Philip Tan’s Class on Game Design during Summer 2020

By Regan Maharjan, Lead Developer at OLE Nepal | September 2020

At OLE Nepal, we have over a decade worth of experience in the design and development of interactive educational materials. To take interactive learning to the next level, we started exploring and experimenting with building educational games for middle school with the pK-12 Education Innovation grant from Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the last sixteen months, we have worked with MIT faculty, researchers, and students on game design, and even showcased our work at the J-WEL week held at MIT on October 28-31, 2019. Every step in this collaboration has been a great learning experience for the team at OLE Nepal. One of the highlights of this collaboration has been this incredible opportunity we had to learn about game design and development from the Creative Director of MIT Game Lab, Philip Tan. During this 12-week week-long course, we not only learned a lot about various techniques, methods, and aesthetics, but we worked under Philip’s mentorship to develop new games. Here is an overview of what we covered in this course.

Game Design:

‘Game design’ is the process of creating the content and rules of a game. ‘Good’ game design is the process of creating goals that a player feels motivated to reach and rules that a player must follow as he makes meaningful decisions in pursuit of those goals. From the player’s viewpoint, there are wonderments like ‘how to play the game’, ‘how to win the game’, or even ‘why are we playing the game’, ‘what are the things do we need to do while playing the game’, or basically ‘what is the game about’? We can also call it “Creating opportunities for players to make meaningful decisions that affect the outcome of the game“. Game design massively depends on three main things: 

  1. Game Dynamics: Game Dynamics is a collective experience or basically what are we doing to win the game or progress in the game. It could be selecting a function or changing variables. In the chess game, Dynamic could be capturing the king. Dynamic is not a goal, not objective, not any rule it is what players are trying to do, what experience they are having.
  2. Game Mechanics: Getting involved in different game mechanics make the core dynamic of the game and the feels that mechanics contribute a lot to the Aesthetic of the game. 
  3. Game Aesthetics: Aesthetic here is the feeling that we want to give to the user, it is more emotional and depends from person to person. The best way to get the correct aesthetic is by testing the game with the players. The aesthetic is something we sit back and look at. Chess aesthetics could be outsmarting opponents. 

There are different aesthetics:

  • System Aesthetic (Rules of the games)
  • Style Aesthetic (User Interface, Feedback systems, Sound Effects)
  • Fiction Aesthetic (World and Level Abilities, Feel of the game, theme, setting, plot)

Learning games are not just some other games, we need to be precise with the learning materials and everything that we want to express to the user. That is why we need to be more specific while designing learning games. Trial and error are good for science but might not be the same for maths. That is why being clear on game mechanics and game dynamics could be the starting point of the game design. And the best way of improving game design is by real-time testing with the players themselves. To test and iterate the core of games i.e, dynamic and mechanics, the best communication tool for specific information of the game is Paper Prototyping. 

Paper Prototyping: 

Paper Prototyping is the best way to test and iteration the core game design. We can directly get real-time feedback if the game is being as effective or not. We can use: 

  • Big Sheets of paper
  • Index Cards
  • Dice
  • Posit glue and notepads
  • Pencils, pens, markers, scissors, tape
  • Game bits, small toys, kindergarten counters
  • Photocopier, Mobile Phone Camera

It is best if we keep it rough, hand-drawn, sketchy, big, and only single ink color. This would mainly aid with the psychology of the player who will be playing the paper prototypes because they will feel free since there is very less work that we have put in it. They won’t hesitate to play at all. The best way to keep track of tools and records are: 

  • Writing rules on cards
  • Being Specific helps a lot
  • Periodically taking photographs
  • Rapid Designing

The main advantage with paper prototyping is being not hesitant to any number of changes as required after collecting necessary information from the playtesting. If we are setting urgency factor into the game then tuning it to the right amount, if we have orders of play then we can mess around while testing if we are associating certain power to certain characters then amend or change. Paper prototyping helps us to unlearn and reconstruct our game from the zero as well. While building learning games we can communicate with content experts and teachers while also letting them play the paper prototype. 

We need to collect the following things from the playtesters: 

  • Watching people play games
  • Writing down their experiences eg. bored, excited, focused, etc.

Starting game designs:

We started with three game designs so that we could be mentored by Philip along the journey. The three games were: 

1. Climate Change: The climate change game challenges players to maintain a sound balance between economic growth and pollution in a town. 

Core Dynamic: Make necessary choices to keep the money and pollution in check.

