OLE Nepal’s venture into open sourcing E-Paath(2-6)

OLE Nepal’s pursuit of digitizing educational material up to grade 10 recently reached a major milestone as we completed the development of content for grade-8. Although this is quite the achievement, computer technology is such an ever evolving field that the content developed for grade 2 to grade 6-using flash- have become technologically outdated. Consequently OLE Nepal in our endeavor of improving education through computer science decided to make our code base for grade 7-8, developed using HTML5, JS and CSS, open source and involve the students, in various fields of computer science, into our project to redevelop the content for grade 2-6.

The college we have currently approached and have started working with, to a certain extent, are:

  1. Thames College(10-15 students) ashish
  2. Apex College(10-15 students)
  3. Pulchowk Campus(10-15 students)
  4. Kathmandu University(10-12 students)

We are also looking into other possible colleges to collaborate with.

So far the response from the colleges and the number of students interested in being involved with our project has been very encouraging. Thames college, so far has been very proactive and we have already had multiple workshops with their students where we introduced them to the various programming approaches, good programming habits and libraries used in our project. Currently they are busy appearing their board exams however as soon as they will be done with their exams we will move into the next phase of our collaboration with them where they will develop the content of E-Paath for grade 2-6.
On a more personal note is was very interesting to see a good number of female students interested in our project. Female participation is something the field of Computer Science has not been able to attract for the longest time but the current bulk of female students pursuing a degree in Computer Science/Engineering seem intent on breaking the trend of male dominance in our field and bring some fresh perspective that can reinvigorate the existing crop of people in the technical sphere. It was very encouraging to meet the IT club of Apex college, where both the Chairperson and Secretary were female and their group had a good bulk of female participants.The other group that I was really impressed by were the students from Kathmandu University. These students took the initiative and approached us on their own and their group visited our office for the workshops all the way from Dhulikhel which had me in awe because personally, I was never as resourceful as this bunch during my college days. Their active participation and desire to better themselves by going beyond their prescribed syllabus is indicative of their pro-activeness.
We intend to have at least two workshops in each college so that the experience of the students in transitioning from a college environment to the sphere of IT professionals-open source contributors-is as smooth as we can possibly make.
Finally, we at OLE Nepal are very positive with the amount of progress we have made with integrating the colleges into our E-Paath 2-6 project and feel that the approach we are taking has the potential to be a mutually beneficial venture where the ultimate beneficiary will be the students seeking quality education in various parts of our country.

Training Manual Preparation Workshop

OLE Nepal organized a three day workshop on December 23-25, 2008 to prepare the teacher training manual for the next round of OLPC laptop deployment planned for April 2009. The workshop participants included experts from the National Center for Education Development (NCED) – Nepal Government’s teacher training body under the Ministry of Education, as well as officials from the Department of Education (DoE)’s OLPC team. Teachers from the two test schools – Bashuki Lower Secondary School and Vishwamitra Ganesh Secondary School – were also invited for a day to share their experience on using , shed light on the challenges faced so far, and give suggestions on how the training program can be made more effective and relevant in integrating the laptops and ICT-based teaching-learning method in their classrooms. Earlier on December 15th, few of the participants had also visited the two test schools to observe how the program was being implemented in the classrooms.

The OLPC Project in Nepal will enter its second phase when the next school session begins in April, 2009. In the second phase, OLE Nepal, in partnership with the DoE, plans to expand the project to more than 20 schools in at least 5 different districts in the country. While OLE Nepal was able to train the teachers from the two test schools for the current deployment, it would be nearly impossible to train teachers in 5 districts scattered all over Nepal without NCED’s involvement. Moreover, since teachers have barely 3 weeks of break between two school sessions, the training programs have to be run in parallel in various places. With NCED’s involvement, not only can the trainings be conducted in parallel, but the project can utilize NCED’s training resources and infrastructure that are located all over the country. Following NCED’s training modality, one of its Master Trainer will be prepared on ICT-based education approach. The Master Trainer will then train other trainers from Education Training Centers (ETC) located in or near the pilot districts. These trainers will in turn be responsible for training pilot-school teachers ahead of the April 2009 deployment. However, before all of this, the teacher-training manual as well as the trainer-training manual need to be prepared.

The goal of the workshop was to prepare the framework that can be used as the base to create the teacher training manual. In addition to the valuable feedback received from the test-school teachers, the participants had last year’s training manual that OLE Nepal had prepared to train those teachers. The first day of the workshop was allocated for needs assessment. After a brief discussion on the points gathered from the school visits, teachers from the test schools answered queries that the participants had about various aspects of the test-phase implementation at the schools. Later on, participants and teachers mixed up in smaller groups and asked to make a list of suggestions that could to be incorporated in the new training package. The groups discussed about a wide range of topics including classroom arrangement, IT literacy, use of laptops in the classroom, classroom management, maximizing use of laptops at homes, non-technical issues and their solutions, parents and community orientation, etc. Suggestions from the groups were later incorporated into a comprehensive list that was used to prepare the framework for the manual.

Participants were given first half of the second day to review the existing manual, and the afternoon session began with participants expressing their views on the strengths and weaknesses of the manual. After much discussion, it was decided that the new manual should conform to NCED’s standard format so that its trainers can use it with ease during training. The training structure was kept similar to that of last year – 5 days of residential training followed by 3 days of on-site training. The teachers will be given at least few days’ time between the residential training and the on-site training in order to organize orientation programs for parents, communities and local stakeholders in each pilot-school area. This time will also be used by teachers to get familiar with laptops and raise their comfort level in using them.

Once the structure and outline of the training manual were finalized, the participants broke into four groups and set out to preparing the manual based on suggestions from Day 1, materials from the current manual, and other points that came out of the discussions. At the end of the workshop, a solid framework for the manual was prepared. It was decided that the OLE Nepal team will complete the the remaining task of filling up various portions of the manual.

In the next couple weeks, OLE Nepal team will work to complete the first draft of the manual. It will then be circulated amongst the participants of the workshop for a review before completing the final draft. The team is scheduled to complete the manual by the first week of February. That will give enough time to prepare a trainers manual and start working with a Master Trainer from the NCED. The teacher training program will take place between the third week of March and first week of April.

This workshop marked a major milestone in OLE Nepal’s effort to bring various government agencies on board the OLPC project. From its inception more than a year and a half ago, OLE Nepal has always held on to the belief that the project will fall short of its goal to reach all corners of the nation unless the government agrees to incorporate the OLPC initiative in its overall education plans and policy. With NCED’s involvement, the project can now benefit from a pool of experts who have in-depth knowledge of the country’s education system, as well as utilize existing training infrastructure to carry out the training programs. At the same time the partnership will help build the capacity of NCED’s trainers in the preparation and delivery of training programs on integrating laptops and ICT-based teaching-learning methods in classrooms.

During the course of the workshop, Executive Director of NCED Mr. Harka Bahadur Shrestha, Director of DoE Mr. Bishnu Devkota, and Deputy Director of DoE Mr. Baburam Poudel paid a visit to get an update on the workshop progress. While all three threw their support behind the project and expressed satisfaction over the ongoing work, it was particularly encouraging to hear the head of NCED Mr. Shrestha say that he wants to see this manual become NCED’s standard training manual on ICT-based education. He further stated that the training program should be turned into one of the standard training programs that NCED offers to public school teachers all over the country.