ICT for Improved
Learning & Education
Using ICT-led innovation to make education more enjoyable, accessible and available for anyone-anywhere-anytime, while enabling teachers to share and co-create content.
Enhancing student-teacher interaction to co-create better learning materials and a more enjoyable environment in the classroom through the use of technology.
Stories: Multimedia Classroom
A buzz can be heard from a classroom, with 60 students organized in 10 groups as Mr. Abdus Salam is constantly in motion and moving around in the classroom…
Need for creative solutions to make learning enjoyable
Rubi knew exactly which seat on the bench farthest back in the classroom to take in order to avoid her 6 th grade science teacher Salam’s attention. At the same time, Salam knew that he could cold-call Rubi any time and expect her to offer nothing in response but silence and maybe an embarrassed smile. It was a pity since Rubi was really interested in science and dreamt of one day becoming an astronaut like her hero, Neil Armstrong. However, she simply could not follow what Salam said while writing countless definitions on the blackboard and yearned for a way to understand the concepts by somehow visualizing how they manifested in real life.
This, unfortunately, was the situation in thousands of classrooms throughout Bangladesh with millions of Rubis all with the potential of becoming the next human on the moon (or even the first person to land on Mars!) withering away due to the insipid and largely one-directional, lecture-oriented way of teaching.
a2i’s Multimedia Classrooms and 3-pronged intervention strategy
It would be unfair to attribute the status quo to the teachers alone. Salam, for example, tries his best to explain concepts using examples and even draws images on the blackboard whenever possible. However, in big classrooms with 50+ children such efforts by a single teacher fail to engage pupils. They are also let down by the predominantly black and white textbooks with few pictures or illustrations.
In response to these critical teaching-learning challenges, a2i adopted a 3-pronged approach by:
Establishing Multimedia Classrooms (MMCs) in secondary and primary schools
Building the capacity of teachers to create teacher-led ICT aided educational content on hard-to-grasp topics
Creating a peer-training platform to develop more teachers able to produce quality digital learning materials.
Scaling up the Multimedia Classrooms and crowd sourcing quality digital teaching materials
Since establishing full-fledged computer labs in schools was prohibitively expensive, Multimedia Classrooms consisting of just one laptop with internet connectivity and a multimedia projector were piloted in 7 schools. The MMCs allowed teachers to present complex ideas through audio-visual contents available online which enabled students to take greater interest and grasp ideas that they previously found difficult to understand. Given the overwhelmingly positive response from students and teachers alike, the concept was fine-tuned and scaled up. There are now over 23,331 multimedia classrooms in secondary schools, an additional 15,000+ at the primary level with more in the pipeline.
Some teachers even learned to develop their own customized digital learning contents. a2i helped them develop their capacity further and created a Teachers’ Portal so that they could train other teachers to do the same. The idea was to crowdsource quality digital educational content while establishing a peer-training platform that made the whole MMC ecosystem independent of curriculum and multimedia experts who could potentially become bottlenecks in an otherwise agile and effective pedagogy.
Develop an online social space implemented by government and contributed by teachers where teachers upload, share, extract and comment on multimedia content, blogs and ideas.
Story: Teacher’s Portal
Shimul Rani Das, an assistant teacher of Oshkhali Aliya Model Primary School, woke up on a Friday morning and opened Teacher’s Portal…
Pageviews - 2016
Factors leading to Digital and Education Divide among Teachers
Masuma Akter, an assistant teacher at a primary school in the remote sub-district of Hatia in Noakhali district, was trying her best to use her knowledge gathered from primary training institute (the institutions training primary school teachers) and make her lessons as interesting and knowledgeable as possible. But she lacked a teacher colleague who could mentor her in the process.
In Bangladesh, the 900,000 plus teachers at more than 120,000 schools and colleges receive formal training at education pedagogy along with pre- and post-training resources. But given the expensiveness of the traditional face-to-face training method, the education administration and teachers do not have an option for refresher training. Again, there is no single platform where teachers can share resources and opinions for further professional development during and after training programs. As a result of these factors, a digital and education divide has been widening between teachers, especially the urban teachers and the rural teachers where the latter is regarded as more disconnected and therefore more disadvantaged.
Teachers’ Portal as an Enabler in Peer-to-Peer Learning for Teachers
With the objective of devising a modern supplementary tool to traditional teacher training methods that is more far-reaching and time-efficient and able to make greater use of peer-to-peer learning and collaboration opportunities, a2i has designed and developed an online social platform for school and college teachers called the Teachers’ Portal (www.teachers.gov.bd). This portal allows the teachers registered here to do the following:
1. Voice out opinions, suggestions, and concerns regarding education pedagogy, use of ICT in education delivery, and issues related to education delivery system
2. Share multimedia content linked to particular chapters of textbooks used in schools and colleges and related to education delivery
3. Get national recognition based on quality of uploaded content
4. Generate ideas and solve problems of other teachers regarding the use of ICT in education delivery system
The government-approved, peer-to-peer and collaborative learning environment of the Teachers’ Portal allows teachers from schools and colleges living anywhere in Bangladesh equal opportunity to use the portal to converse with other teachers, share content, and search for relevant education content using an intelligent content management system.
Collaboration and contribution of teachers in content creation
Teachers like Masuma Akter can now develop more interesting and engaging lectures using relevant content from Bangladesh’s largest state-owned online educational content repository. To ensure the portal’s sustainability, the government has adopted different strategies like tagging teacher evaluation with content creation to encourage teachers to continuously develop rich and relevant content, directly engaging important government agencies in different roles, and bringing on board different NGOs and INGOs.