Mechanics: Set up factories to earn money, Upgrade the factory from coal-based to electricity-based, Buy vehicles, Upgrade vehicles to electric, Plant trees

Aesthetic: It gives the feeling that you are the manager/ mayor of the town.

2. Fishing Game: Fishing Game is a relaxing fishing video game where players use the mouse on PC or touch on mobile to control the fishing line to catch fish and subsequently learn about the fishes that they’ve caught.

Core Dynamic: The player uses motion (mouse in pc / touch in mobile) to control the fishing line to catch fish.

Mechanics: Choosing a bait, Casting the fishing line, movement of the cursor to control the fishing line/ hook, catching fish

Aesthetics: Fishing in a port with seagulls squawking on a sunny day. Fishing at dusk with a sense of calmness with the setting sun as a backdrop. Deep-Sea Diving.

3. Adventures in cell: The game is about fixing different ill cases of the cell. 

Core Dynamic: The Player wanders around the different cell organelles.

Mechanics: Moving in Cytoplasm, Following instructions, Collection and completing the mission

Aesthetics: Feeling like an adventurous tour of a Cell

While we shared these game ideas alongside its mechanics, dynamic, and aesthetics, Philip suggested that game balance could be tricky in the Climate Change game as it has many constraints and things to consider. The player tries to make a lot of money even though it is about balancing economy and pollution which is the real-world simulation and that is good. We discussed that maybe if someone doesn’t obey the policies then we could get them sanctioned. For the fish game, we were suggested that the type of food should be a mechanic so that it could give the player the sense that different fish associated with different bait/ food can add a learning value to the game. There was nothing much to discuss in the cell game.

We discussed game balance and furthermore on the Paper Prototyping so that we could do paper prototyping more efficiently. The following points were noted: 

  • Don’t ask if the game is good
  • We should be asking basic questions
  • We should check if game mechanics make sense, basic functionalities make sense and if rules are balanced
  • We should ask the player to vocalize what they are thinking or feeling
  • We should not let the player outsmart the computer and in this case, we are the computers
  • We can go for deep prototypes with more details
  • The facilitator helps to explain the rules 
  • We should keep in mind that the playtest does not test the players rather it tests the game
  • We want the players to feel creative and playful, that’s the mindset we want in the players that are doing the playtest
  • Thank people for the time
  • Give them candy, make them feel appreciated

As the game climate change faced the challenges in Paper Prototyping, Digital prototyping can also be done. And with digital prototyping we noted the following: 

    • Should be careful about lateness, bugs, syntaxes, etc
    • Issue of the developer not wanting to throw away the code
    • Not necessarily a game engine has to be used
    • We could also do it in spreadsheets, excel sheets, etc.

Usability 

We began our Usability testing classes with Philip introducing a board game called “Paul und der Mond” which was quite interesting for us. He explained how the designs are done; they were so well articulated that everything was right there in the cover itself and how the instructions were so well placed.

Philip explained the usability of the things that there is in our normal daily life. It was mainly regarding how usability plays an important role in the design of basically everything from ‘where we use’, to ‘for what we are using’, to ‘why is it colored the way it is colored’. We talked about how user interface design, user experience design, and overall usability testing matters in game design to create a seamless experience for the player. 

The major things to consider while designing for good usability are: 

  1. Affordances – naturally allowing people to use something correctly
  2. Perceived Affordances – Leveraging previous experiences of our users/ games
  3. Signifiers – the things that let the user know anything we want to know
  4. Constraints – Thing that doesn’t allow the user to do something

He related these things with plants vs zombie game:

Finding and fixing usability problems:

  • Accessibility
  • Usability Testing 
    • Goals 
      • Prescribed tasks
      • Articulated by the player
    • Observe
      • Talk aloud
      • Mouse movements and keystrokes
    • Look for errors
      • Surprise or Confusion?
      • Frustration or Engagement?

Attractive things seem easier to use

If we feel good then we can think more creatively and then perceive that the game is easier to use. We also need to be concerned about color blindness so that we need to use color blindness tools so that there won’t be any usability issues. We did usability testing and then presented it to him. He also shared a VR game of the Cell game he created at MIT. Following are a few screenshots of it.

Types of Errors 

  • Slips – skilled behavior errors
  • Mistakes – Mental model errors

Feedback and Error Recovery 

  • Inform the player that they have made an error
  • Give them tools to recover

Prevention of Errors

  • Constraints!
  • Confirmation
  • Checks

We also needed to consider the prior experience of the students to leverage that experience to make the current experience better or to make the experience familiar. We talked about the role of time pressure in learning games and general games. Cultural associations could also add value to familiarize the game to the player.

