Archive for July, 2009

OLPC in Nepal

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

I recently arrived in Nepal to help the local One Laptop per Child implementation, being run by a local organisation known as OLE Nepal.

One of the things you learn early on is that this deployment is very much focused on content for the Nepali primary school curriculum. OLPC tends to push for a more exploratory “constructionist” learning approach, but it’s clear that the Nepalese project is simply focusing on what is locally appropriate, taking the route that wins one of the key ingredients of any OLPC implementation: support from teachers.

OLE Nepal has an impressively large team who generate content. They take specific points from the Nepali curriculum, and work with teachers to generate games and exercises. The team includes programmers, education specialists, and graphic designers. The outcome of each task is some kind of interactive educational game/exercise, a lesson plan, some help text, and a reference to the specific point of the Nepali curriculum which the activity aims to teach. So far, they have content for English, Maths and Nepali for grades 2, 3 and 6 — the total content is more than can fit on the storage of the XO laptop, so they deliver it in chunks.

And while this kind of approach does limit the children to their curriculum, it’s not like the content is plain or boring. The activities are very interactive and are of high quality. The children take the laptops home, and naturally explore the usual Sugar activities too. An interesting recent development that we experienced on a school visit was that the teachers requested training on how to use more of the Sugar activities on the laptop – they now appear keen to harness more of the benefits of the project and perhaps look a little outside of the rigid curriculum. Or perhaps they just feel outgunned by the children, who are racing ahead with their laptop-using abilities.

The content described above is known as E-Paath. Additionally, OLE Nepal develops E-Pustakayala, an electronic library which is cloned on all of the school servers. Thanks to various supporters, there is an impressive breadth of content available there too.

Another project that has impressed me is Karma, the Nepal-driven project to generate educational content using HTML5 and Javascript. This was born when the organisation decided that they wanted to share their high-quality educational content with other deployments around the world, but realised that the primary technology used (Flash) makes distribution and localisation overly difficult. For me, the great thing about this is to see a deployment really focusing on the question of “How can we help the worldwide OLPC community?” as many deployments are either too drowned in work to make such efforts, or do not realise the benefits of doing so.

For my 3 month stay, my primary roles are to support the deployment manager, pass on some technical skills to the local employees, and to make various improvements to the school server.