OLE Nepal Jan-Feb 2013 Newsletter - Issue 19

We hope you enjoy this edition of E-Learning Exchange, OLE Nepal's bi-monthly email newsletter. It provides current news and information about the organisation and its activities and will keep you up to date with OLE Nepal's work to provide high quality education for children in Nepal.

Stay connected with OLE Nepal at www.olenepal.org
View the complete newsletter in PDF format online

Environmental Learning Activities


OLE Nepal and Nepal Prakriti Pathshala (NPP) teamed up to design and develop digital learning activities to raise awareness about present day environmental issues. The interactive learning materials cover concepts such as climate change, natural resources and their conservation, ecological footprints, biodiversity and ecosystem, and are designed for children aged between 11 and 16.


Interactive Environment Activities

NPP is a joint venture of Wildlife Conservation Nepal and Danish Forestry Extension, and was established with the vision to promote environmental issues in both formal and informal education.

You can try out these fun and educational activities by clicking on the following link: www.pustakalaya.org/environmental-activities.


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Hunger Awareness Activities


Interactive Hunger Activites

The interrelationship between proper nourishment in children and their educational performance has long been established. Undernourishment and hunger can impede the mental and intellectual growth in children, and result in poor performance in school. Recognizing the importance of the subject, OLE Nepal and WFP have started the development of digital activities that will help children understand the causes and consequences of persistent hunger, and ways to overcome hunger by urging parents and communities to take the necessary steps. Five such activities have been conceptualized for grades two to six, and will soon be developed and distributed to schools as part of the E-Paath learning suite.


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Seventh Grade E-Paath Mathematics Activities


The E-Paath learning activities designed and developed by OLE Nepal with Department of Education has been hugely popular among students and teachers in schools where they have been made available through laptops and digital library servers. Recognizing that digital content is a critical component of successful ICT-based education, over the past four years, more than 500 modules of activities for grades two to six English, Nepali, science and math activities had been developed and distributed with assistance from Embassy of Denmark's Local Grant Authority and UN World Food Programme. These activities allow students to learn concepts and test their understanding through interactive games, and enable teachers to integrate ICT in classroom teaching.

Responding to the increased demand from schools for similar curriculum-based learning activities for higher grades, OLE Nepal recently started the development of grade seven math activities with support from Embassy of Finland's Fund for Local Cooperation. The conceptualization and development of these activities will be carried out with math experts from the Curriculum Development Center, and is expected to be completed and reviewed by mid June. We hope to get further support to develop similar activities for grade seven English and science subjects and grade eight math, English and science subjects.

 


Ganga Shahi, a sixth grader from Shahid Smarak HSS says she did not know there was such a device that helps in milking the cow. "We have found out about new innovations through the E-Paath activities, hence it is very interesting."



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The New Face of E-Pustakalaya


The New homepage of E-Pustakalaya

 

The E-Pustakalaya development team has changed the overall layout and design of the E-Pustakalaya website to make it more user friendly. The landing page now, is more dynamic and displays featured books based on popularity and other variables which can be changed periodically. It also displays recently added books which helps user stay updated regarding the additions. The book cover preview makes the user easier of notice and identify books. Listed below are details of other new features added on the website:

Videos:

All the videos have been sorted into different categories based on the content and, displayed with a preview image and a title. For videos that cover two or more categories are placed in all the categories. A short preface about the videos tell users what the video is about and the view counts help reflect its popularity among the users.

Authors:

Author page allows to view a list of all the authors, their biographies (if available), and links to their books. We are in the process of finding biographies of all the authors.

Book Review:

Other important features in the books section include bookshelf and book review. Users can use bookshelf functionality to prioritize books to read, identify books for future reference or reading, share the book list among friends and other users. Book review feature on the other hand helps users write their views on the book and rate them. Users can use the login feature with their google, facebook or twitter accounts.

Audio Books:

Rato Bangala Foundation has created audio tapes of the English course books used in public schools throughout the country. These audio tapes are highly popular in Dailekh where most primary English teachers have received trainings on how to incorporate these audio tapes into their daily classroom lessons. Through OLE Nepal's partnership with the foundation, these tapes have been acquired and will be made available in E-Pustakalaya's portal.


Janashakti School, Banke


Banke Monitoring Visit February 6, 2013 - Janashakti School -Sher Jung Kushari, a seventh grader, who has explored the E-Pustakalaya is very intrigued by the fact that there are so many books and magazines available in the laptop. He says, "We would have had to pay for all those books, if we had to buy it and we would not be able to afford it, but here we can read it for free."