After 5 weeks of starting to paper prototype and digital prototype, we also started the actual development in the unity engine to the actual test of the aesthetic side of the game as well. We received a lot of feedback then. We were checking if we were doing usability testing correctly and we could better other aspects of the game designs of the games that we were designing and now developing parallelly. We found out that the game balance could be bettered miles ahead.

After the presentation, we figured out that we should learn more about game balance so that we could actually have better game balance. That is when Philip introduced us to a game designing tool called Loopy. (ncase.me/loopy/v1,.1/)

During the discussion, we also talked about how we should not alter the science in the game just to balance the game so that students won’t be misled to the wrong information.

We proposed Philip to talk a bit more about art style and what kind of art style should be preferred in what kind of learning game since art style is a big part of the Aesthetics of the game. Philip then went on to share other few games he designed and mentored for like GumBeat Gold at Gambit, Woosh at Gambit.

We discussed if making a game 3D would add value in learning or just would add value in overall experience but what he said was mostly 2.5D is better since we have less time to finish a game and we can learn & innovate more. 

Then we went on to discuss more about the use of sound in the games. The most valuable thing that would add value by inculcating sounds are: 

  1. Sound can save animation time if used properly/ Sounds can give more aesthetic value to the game
  2. Implement sounds/ audio from the beginning so that we could actually understand and learn throughout the process while most of the game developers tend to keep it for the last.
  3. We have to play with the frequency/ pitch of the sounds to actually create the aesthetic that we want to create
  4. We can also play with tempo depending upon the scenario of the game if we want the players to be excited or just chilling
  5. We also talked about the tools that are used to edit the sounds like audacity or create the sounds to use FL Studio, sound sources where we can find good sounds

Final presentations: 

On week 12, we shared our final presentation with the final changes that we put in our games at the last session. At this point, we had learnt a lot, and being mentored in each step of the way we felt like all three games turned out pretty good. We still had a lot of feedback from Philip on them.

  1. Cell Game – https://games.olenepal.org/games/cell/
  2. Fishing Game – https://games.olenepal.org/games/fishing/
  3. Climate Game – https://games.olenepal.org/games/climategame/

We also presented a digital prototype of the game called The Elemental Chronicles.

It was an incredible opportunity to be able to attend such a comprehensive session on game design and development. The classes helped enrich my knowledge not only on game design but also on various dimensions of designs such as UI/UX, Usability testing, Visual balance, Sounds, Prototyping, and many more. Despite being contextually implemented in game design, I learned that these variables would fit in every other designing process as well, be it UI/UX design, content design, illustrations, web design, and in many other aspects, these would accurately maintain their relevance. To sum it up, it was an amazing learning experience.

Modifying program activities during the nation-wide lockdown

By Shishir Pandey, Senior Program Officer at OLE Nepal | June 2020

For the program team at OLE Nepal, 2020 was the year we had planned to visit all of our laptop program schools in the far-western region of Nepal to assess their progress and to provide programmatic and technical support. It was also an opportunity for us to meet with new teachers and local educational authorities.

In early January 2020, as the news of the novel coronavirus was spreading, our team had just completed visits to 43 schools in Bajhang. Shortly after that, the government declared that the school year will end earlier, and hence the visits to the remaining schools had to be put on hold.

OLE Nepal launched a COVID-19 information page to inform and educate our users about the virus and the preventative measures as per WHO guidelines. This page was included in our free and open digital library, which has nearly 1,500 visitors per day. 

On March 24, 2020, after the second case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nepal, the government declared a two-week nationwide lockdown as a necessary measure to stop an outbreak. Without much notice, our offices had to be closed for safety, and we started our new work-from-home practice. The initial days were filled with online team meetings to discuss how we can prepare the new school year which was supposed to start in mid-April.

IMMEDIATE RESPONSE FOR EDUCATION

Within the first few days of the lockdown, different groups working in the education sector came together with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST) to discuss possible ways of continuing education while students remained at home. As an immediate response, OLE Nepal provided the links to all our online resources to the Center for Education and Human Resource Development (CHERD), who then published an official notice regarding the availability of digital resources for free, especially for parents, students and teachers. 

After several meetings and discussions with officials, OLE Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with (CHERD) on April 23, 2020, to collaborate to make digital lessons available to students, and immediately provided our complete collection of digital learning content to be uploaded in the CEHRD’s official education portal. OLE Nepal was the first organization to provide learning content to the government for free to share on their platform. 

