious ‘suji’. UN World Food Programme provides school meals to remote schools across the far-west region of Nepal under their “Food For Education” program.

Students enjoying their plate of nutritious ‘suji’. UN World Food Programme provides school meals to remote schools across the far-west region of Nepal under their “Food For Education” program.


 

Back to class

After the healthy lunch, students are happy to go back to learning new things.

After the healthy lunch, students are happy to go back to learning new things.


 

One laptop per child

Students learn best, when they learn at their own pace .

Students learn best, when they learn at their own pace .


 

Community Interaction Meeting at Nagarchan Primary School, Mahakali

After the training, our team also conducted community interaction meetings at each school. These meetings were a very good opportunity  to understand community involvement in the program. Members representing School Management Committee (SMC) and Parent Teacher Assoc iation (PTA) also attended the meeting

After the training, our team also conducted community interaction meetings at each school. These meetings were a very good opportunity to understand community involvement in the program. Members representing School Management Committee (SMC) and Parent Teacher Assoc iation (PTA) also attended the meeting


 

Padai Mela (Education Fair) at Chamalpur Primary School, Balara 

OLE Nepal’s Senior Training Manager, Tika Raj Karki, explaining about the laptop program with members of the Balara community at the school’s education fair.

OLE Nepal’s Senior Training Manager, Tika Raj Karki, explaining about the laptop program with members of the Balara community at the school’s education fair.


 

School building design endorsed by DUDBC

One of OLE Nepal current projects is the reconstruction of 5 schools in Gorkha, that were damaged during the April 2015 earthquake. After site selections, community interactions, and approval for the project from all district and national level authorities, the building designs were prepared and finalised.

OLE Nepal’s Gorkha Schools Reconstruction Project’s structural design was then approved by the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC), meeting all the building codes for safe school construction. DUDBC has also endorsed the design to the Department of Education. Now, Nepal’s Central Level Project Implementation Unit (CLPIU) and the Ministry of Education (MoE) own the school designs, and any organisation interested in school construction are able to use the building design. The school reconstruction project designs can be accessed HERE

E-Paath & E-Pustakalaya on Department of Education’s Notice to Schools

 Newspaper Announcement

Nepal’s Department of Education (DoE), under the direction of Nepal’s Ministry of Education (MoE), publishes national education related news, notices and all important information on the national newspaper, Gorkhapatra, as a means to disseminate information to the District Education Offices, resource centers and schools, as well as students and teachers, across Nepal. On November 16, 2016, Nepal’s Department of Education published a notice to all ‘students, teachers, schools and District Education Offices’ of Nepal endorsing OLE Nepal’s digital content — E-Paath, and digital library — E-Pustakalaya. The notice urged all parties addressed to commence the use of all interactive digital content created and curated by OLE Nepal, in partnership with Nepal’s Department of Education, Curriculum Development Center (CDC), and National Center for Education Development (NCED), by visiting the digital library website at www.pustakalaya.org.Newspaper all

Volunteer Spotlight: Prajna Ho

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANamaste! This is Prajna, from Hong Kong. I would like to thank OLE Nepal for giving me the chance to assist in the quality education in digital learning advocacy efforts. After having a week service trip in Nepal last year, the profound experience had triggered my motives and ideas to support the development of children’s education in the region, therefore, I designed another visit to Nepal after my graduation and before taking any full-time work, as my graduation project.

With the specific concern of the quality of education, I had been thinking of any social projects that can be facilitated for creating a better learning environment in Nepal. Having observed the major differences of education received in developing and developed regions, I would like to say that the accessibility to the Internet and quality content have largely determined the level of empowerment of one’s self-learning. The idea of donating laptops has come to my mind and that had motivated me to support Open Learning Exchange Nepal (OLE Nepal) who has been working on this social cause.

Before leaving Hong Kong for Nepal, I received an introduction of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project by the board member of OLPC Asia, Mr. T. K. Kang. I picked up the whole picture about the structure of OLPC project before my service in OLE Nepal. The pedagogy behind OLPC with the hardware design of XO Laptop plus the open-source Sugar system are appreciated and impressive, enabling children to learn by themselves, applying the concept of “Constructionism”.

Throughout the volunteering period, my service duty was mainly on Communications and Social Media. Thankfully I got the chance working on a strategic design of the social media and communication plan with the Communication Officer, Trishala and some more colleagues. I was also working on the implementation of content writing and media curation for advocating the E-Pustakalaya (E-Library in English) to the local community.

E-Pustakalaya is an education-focused, open-sourced, interactive digital library for all Nepali & English readers. The development of E-Pustakalaya follows a philosophy that provides quality education in Nepal through creating an interactive learning platform for users while collecting learning sources from widely-recognized institutions from the local and international community.

Definitely, the provision of digital library has given children new forms of learning, while both teachers and parents are able to access the resources without spending a penny for the quality teaching content and facilitation of interactive education. I appreciate that OLE Nepal is acting as a manager to manage the all-rounded learning experience for young learners in Nepal, supporting digital content creation – designed based on the national curriculum, platform management and teaching training. I see the existing and potential impact of this organization’s work in the country.

Having accessed to the Google analytics of the several websites, I was surprised to know the online library has been used by Nepalese and English readers from all over the world, users covering different continents.

I am glad that I could present in a meeting about an international-scaled fund deployment, it has enabled me to understand more about the NGO landscape and fund-raising considerations from the project donors. Funding is the important element to sustain the operations of most of the social projects which bring long-term social benefits.

Of course, self-initiation had a positive impact to my service experience. Proactive learning has brought me much more exposures, such as visiting the annual Kathmandu book fair and local community library.

