Examples of Innovations in Schools in Remote Areas

Issue of schools in remote areas 

Most of us would have had at least basic, primary school education, and if you live in Singapore, the first 6 primary school years are compulsory. Most of us might even have taken our education for granted, not realising that it is a privilege that not every child in the world is afforded. We complain about going to school and avoid doing homework. We take our electronic devices for granted and fail to realise how they have aided us in our education. We have never really stopped to consider how different and difficult receiving an education might be if we were not born in a developed country.

Let’s stop to consider then. What if we were born in a less developed country, and in a remote area? These same resources will not come as easily to us anymore. Chances are, we would not have been able to attend school for many reasons, either the school is too far away and there is a lack of resources to get there such as a train or bus system. The school itself may even have a lack of facilities, and sometimes even qualified teachers. There are many factors that can hinder education in remote, and especially, rural areas. Thus, there are a number of innovations that have been created and implemented in order to help make education more accessible to students living in such areas. 

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Types of innovation for schools in remote areas

Different companies and organisations have designed different products and innovations that serves to help address this issue. 

Firstly, there is Kolibri, a free learning platform where teachers and students can log into to access learning materials. These learning materials can be downloaded when internet access is available, and afterwards, accessible offline. A single device with all the required resources and updates can also be brought to remote areas, where it can then be shared and downloaded onto other devices over local offline networks. This is a good idea as it allows even students and teachers in remote areas to access high quality resources that are typically only available in areas with internet access. 

Secondly, there is Teach for Uganda, which uses SMS in order to teach students. ‘Lessons’ are in the form of a chatroom, where students will message questions and have them answered in real time by a teacher. This solution can definitely enable students who are not near a school to receive an education. However, this method does not really provide students with any resources of their own to study, and even if the teachers could teach, it is difficult to do so through only messages. 

Thirdly, Ustad Mobile, which is an application that can be downloaded onto devices such as tablets, and is capable of working both online and offline. Interactive resources such as eBooks and videos can be used by the students offline, and when students have internet access, their scores and assessments can then be uploaded to the application. Teachers can also use the same application to upload pictures and videos to aid students in their learning, as well as view students’ test scores, manage attendance and administer feedback and grades.

However, as useful as these methods are to students who would like to attend school but stay in remote locations, they tend to already require students and teachers to have a device capable of supporting such software, which they might not have. These methods typically only focus on “non-contact” teaching, wherein the students and teachers do not meet face to face, and instead only communicate through a device. What if some students prefer a traditional classroom style of learning? Another innovation, which has accounted for some of these issues is HP future classrooms. 

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HP future classrooms are actual classrooms that are designed to fit into a single shipping container, and is outfitted with internet access, as well as HP laptops. This is a program by HP life, which offers online courses in 7 different languages, enabling students to learn many basic skills, ranging from basic entrepreneur skills, to communication skills. This innovation can definitely benefit many students, as it is able to provide an actual classroom with electronic devices to facilitate their learning. 

However, despite HP future classrooms being a good choice for enabling education in remote areas, it may be a bit difficult to implement as it involves collaborations with large companies, which requires a lot of effort, as proposals and logistics issues have to be settled, which can in turn take up a lot of time. What’s more, it currently only operates in India. 

What if someone simply wishes to introduce a traditional classroom setting in a remote village, be able to bring along various electronic devices to help facilitate learning, and do all this without the logistics issues of having to work with large companies? Casestudy, a product developed by The Patatas, has an ingenious solution to this problem.

Casestudy: What is it and what makes it so special?

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Known as a ‘cost effective digital solution’, Casestudy acts as a “portable classroom”. In a waterproof, shockproof and easily recognisable brightly coloured box, with its contents entirely customisable to the user’s liking, it can easily fit multiple items such as wires, projectors, and even a laptop into a single box! Thus, it enables its users to easily transport multiple items to their respective locations without much hassle or major logistics issues. This product first came about in our longest, pilot project, known as ‘Digi-Eskwela’, where our team visited the Philippines in order to introduce and provide eLearning for the local schools and educators there. In just 5 years, it was shown that with the help of eLearning, such as the use of tablets already containing education applications and workshops, there was a huge improvement of about 50% in terms of literacy and numeracy skills! This proved that the project was a success.

However, while we were in the Philippines, we realised that the infrastructure of the local schools was incredibly susceptible to the natural elements, such as floods and typhoons. The teachers themselves also had to travel to different locations while carrying various equipment, such as projectors, laptops, and various tablets. Not only was this cumbersome and bulky, the teachers had to travel some distance and on packed public transport as well, making it inconvenient. This led to the idea to create Casestudy. Casestudy is able to contain multiple items that are required for eLearning, in a single box, thus making it convenient. Since the box is shockproof and waterproof, it will also be able to withstand the floods and hurricanes that the school’s infrastructure is susceptible to. Thus, Casestudy can be easily transported and is capable of withstanding the harsh journey to these rural schools, allowing it to act as a long-term solution and aid to the local schools and educators. 

As we shared in an article in The Pride, each box consists of ‘a mini computer, air mouse and keyboard, tablets, projector screen, solar panel power unit, speakers and a projector’. However, as mentioned above, it is entirely customisable to suit each individual’s classroom set up and preference. The box is designed to aid the teacher during his or her lessons.

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Once teachers or facilitators are taught, they can easily carry out lessons in the local schools, equipped with a Casestudy box, that has already been customised for their lessons. 

Should students require learning devices as well, everything can be brought up in a single box, making it less troublesome and tiring, as compared to the past, where multiple bags carrying different equipment such as bulky wires, heavy laptop cases and projectors have to be used.

What’s more, Casestudy does not require electricity or internet data, enabling education to take place anytime, anywhere. The devices themselves use solar power charging, making it extremely beneficial as most of these remote areas have limited access to any ‘modern’ resources. Thus, having it be powered by solar panels makes it much more versatile to be used in virtually any setting. 

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With the implementation of Casestudy, not only does it make education more accessible, it also provides eLearning resources, enabling these students to have access to resources and technology that typically, only students in developed areas will have. This benefits the students and enables them to learn more than what can be taught to them in their schools, allowing them to take greater control of their learning as they will each have individual devices with access to multiple resources for them to view in their own time.

Information can also be disseminated more easily to the students through the use of such eLearning devices, and feedback can be given to the students in real time, even when they are not in schools. Thus, Casestudy provides an ideal solution for anyone who is looking to provide education to students in remote, rural areas. Feel free to contact us at info@thepatatas.com or follow us on our Facebook page (@thepatatas) for more information.

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