WORKING AND TEACHER TRAINING FROM HOME

As the nation-wide lockdown was further extended into the new school year session, our training team started coordination with different local and central governmental authorities, as well as different organizations and education groups to explore how we could assist teachers and students who were stuck at home. We also used our social media channels to reach out to the teachers, students and interested groups remotely. 

It is important to note that most private schools in the major cities of Nepal had started online classes, however, most public school students did not have the same resources. In such cases, we found that teachers were taking the lockdown as an opportunity to prepare for when the schools eventually open for regular classes. With many teachers and organizations interested, OLE Nepal’s training team started to conduct virtual orientation and training on digital content, E-Paath, and digital library, E-Pustakalaya.

E-Pustakalaya Online Orientation by Mr. Ganesh Ghimire (OLE Nepal’s E-Pustakalaya Coordinator)

We approached the sessions in a different modality than a usual webinar. Our priority was to encourage hands-on practice and an interactive Q&A session, so we kept the number of participants to a maximum of 25 teachers per session. This allowed our trainers to address the queries of each teacher, without being rushed. The sessions were further divided into two days to ensure that the teacher would have time to go through the contents and come back with any questions that they may have for the trainers. During the two-day sessions, teachers were familiarized with digital content and ways and techniques of using these resources during this lockdown period. 

While some teachers were personally signing up for the training, we also collaborated with different organizations to reach out to more teachers and schools across the country. We organised separate orientation and training sessions for the teachers from Teachers Association from Bharatpur Municipality, Chitwan; Society of Technology-friendly Teachers in Terhathum; science teachers from Society of Technology-friendly Teachers in Sunsari; and Kehi Garoun (NGO) in Kathmandu. Two full-day teacher training sessions were also organised for 32 teachers from Manakamana Secondary School in Sankhuwasabha. The school was able to conduct the session via Zoom with the OLE Nepal team in Kathmandu, while maintaining physical distancing and safety guidelines. 

Adjusted teacher training modality

We have received positive feedback from teachers who have participated in our sessions, and have the highest regard for the quality learning materials developed by OLE Nepal. It was heartening to see teachers carve out time and resources for these training sessions, and their reaction and feedback. We even had teachers in remote schools sign-in for training using their personal mobile data services. Over 400 teachers from different schools from all seven provinces have participated in our virtual training sessions so far. 

As there have been numerous requests for such orientations from different organizations and teachers groups across the county, we will be conducting similar sessions in the coming days, even as the lockdown is being partially lifted. We are still accepting applications for online training sessions. 

We hope that this kind of initiation and collaboration with different organizations and teachers groups during this lockdown period when schools are closed, will create opportunities for teachers to reach their students.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Even though the lockdown has been eased in many parts of the country, schools remain closed at the moment as some schools (including a few of our program schools) in remote parts of the country are serving as quarantine facilities.

MoEST has issued new guidelines that suggest all the local levels to categorise their students based on their access to resources and technology, and instructed them to run the classes as per the categorization. In this regard, OLE Nepal has continued further discussions and coordination with the chief of Education Development and Coordination Units (EDCU) and head of the Education unit at the local levels across our program district to seek the possibilities of engaging teachers and students in the learning process. 

OLE Nepal’s leadership are also engaging in dialogue with the larger education community in Nepal on how we can collectively use the lessons from this type of lockdown to strengthen our education system with the help of technology. We will be reporting more on the progress and status of our efforts in helping support public education during this pandemic.

Fabian’s internship experience at OLE Nepal

By Fabian Collignon | March 2020

Hi, I am Fabian from Germany and I have had the pleasure to be an intern and volunteer at OLE Nepal for the last five months. I was part of the content creation team, where we developed video games that teach chapters of Nepal’s mathematics and science curriculum for years seven and eight. Even if math is not your thing, what is more exciting than games?

Getting into coding to get kids into science

I did not know much about programming when I arrived at OLE. So I sat down and worked my way through hours of YouTube tutorials and blog entries about “Unity” – our game development engine. Although I was never able to fully get away from Google searches about mysterious bugs and errors, after two weeks I was confident enough to dive into programming some early Projects.

Learning to make learning fun

In Germany, I had tutored students in physics and mathematics and that teaching experience really came in handy. I picked up how to break down topics and to utilize enthusiasm for successful autonomous learning – insight that fits right into OLE’s game project.