After the period of mutual understanding and interactions, I found the colleagues in OLE Nepal are competitive and collaborative. They are open-minded and proactive to understand my observations of what I had been witnessing in those few weeks and what OLE Nepal has been working on.

The organizational culture is amazing; the management is generally much similar as the western-style. It seems voices from every co-worker can be respected and concerned. The hierarchy is not apparent; the culture is unexpectedly open. Employees are autonomous, independent and are strong team-players. I witnessed the systematic style in their collaboration, not only by the interactive and transparent communication tool but also the progress monitoring system across departments. I appreciate the work-life balance the colleagues have achieved since I presented at their birthday party for their colleague, as well as some after-work chill out and site visits.

13600164_10154240367830822_2699364360632631745_nA Chinese saying goes: “Never reject anything virtuous for its pettiness”. Truly, what I have realized from the experience is that: when you come across the right thing happening in front of you, no matter how big or how small that you think your impact can be, go and follow what is right and support the happenings rightly.

I would like to hereby thank all colleagues in OLE Nepal for facilitating my learning and showing your hospitality to me. The road to the mission is long, tough and full of obstacles. I deeply appreciate their hearts and commitments to work for some positive impact to the community. Their passion has led the OLPC project pass through milestones in the past decade and will continue in Nepal for many more.

Dhan’yavāda.

Bringing Raspberry Pi to classrooms

There is so much going on in technology these days. Technology has brought unprecedented changes in our daily life, retooling the way we communicate, the way we shop, the way we make our living and more. The things that were considered as science-fiction a few years ago, is now a real thing. But, compare the classrooms back in the 90s and now, do you see any change? For the major part, it’s more or less the same. It’s a no-brainer that we have been scared to adopt new technology to our classrooms. It is said that Socrates was scared of this new technology called “writing” which he thought would erode the memorizing power of human. There was a time when people were intimidated by the use of the calculator in the class, for it may jeopardize the calculating power of the human brain. Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the fact of how technology can be leveraged to extend the knowledge imparting process, for education today is not about what-you-know, but what you can do with  what-you-know. With growing MOOCs and learning materials available over the Internet, that are not only adding the new dimension in learning today, but also making the learning process more fun. Also, the students today are more adept in using technology, so taking technology out of the learning equation would be alienating the student of their abilities.

At OLE Nepal, we strive to bring the best new technology to our classrooms. It’s never easy to embrace a new piece of technology, for teachers are resistant to the change, with factors like power cuts and budget making up a huge share of challenge. So we set our selection of the technology based on the 3 prime constraints; low-powered, portable, and low cost. And for these traits, Raspberry Pi steps up as the knight in shining armor.

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Computer setup with RPi image source

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           [ image source]

Produced in Cambridge, Raspberry Pi primarily designed to demystify the technology in the classrooms for the learners, is a credit-card sized computer that costs only $35. The device plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. You can use this mini computer just like you would your desktop computer to do everything from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, or playing games.

How is OLE Nepal using Raspberry Pi?

Mountain View

Typical E-Pustakalaya lab setup

Predominantly we build Pustakalaya Server, which is typically a mini PC, hosting educational contents major section which is the E-Pustakalaya, which is digital library of more than 7000+ books of different genre build on the FEDORA (or Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture) digital asset management (DAM) architecture upon which institutional repositories, digital archives, and digital library systems are built. We also have added to it our home-brewed, curriculum-based interactive teaching material; E-Paath, off-line Khan Academy videos, Open-street map, Nepali Sabdakosh, PheT simulations and much more, with a regular update to books and educational content. Basically, Pustakalaya Server is the offline version of the pustakalaya.org. It’s more like bringing the Internet to your classroom.

pustakalaya-network-with-raspberry-pi

After successful implementation of the XO and desktops computer as the client machine, Raspberry Pi, with its amazing community, is a pertinent technology to bring in our classrooms. We have been tinkering the popular Debian-based Linux-distro, Ubuntu-Mate. With its active popular community, it is best OS to our option. We have preloaded E-Paath content into the OS itself. Since most of the activities in our E-Paath are currently flash based; flash support was an important feature to have in the OS. Debian-based OS have much better flash support, it was another reason why Ubuntu-Mate was used. We also have loaded BalPaathmala, which is a small repository of the books, into the OS hosted on Apache web server.  We have been customizing the OS to make it more educational with the interactive games. Our work so far is just a tip of an iceberg.

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Class 7-8 EPaath interface

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Raspberry Pi Desktop

 

 

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Pustakalaya Interface

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EPaath Interface

Some of the features we are currently working on:

  1. Synchronization with Server.
  2. Student activity statistics collection in Server.
  3. Auto-running mount scripts.
  4. Using docker or lxc containers for  the installation and upgrades.

Where is this being implemented?

We have initiated a pilot program at Gorakhnath Secondary School, Kirtipur where 18 Raspberry Pi with preloaded educational content was deployed. It was a challenging experience as it was a-first-of-its-kind of deployment for us. We had a 5-day training for the teachers about pedagogy as well as the technical aspects of using the Raspberry Pi in the classroom. The primary purpose of the training was to inculcate, amongst the teachers, a culture of referring to additional reference materials. Looking at the excitement of the teachers, its just seems that ‘direction’ and ‘training’ were what was stopping technology from getting into their classrooms. We also installed the battery backup system for an uninterrupted flux of the lab. We are regularly providing technical support for the class as this is a pilot project for us.

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Raspberry Pi Lab Setup

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Students taking EPaath Class