OLE Nepal office is once again abuzz with a flurry of activities; helpers hauling boxes of laptops, interns testing and preparing laptops, technical team preparing school servers with latest NEXS*, program officers calling schools to figure out the additional number of students who will need laptops and bags, training coordinator arranging training programs, people bundling up bags to be shipped to schools. Yes, we are getting ready for the next round of deployment of laptops ahead of the new school year that will begin in mid-April. The interns have taken over the meeting room, the biggest one in the building, and turned it into a staging place for the laptops. The room is a good 5 degrees warmer than the rest of the building with up to 40 laptops running at any given moment, being nand-blasted with the latest version of NEXO*. The interns have dnragged in two stand fans hoping to make the room a bit more bearable. Boxes of laptops line up against the wall with labels showing the names of the destination schools. Bundles of bags carry similar labels. In the other room the network team is preparing plans to wire more classrooms and connect schools to the Internet. The content development team is working frantically to meet the deadline set by the deployment team. The environment around the office is quite intense, yet exciting.
Interns busy preparing laptops for deployment
After having done this for the past three years, the process has become less chaotic than our first major deployment two years ago in 2009. (The 2008 deployment was a test phase where we implemented the program in 2 nearby schools totaling 135 students). Under the watchful eyes of our program manager Subir and our office admin Rabita, the preparation has been much smoother. Our interns and deployment teams are checking on their task lists before they head out to the schools. We even have two deployment veterans Aavash and Prakash coming back to assist us this year.
Laptop bags getting bundled together before being shipped to schools
Soon the laptops, servers, bags, power racks, and other equipment will be shipped to schools on planes and trucks. In many places, the last bit of the journey will include people carrying them on their backs. This deployment marks a special milestone for us. With grade five being added next month, we will have finally reached our goal of saturating grades two to six in all our program schools. We started with grades two and six in 2008, and slowly expanded schools and grades each year to reach this milestone. The content team will have completed the development all the educational materials (E-Paath) for grade 5 English and mathematics by the end of April. This has been a huge undertaking for OLE Nepal. The development of curriculum-based digital educational materials in various subjects for grades two to six has us three years, and the content and process have gone through a number of iterations in our attempt to continually improve based on feedback from teachers and students.
Laptop boxes ready for shipment to schools
OLE Nepal trainers, with help from government trainers, will conduct trainings in all districts on how to integrate laptops and digital content in classroom teaching. Teachers attending this training are English, mathematics, Nepali and science teachers teaching in grades two to six at the program schools who have not received any training from OLE Nepal in the past. By the time we complete this training session, we hope that all teachers who will be involved in laptop-based teaching will have received training.
Specially designed bags for laptops and books
But we are still far from our goal. We will now shift our focus to see how we can expand the program to more schools and reach more students while looking into the possibility of developing contents for more grades and subjects. With an implementation model that has been tried and tested over the years, along with educational content including our vast digital library, and a team of dedicated and talented trainers, educators, engineers and managers, we have the right formula to scale the program to more schools.
Locally designed and built laptop charging racks
* Nand-blasting is a cool technique to install software in multiple XO machines wirelessly from one source machine.
* NEXO is a variation of Sugar build maintained by OLE Nepal, customized for Nepal with local activities and content, such as E-Paath.
* NEXS image is a customized linux server used in the Nepali classrooms, which provides access to a local digital library, and services such as backup for the children’s work .