Now it only came down to applying this knowledge to the curriculum and to creating concrete content from it.

“Learning should be a joy and full of excitement. It is life’s greatest adventure.” – Taylor Caldwell

One of the first projects the team and I kicked off was “Space Explorer”. This game sends you on a journey around our solar system. While you try to steer a rocket through the asteroid belt or around Saturn, you need to devise a strategy that incorporates gravitational effects, thrust and launch angle. Discovering all those new concepts becomes the adventure itself and aims to make learning intuitive.

Teamwork goes a long way

From day one it was obvious that team effort at OLE rules! In a daily meeting, our Dev group came together to report on progress, assign tasks, discuss workload distribution and to forge a plan for the day. This formed a fully integrated team of content creators, graphic designers, and software developers – and it gave insight into so much more than just the code on my computer screen.

Lunch, tea and OLE beyond work

At 12:30 pm the whole office would have lunch that our lovely Didi cooked. Whether it was Momo Monday or Dal Bhat Wednesday, we all sat together, ate and talked. I already knew to appreciate everyone from the great teamwork and now we really got to know each other – waffling from soccer to politics to universities. At lunch, I truly started to take my colleagues to my heart and it felt good to have OLE become more than just a workplace.

Thanks OLE!

It has been an absolute pleasure to work on such interesting projects with such amazing people – I thank all of you! I am sure that OLE Nepal will continue to shape the country’s education for the better and am glad to have been part of it.

Teaching with technology resident’s experience in Jajarkot

By Ashraya Manandhar | March 2020

I joined OLE Nepal’s teaching with technology residency program in 2018, after completing my Bachelor’s in Social Work and Psychology from Tribhuwan University. I was one for three teaching residents to support 15 laptop program schools in the remote district of Darchula. After completing the teaching residency program in Darchula, I was even more excited for new experiences in a new place, and just then I was offered to continue the program at Jajarkot district in the Karnali Province, alongside my colleague – Prajwal Pokharel. The district headquarter in Khalanga was our first destination in the district, from where we traveled to two municipalities with our 12 laptop program schools: Nalgad Municipality and Kuse Rural Municipality. 

The river or the river of fog?

This photo of a spectacular view was captured from a place named Dadagaun in Nalgad, Jajarkot. Believe it or not, this was the morning view outside our room for a few days. I had to capture and share it, and I usually show my pictures to the students, teachers, and locals. They’d identify the Bheri river, but the river was covered by thick fog, and they couldn’t believe it at first but later they did.

Speaking of local people, they were wonderful and supportive, especially the teachers of the schools that we worked with and hosts of places we called home for a few nights until our work at the community school was done. We moved often between the 12 schools, sometimes every other day. We enjoyed our visits in each school, as the students were interactive, friendly, active and energetic. We engaged with students through educational games as Fizz-Buzz, Tangram puzzle, and  more. 

The games they played

 

The students were quite fond of the new laptop program at their school and enthusiastic about the digital learning materials. It was an absolute joy seeing the reaction of students using E-Paath for the first time. They were also learning on E-Pustakalaya, with books from Bal Paathmala, and going through stories in OLE’s new digital Early Grade Reading (EGR). They really loved the laptops and were very excited to go to the laptop room. We overheard the students repeatedly request the teachers for their E-Paath lesson, and watched them eagerly wait for their turn. We also noticed that schools had created their schedule around the laptop-integrated lessons. 

Students learning on laptops

 

Teacher playing with students

During the first round of support through our teaching residency program, we traveled to all 12 schools where we observed and supported the teachers if they had any challenge while teaching with digital resources. Each school had their own challenge. 

Some schools were low on staff and while some schools had teachers who faced difficulties in teaching English. Even with the challenges, all the teachers and community members were very supportive towards our digital learning program at their school. Even in the first few months, schools have shown great outcomes, while some are working  to improve their approach. Every teacher we observed in class brought their own unique way of teaching and communicating with the students. We learned and picked up something from each of them. It is a fact that teachers are the most important changemakers in any child’s life, and it became even more clear to us in these remote schools of Jajarkot. I was really happy to be there at the schools, and to witness students learning on laptops for the first time.

Homemade yogurt

 

As part of the teaching residency experience, we also got to try the local food while staying in the community in Jajarkot. Locally grown red rice, fresh milks and curds, local fish, and more. I got to try ‘nettle leaf’ for the first time, also known as ‘sisnu’ in Nepali. When prepared and ready to eat it is also known as ‘paalauro’. We also tried a special batch of honey, that looked a lot like local ghee. The color and texture of this honey (Kartikya mahaa) is named after the harvest season and believed to have medicinal properties. We also tasted wildcrafted Sichuan pepper also known as ‘timur’ in Nepali. They also had many varieties of fruits that we were surprised to see, and kiwi fruit was one of them. 