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Finnish Embassy Officials Visit Schools


Finnish Embassy officials interacting with students from Banke

On February 5 and 6, the Embassy of Finland's Program Coordinator Tanja Rajamäki and Program Manager Indra Gurung visited two of the schools in Banke where OLE Nepal had introduced its laptop program in 2012. The Embassy's Fund for Local Cooperation has been supporting the implementation of laptop programs in four schools in Banke along with six in Baglung and five in Solukhumbu districts. During the visit to Gyanodaya HSS, Khajura and Janashakti LSS, Balapur, Embassy officials and OLE Nepal staff observed laptop-integrated classes, interacted with students, and discussed the status of the program with teachers and parents.

After the visit, Embassy officials wrote that the project "seems to have a very positive and considerable impact on teaching and learning in the project schools. Both children and teachers were telling about the improvements in learning and teaching methods. The laptops had increased the enthusiasm in learning even the focus in teaching is in the utilisation of the education material (software) that OLE Nepal is providing and developing. There were also innovative and new ways of using the laptops found with the children with special needs and women's groups. It seemed that the teachers had adopted the main idea and beneficial utilisation of the laptops and as a result the children were receiving better quality education and more interesting way to learn that has lead to improvement in learning results".


Arjun Khanal instructing the concept of parameter to 5th graders
at Janashakti Scool, Banke

OLE Nepal staff also carried out monitoring visits to all program schools in Banke and Solukhumbu districts. One of the major highlights of the monitoring and support visits was that students were confident in talking about what they have learned, and had no inhibitions about making mistakes and were excited to explore more things in the laptops and the school server. Here is what the students had to say:

 

 


Pramila Chaudhari, a fifth grader from Janashakti School Banke says her favorite lesson so far was in english, where she learnt how to start a conversation. She was a little hesitant in the beginning but when I asked her she could talk to Tanja in english, to our surprise she questioned Tanja in flawless english and answered Tanja's question too.


 


Integrated Teaching and Learning, Garma School, Solukhumbu


Garma HSS, Fourth grader: "We don't know when our turn comes in the regular class because teacher cannot ask everyone. But in the E-Paati class, we don't have to wait for our turns to answer our questions. We get to know if our answer to the question was correct or not immediately and we are able to move along faster".


 

 

Schools in Banke have made provision for grades 7 and 8 to use the digital library in the school schedule.


Janashakti School, Banke - E-Paati class schedule

One school in Solukhumbu has scheduled grade 9 students to use the E-Pustakalaya and the students are very excited about the plethora of books they have at their disposal. The Hearing Impaired (HI) kids at Garma, Solukhumbu are using the E-Paati at least 3 times in a week and their classes are at least one hour long as opposed to the regular class which is only 30-40 minutes. The teacher in charge said that the HI kids do not like to use it only for 30-45 minutes. Students do not have any inhibitions to use laptops and have show more excitement to learn. The use of digital library can be explored more by all the schools, hence one of the suggestion for the schools were to orient students on how to use the E-Pustakalaya (digital library) and let children use it when the teachers are absent.

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In-School Training


In-school training at Janta School, Pahee, Baglung

In-school training is the second step in OLE Nepal's three-step teacher training program designed to build teachers' skills and confidence needed to successfully integrate technology in the daily classroom teaching-learning process. The in-school training usually takes place six to eight weeks after the initial 8-day residential training. By the time of this training, teachers would have had ample time to integrate technology in the classroom, and students would be able to use the laptops without much difficulty to navigate through various learning activities. Hence, when trainers visit the schools, they can observe complete technology-integrated classes and provide valuable feedback to teachers, and address any problem or confusion teachers have encountered in the few weeks of integrating technology in classroom teaching.


In-school training at Chandi Devi School in Dukuchap, Lalitpur

In-school training was conducted in six schools in Baglung district, and one school in Lalitpur district in January and February 2013. A total of 36 classrooms were observed in six schools of Baglung and six classes were observed in one school of Lalitpur. Two main issues that came up repeatedly at the schools were time management and sound management. Teachers found it challenging to complete the lessons by the end of the allotted period, and found that they could not cover the planned activities without a prepared lesson plan. Trainers emphasized on the importance of writing a lesson plan and going through the E-Paath activity prior to the class, so that teachers are able to complete the exercise in the given amount of time. It was also noted that there are some exercises in the E-Paath that cannot be finished in one class of 45 minutes, so the teacher needs to plan how to deliver it in two sittings. Trainers also found that teachers were not able to manage audio embedded in E-Paath activities well, which caused a lot of noise during the lessons. Teachers were reminded that such activities require teachers to have students lower the volume in their laptops.


Aadesh Bhetwal - a student at KUSOED: "It was fascinating for me to see that students from class two to six were equally capable of operating the XO laptops. Teachers were using E-Paath to teach, which made it easier for them to make the concepts clear to the students. Students can see, hear and read themselves, and also play while doing exercise. One of the teachers also expressed to me that teaching and learning were interactive since they have started using the XOs and all the students participate actively in classroom activities".