White snow

Unknown fruit

Jajarkot Kiwi

Steep climbs make for spectacular views

Travelling from one school to another, we were always on the road and mountain trails, which brings us to the next part of our experience: infrastructure in Jajarkot. Most of the roads we took were unpaved fair-weather roads, and most places didn’t even have roads yet. We had to hike for 2-3 hours to reach some schools. Some trails were so steep and rugged that we could barely walk. There were few times we had to crawl up the hills. It made for a memorable experience and spectacular views the higher we climbed.  Some communities had electricity from local hydro power plants, while some had access to solar power only. Mobile networks were also a challenge, as most places had CDMA networks and very few places had GSM. 

Too cold for a swim

During the residency program in Jajarkot, we had a lot of new experiences and also got many opportunities to enhance our skills while visiting different places. We spent the entire winter of 2019 in Jajarkot, and although there were some challenges during 4 months (from November 4, 2019 to March 9, 2020) we were able to overcome them. Along the way, we met wonderful people who made our journey memorable, and we completely immersed ourselves in the local culture and lifestyle of the communities we lived in. 

Car trouble

 

I am truly grateful to OLE Nepal for choosing to bring quality learning materials to remote schools in Jajarkot, and I’m happy to be a part of this initiative. The Digital Learning Program has contributed to improving the quality of education in these schools, and the teachers and students are very positive about this new approach to learning. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we had to rework our schedule as the schools were closing early to take precautions. My coworker and I left Jajarkot on March 7, 2020. We hope to be able to return to support the schools when they reopen in the summer.

Echoes of Darchula

– Subash Parajuli, Teaching Resident for Darchula 2018-19

“While I decided to go to Darchula for the ‘Teaching with Technology Residency Program’, my excitement was mostly about visiting a new place in the remote far-western corner of Nepal. The only thing I knew about Darchula was that it was a district that shared its borders with both India and China. There was not much expectation, except getting to explore a new part of our country. After an intensive training in the OLE Nepal office in Lalitpur, I and my fellow residents – Ashraya and Sanish were finally ready to leave for our residency program in Darchula.

The local accent started to sound strange after we started driving uphill from Dhangadi; however, we were able to catch the essence of their conversations. If one knows both Hindi and Nepali well, then understanding the language was not a big issue. Having travelled to many places in Terai region of Nepal, I was aware of the influence of Indian culture there, but witnessing the same in the hilly region of Nepal was totally new to me. Since people from this region have been crossing the border to work and trade in India for generations, it made sense that their dialect and accent had Hindi influence.

Morning assembly in Yuwabarsha Basic School, Marma in Darchula.

Our stay in Marma was calm and soothing, with only the sound of Chameliya river flowing. Every person passing by would ask about our home and our purpose of visit. For us too, the places and people of Darchula were just imaginary before getting there, but these people and places turned into reality. The kids, the schools, the teachers, the strangers passing by weren’t just in our imagination anymore. Everyone we met was so curious seeing us there, and we were equally inquisitive about them. Some kids even got frightened seeing strange people who looked different from the locals. It felt like it was a totally unexplored, unseen part of Nepal, and the culture was still unaffected by external factors. It’s strange that the tone of their language sounded somewhat rude to us as we were not accustomed to it, but the people were very warm and hospitable. Most common food was chapati/roti/bread of maize, and vegetable soup made with buttermilk. While travelling from Marma to Lekam region, which is closer to India in the same district, there were some noticeable differences in culture and language. We had learnt the language in one village, and tried to use it in another village, then the kids would laugh and adults would help us correct our language.

Students learning on laptops in Darchula

The physical infrastructure and situation of schools was not different from any other rural hilly region of our country. Inadequate number of teachers was a common problem among many schools. Students addressed teachers as “Master sa’b” which felt really fascinating, as we normally address as “sir”. We had only heard “Master sa’b” in some Indian movies only. However, the teaching subjects, school infrastructures and teachers share the same challenges and happiness with any other schools of Nepal in hilly regions. Even in such remote areas, teachers are qualified and have strong learning attitude. They really want to contribute something to their communities through the schools, and are willing to increase their horizon so they can bring the world to their classrooms and communities.