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Bajhang Update


Deputy Director of DoE Mr. Balaram Timalsina at Bajhang DEO

OLE Nepal, the Department of Education (DoE) and UN World Food Programme (WFP) are planning to launch the OLPC shared-model implementation in the remote Bajhang district this year. The laptop program will be introduced in ten schools during the first year, with the long-term goal to saturate all primary schools in the district with this new technology-enhanced teaching-learning method. WFP has been running the school meals program in over 200 primary schools in the district to address the acute food shortage in the district while ensuring parents send their children to school.

A team consisting of two DoE officials, two WFP staff, and two OLE Nepal staff carried out a preliminary visit to the district and held an interaction program at the Bajhang District Education Office (DEO) in Chainpur on January 10 to inform local stakeholders about the project plan, and to discuss issues related to district readiness and school selection criteria. The meeting was attended by 19 people including the District Education Officer Mr. Jagannath Upadhyay, other DEO officials, School Supervisor and Food for Education (FFE) Bajhang staff.

The team briefed the participants about the program and answered queries and concerns raised by stakeholder. DEO officials welcomed the program to the district, but raised concerns related to sustainability and the importance of including schools in mid and upper Bajhang along with the lower ones. They were informed that the project will be initiated in ten schools in two clusters, but the long term goal is to expand to other areas depending on the success of the initial years. The visiting team also emphasized the important roles of all stakeholders, including the school administrations and local communities, in ensuring long-term success of the program in the district.

The team also learned about the lack of electricity in the area where the planned project area. In response, OLE Nepal has been working on a possible solar energy solution to power the laptops, school servers and other network equipment.

The visiting team:

1. Mr. Balaram Timalsina - Deputy Director, DoE

2. Mr. Arjun Aryal - Engineer, DoE

3. Mr. Manoj Sah - WFP Country Office

4. Mr. Rabindra Chand - WFP Dadeldhura Office

5. Mr. Upaya Sharma - OLE Nepal

6. Mr. Tikaraj Karki - OLE Nepal

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Walk for Nepal


OLE Nepal has partnered with Nepal Ko Yuwa to participate in Walk for Nepal in Washington DC to raise funds for the Bajhang project. The walkathon will be held on Sunday, April 14th. So far four walkers Pankaj Rayamajhi, Prabhat Lama, Pranita Pradhan, and Sagun KC have registered to walk for OLE Nepal and raise funds for the Bajhang project. If you want to support our walkers please do so at http://www.walkfornepal.org/dc/sponsor-dc/. Or, if you want to walk for OLE Nepal, please sign up at http://www.walkfornepal.org/dc/register-dc/ .

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ICT for Development Forum at ADB


Rabi Karmacharya presenting on ICT for Education Nepal

The theme of this year's ICT for Development Forum organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Government of Republic of Korea (GOK) was "Is ICT the missing link in development operations?" The forum held in the ADB Headquarters in Manila on February 28 and March 1, 2013, brought together experts from ADB, developing member countries, donor agencies, development partners, research and implementing agencies, and the private sector to present on eight different tracks: knowledge-based economy, sustainable development, inclusive growth, education, e-government, last mile connectivity, financial inclusion, and social service.

As one of the resource speakers on "ICT for Education", OLE Nepal's Rabi Karmacharya shared Nepal's experience and challenges in using ICT for educational purposes, and spoke of the potential of ICT to improve education quality and reduce disparity in access to quality education. Using the recent success of online courses in attracting learners worldwide as an example, he argued for the need for quality content, motivated instructors, and adequate infrastructure to gain similar success in ICT interventions in schools.

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KU School of Education & OLE Nepal Partnership


Kathmandu University School of Education (KUSOED) and OLE Nepal signed an agreement on January 9, 2013 to collaborate to further strengthen ICT-based education programs in Nepal's public school system. The two parties agreed to work together to build on each other's strengths and experiences towards developing capable human resources, needed to expand ICT-integrated teaching-learning process in primary and secondary schools in the country. It is hoped that the collaboration will lead towards creating a center of excellence in ICT-integrated education within KUSOED.

As part of the agreement, OLE Nepal will prepare graduate level students to train school teachers on ICT-integrated teaching-learning process, and provide opportunities to trained graduate students to conduct training sessions in OLE Nepal's program schools. OLE Nepal will also provide support to KUSOED students conducting research in the field of ICT-based education. KUSOED will identify graduate students to participate in the program, facilitate research in ICT-integrated education, provide expert inputs and provide relevant resources available at its ICT Resource Center to expand the scope of ICT-based education in the country.