Teacher preparing E-Paath lesson plan

When we reached the schools, the laptop program had already started; all the procedures were already set to run the laptop integrated classes smoothly. It was really good to see that all students would wash their hands, wipe their hands dry with their handkerchief, and leave their sandals or shoes outside the door, before entering the laptop room. Then, they would wait for the instruction from teacher to boot up their laptops. Seeing all these activities with this beautiful cultures in a small corner of a village, gave me immense happiness and motivation. Setting cultures in classroom is really a huge challenge. The teachers were doing a great job to impart their learning from training to the classroom. The zeal of teachers and students to adapt to new technology, and their curiosity to learn new things,  motivated me to contribute more to their learning pedagogically and technically. Having only the resources and training is not enough to improve the education, but the learning attitude and motivation to contribute something to the community are equally important. The involvement of the School Management Committee, and the parents, was also needed to make this program more successful and sustainable.

Discussions with teachers and School Management Team
(Second from left: Teaching Resident, Subash Parajuli)

I came back from Darchula with the strong motivation to work in the education sector of Nepal. I believe that every child deserves an excellent education, and nothing should stop of a child to attain that. The laptop program and the Teaching with Technology Residency Program of OLE Nepal have also contributed hugely by providing state of the art digital learning tools to the students of such remote places of our country. To strengthen Nepal’s education system, we must start from primary schools, and technology enhanced learning is essential to fill up the huge gap between the public education system of Nepal and the education system of the more developed countries. I am also grateful to OLE Nepal for providing me such an opportunity which helped me to contribute something to Darchula and also to learn a lot from there.”

The laptop program in Darchula was launched on September 2018. Read More

Meet our Darchula Teaching Residents for 2018-19

Left to Right: Ashraya, Subash and Sanish

OLE Nepal’s Teaching in Technology Residency program has been receiving rave reviews from school teachers, local communities and children. Each year, OLE Nepal trains young graduates to support the newly launched laptop program schools in the far western districts of Nepal. Ever since it was introduced 5 years ago, many young graduates have travelled to remote communities in these districts where they live for months working with schools and communities so that they can use digital technology effectively in the teaching-learning process. This year, three motivated individuals were selected for the Residency program in Darchula district. They will spend 5 months in this remote district, working directly with the teachers and students in the schools.

Earlier this year, OLE Nepal introduced the laptop program in 15 basic schools in the remote far-western district of Darchula. Teachers and students in these farflung hilly areas have started using laptops loaded with E-Paath learning materials in their classrooms. The program was launched with intensive 7-day teacher training program held in local municipalities in September 2018. The second stage of the training program will be held in December when our training team will visit each school to observe classes and provide feedback and additional help to teachers.

We are pleased to introduce you to this year’s Residents.

Meet Subash! He had previously worked in a remote public school in Sindhupalchowk district as a Teach for Nepal fellow, and now in OLE Nepal he wants to use his huge passion of technology and travel to contribute for the positive impact in education in underserved areas. He believes OLE will be great place to enhance his learning and experiences in the sector of education and technology. Subash has completed Bachelor in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Institute of  Engineering. Here are Subash’s expectations from the Teaching with Technology Residency Program in Darchula:

“During this program, I am looking forward to know more about the situation of the education system in the primary level of rural schools. I has always believed that for the change in education system of our country, we should start from the primary level by strengthening the base of the students. Technology will be playing a key role for such kind of transformation. I want students from the program schools to be more curious and work in the development of their critical thinking and questioning capability. I will always be encouraging such things in students and teachers as well. This program will help me to know more about the far western side of our country and know their cultures and traditions.”

Next, we have Ashraya! Before joining OLE Nepal, Ashraya worked as a trainee in different NGOs. He joined OLE Nepal because of his interest in the program, where he can work with the local schools and communities, that will help him gain new experience in the field of education. Ashraya has completed Bachelor’s in Social Work and Psychology from Tribhuwan University. When asked about his expectations from the program, he said,

“Firstly I’m looking forward to gaining new experience.  I’m also looking forward to working in a different school and observe their education system. Since it is a field-based program I’m looking forward to working in the community. Likewise, I’m curious about the culture and tradition of Darchula where I could learn good things from their lifestyles as well. I’m looking forward to interacting with the teachers, students, local people during the field visit. Likewise, looking forward to working with the team where I can give my best while coordinating, communicating, rapport building, implementing, etc for our purpose of the organization. Lastly, I hope to make this program fruitful.”