KUSOED students getting training at OLE Nepal

Talking about the agreement, OLE Nepal's Executive Director Rabi Karmacharya said, "It is a win-win situation for both parties. While the partnership allows OLE Nepal to tap into a pool of talented students to help in the expansion of its program in the country, KUSOED can take advantage of the rich experience that OLE Nepal has gathered over the years in the design and implementation of ICT-integrated education. The envisioned center of excellence at KUSOED can play a lead role in the research and design of ICT-integrated teaching-learning practices in the country, and help prepare the human resource required to realize the potential that ICT has to office in improving quality and access in our education system."

As per the MoU, OLE Nepal conducted a three-day Training of Trainers (ToT) for eight graduate students from KUSoED on January 28-30, 2013. Four of the trainees later accompanied OLE Nepal's trainers to Baglung from February 5 to 10 to observe the in-school training being conducted at the six OLPC shared-model program schools.

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Tech Corner

Better and Faster OLPC laptops

We are excited about moving to the new XO-4 laptops for upcoming deployments. XO-4 uses power efficient processor based on ARM technology and has expanded storage space. It has the same sturdy design as its predecessors that have earned a reputation for durability and withstood heavy usage by students in rural schools in Nepal.

In mid-February, OLPC sent us an XO-1.75 which is based on same architecture as XO-4 for testing purposes. We were worried to learn that there was no public support of Flash for this architecture since OLE Nepal has invested heavily in Flash. We have over 500 interactive learning modules develop ed on Flash that children in Nepal use to learn various concepts. Not only that, other educational activities in our digital library, E-Pustakalaya, like the British Council's "Learn English Kids" and "E-Learning for Kids" are also based on Flash.

(We tried other platforms to develop on, but Flash provided us an environment where we could quickly create interactive activities. Later when we learned that Flash was not being supported by many vendors, we were well on our way to build our framework on it and it was too late to switch to other platforms)

Fortunately, with the help of OLPC we managed to run Flash on XO-1.75. This was a major relief for us. Besides that, the performance of new XOs is extremely better compared to the previous versions. Now we are setting up new build system for new XOs which will be deployed this summer.

Raspberry Pi


Credit card sized Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools.

Source: Wikipedia

We also got hands on the much acclaimed Raspberry-Pi, thanks to OLE Inc in Cambridge, USA. We have tested to see if we could replace our traditional school server with Raspberry-Pi model B. However, Raspberry Pi couldn't handle the the task when we loaded our digital library E-Pustakalaya on it. Though the page were browsable, the performance was very slow. We replaced apache with nginx and optimized mysql, but still the CPU power was not powerful enough.


cost reduction by embracing latest technology

Upon more investigation, we found more expensive but highly powerful Raspberry-Pi alternatives ike Odroid from hardkernel. It comes with 1.7 GHz quad core cpu and 2GB of RAM. We are hopeful that this can replace our single core 1.6 GHz atom processor school server. We can reduce the cost of our future deployment tremendously by substituting MSI server, inverter and battery (for power backup) with Odroid, battery pack and SD card.

 

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Office Updates

Distance covered by OLE Nepal staff in 2012

As in the past years, OLE Nepal's staff travelled a fair distance in the year 2012 and it was probably more than in the previous years. The travel entailed going to the mountainous Solukhumbu in the east to Banke in the mid-west to Dadeldhura and Doti in the far-west. It is indeed a remarkable feat considering having to go to remote schools braving against incessant rains to the challenges of travelling in not-so-good roads and even walking hours uphill and downhill to reach the program schools. To sum it all up, OLE Nepal's field staff spent more than 750 man-days visiting schools to deploy projects, train teachers, install networks, monitor programs, orient communities, and support activities. This is something that the organization can be proud of in its mission of improving access to quality basic education through the use of technology-integrated classes as it strives to reach out to even more deprived students in the rural areas in the months and years to come.

Awards


OLE Nepal's intern Vivek Sah was recognized by Cambridge International Examinations and the British Council for securing the highest marks in the country in A-level mathematics and biology and as the best student across three A-level subjects at the annual "Outstanding Cambridge Learner Award Ceremony" held on February 27, 2013.


Vibek Sah on second row, fourth from left with the awardee group

Vivek will be attending Colby College, one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the US, on full scholarship starting fall of 2013. Vivek's achievement has been a matter of pride and joy for him, his parents, his schools, and of course, all of us at OLE Nepal. http://ekantipur.com/photo-gallery/2013-02-27/1449/17183.

 

 


Another intern from OLE Nepal, Kayomars Bilimoria Puri, had won a similar award in 2011 for securing the highest marks in the country in A-level General Paper.

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  • E-Paath is a set of curriculum-based interactive digital learning materials developed by OLE Nepal.
  • E-Pustakalaya is OLE Nepal's education-centered digital library consisting of books, reference materials, school wikipedia, etc.
  • E-Paati is the Nepali name for the XO laptops used in OLPC program schools.