Lastly, we have Sanish! He joined OLE Nepal because of his interest in promoting quality education. During his time at OLE Nepal, he expects to contribute to improving education in rural areas and lessen rural-urban education inequality. Sanish has completed Bachelors in Business Information System from Kathmandu University. Here’s what Sanish is looking forward to in Darchula:

“Besides working in a development problem of rural areas in Darchula by supporting for quality education through the use of technology, I also expect to learn from my first-hand field experience. I hope to reflect from the current situation of education, and take necessary actions by means of support, facilitation, and feedback to bring about about positive changes. Moreover, I aim to learn by interaction with teachers and students and solve problems by means of new ideas and inspirations to improve school education, not necessarily by the implementation of existing or previous ideas. Finally, I also look forward to remaining open to new cultural experiences, and at the same time explore new language, social traditions, communities and values from my five months teaching residency program.”

The Teaching Residency Program gives them an invaluable opportunity to transform education in remote and disadvantaged communities. In addition to receiving training from OLE Nepal, they will also gain an immersive field-based experience. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the application of technology to enhance primary education while gaining invaluable insights to the challenges faced by schools in remote areas.

Watch this space for more updates from Ashraya, Sanish and Subash!

Teacher’s training: A wonderful experience!

– Deepa Thapa, Senior Officer: Curriculum and Training, OLE Nepal.

Mr. Joshi at the refresher training in Doti.

Dharma Raj Joshi is a tall man with amazing personality. He is kind-hearted and quite expressive. He loves sharing his ideas along with some personal stuffs without any hesitation,  even with a new group of people. He has a great esteem towards what he is doing for his livelihood. He can easily open up with concerned persons, and speaks very naturally, His tone of Doteli language adds sweet flavor to his expressions. In the beginning of his career, Mr. Joshi worked in India, but her later returned back to Doti and started working in the community school near by his home. He is now teaching primary school students in Shree Kaladhunga Basic school in Doti, which is one of the 15 schools in Doti where the laptop program was launched in 2017.

During initial training in August 2017, we got a chance to discover his skills. He is a really interesting person whom we had the pleasure of getting to know. Before basic training, he was not familiar with computers. In the beginning, he was worried just because he didn’t know how to use a computer. He wondered how he would be able to get through the training without having basic computer skills. Despite having teaching experience of several years, he had very low confidence on technical aspect. However, his positive learning attitude was his driving force and he finally he learned to use XO laptops successfully while navigating digital learning materials developed by OLE Nepal.

Practice class session at refresher training conducted by Mr. Joshi.

Mr. Joshi helping teachers navigate the day’s lesson.

Before getting acquainted with the machine, he was afraid of one more assumption in his mind. Mr. Joshi thought that if he clicked on any wrong buttons in the keyboard, then the laptop would immediately stop working, but thankfully his expressive nature  helped him get rid of doubts and confusions. He shared and asked questions about anything he was unsure of. Although he had confused eyes and shaky hands in first two days of initial training, he has finally made huge progress there after. At in-school training in December 2017, OLE’s team got a chance to observe his ICT integrated class. It was just awesome.

During refresher training in June 2018, Mr. Joshi gave us another opportunity to observe ICT integrated teaching practice. He proved himself to be a skilled and child-friendly teacher when he taught a story “जुनकिरीको जन्मदिन” (Firefly’s birthday) from OLE Nepal’s E-Pustakalaya in front of the trainees. Despite of presence of principal, highly experienced and skilled teachers, resource persons and visitors, he handled his practice class very well. He was able to make his learners follow him properly. He made his class interactive by engaging learners in the participatory activities. Mr. Joshi sometimes threw questions about the events of the chapter. He always asked his learners to speak up or express their thoughts/views regarding the lesson so as to improve learning ability.

Practice class session at refresher training conducted by Mr. Joshi

Teachers practice setting up school network

It seemed like Mr. Joshi was very proficient with laptops and digital materials. No disturbances in the momentum flow was observed during his ICT integrated class. Actually his art of teaching was just amazing. Regards that he showed towards learners was admirable and the clarity in his voice made things more interesting. He read text as if he was reciting poem which was another good part of his teaching. All the trainee teachers supported him well. After seeing them comfortable with ICT, it left us – the trainers, very satisfied. The progress they have made so far has energized OLE Nepal to move forward with more excitation. We’re very much thankful to the entire teachers who are turning our dreams of shaping future come true.

Practice class session at refresher training conducted by Mr. Joshi