As of Jan 2017, more than 184,000 teachers from all over Bangladesh have registered in the portal and can access more than 108,000 content developed by other registered teachers. The target is to bring 350,000 teachers by 2018 and 900,000 teachers by 2021 under this portal in line with the Perspective Plan of Bangladesh (2010-2021).
MULTIMEDIA TALKING BOOKS
Ensuring access to every single visually impaired people in the nation to education contents and reading materials through the adoption of an international standard technology.
Stories: Daisy Multimedia Talking Book.
Visually impaired Vashkar Bhattachajee couldn’t read or write. He grew up learning books mostly narrated by his parents. He always had to depend on others to read for him since he couldn’t see or read himself.
A ray of light in the dark
“I have been teaching in this special school for visually impaired children at primary level for last 15 years, but never have I seen the kids so happy. When they hear this regular MP3 player play, they can actually feel the books coming to life. This happened in late 2015, when our school received these multimedia players containing multimedia talking books that could read out the text written in the curriculum book. Parents are thankful since they no longer have to spent hours reading the text to their children. Previously, we could give the students only second-hand braille printed books to study from. But, this time we received brand new books for all the children. Now, I know for sure that my students can compete with any able kid. My husband is a teacher at a secondary level school and he was saying that a similar kind of product will soon be coming to his school” said Asma Khatun, a teacher at the physically handicapped training center.
An unseen problem
There are 2.5 lakhs visually challenged people in this country among which a large number of sight impaired students are now studying at various educational institutions. It’s very difficult for them to have access to information and attain advanced education since there are no suitable study materials for them in Bangladesh besides braille books.
However, the contribution of the braille books is incomparable but students depending completely on braille might face pronunciation problems as well. Moreover, it is very important to present the study materials to students in an attractive way that will not make learning monotonous and with visually impaired children the task gets more difficult.
Ensuring inclusive education
Service Innovation Fund of Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme has facilitated a project by Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) named ‘Multimedia Talking Book’ specially designed for visually impaired students. Any students with access to computers, tablets or android mobiles can use these books for acquiring knowledge. Visually challenged students can learn their lessons listening to it. Previously, it was difficult to provide the braille books at the beginning of the year but now National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) partnered with a2i ensuring the revised multimedia talking books and braille books along with other textbooks within 1st January every year in the hands of visually challenged children. The partnership with NCTB and Department of Social Services in the Ministry of Social Welfare have enriched the initiative and taking Bangladesh one step ahead in attaining the sustainable development goal-4 which focuses on inclusive and equitable quality education for all. At the moment, Multimedia Talking Books can also be used in the regular schools to ensure inclusive education and can be developed into interactive e-book as well.
Awards and Recognition
Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) has won several national and international recognition for developing DAISY standard Multimedia Talking Book. In 2013, it received Manthan Award South Asia in E-Inclusion category.In the same year it was awarded the ‘Youth Solutions! Technology for Skills and Employment’ honor by World Bank and Microsoft Sri Lanka. It went on achieving Accessible Books Consortium Award for Accessible Publishing Initiative at the International Excellence Award 2015 held in London Book Fair (LBF).
Facilitate coordination and capacity development of institutional content developers and develop a national e-learning platform MuktoPaath to promote anywhere-anytime learning by anyone using validated content and relevant performance appraisal.
Stories: MuktoPaath: e-learning for Skills Development
Sufia, a women in her early thirties, decided to break the socio-economic shackles binding women like her and opted for an overseas employment opportunity…
Demand-side Challenges to Skills Development
Ms. Fatima Begum, age 24, was desperately looking to start a new business of poultry farming, but lacked the necessary skills and knowledge. She came to know from a local journalist that the Department of Youth Development (DYD) conducts business development training on different traits targeted to the unemployed youth. But, upon searching, she could not find any establishment in her locality where she could go and get trained. Again, her family does not approve of her going to a different district to receive institutional training, let alone for a month or so. DYD knows that a significant percentage of its clients are faced with similar kinds of constraints, but with its limited infrastructure and human resources, it cannot fulfill the ever increasing demand for wider area coverage and more diverse & modern traits.
Supply-side Challenges to Skills Development
The 27 directorates under 23 ministries in the government when providing training from their facilities are faced with the same problems that DYD faces. Again, there is no working mechanism for sharing resources among the directorates which complicates things further. The capacity development practices worldwide have shifted to greater sophistication like more robust use of e- and m-learning tools. But, in Bangladesh, there is still dependence on the traditional face-to-face training method which is comparatively costlier and makes refresher training near to impossible. Even if there is strong intent within the bureaucracy to identify latent demand for skills, the practical obstacles like scarcity of human resources make it difficult.
e-Learning as the enabler for skills development
a2i has successfully leveraged its position within the Prime Minister’s Office and its partnerships with important stakeholders, like the Cabinet Division and the Ministry of Public Administration, in creating a national e-learning platform where primarily e-learning content for all possible training programs within the government can be uploaded by the training service providers, and can be viewed and exercised upon by anyone-anywhere-anytime. To ensure a continuous supply of validated e-learning content, a2i has undertaken a two-pronged strategy of coordination and capacity development. On the one hand, all the relevant stakeholders are being brought under one umbrella and a unified spirit of e-learning content creation is being transferred among them. On the other hand, capitalizing on the experience of teacher-led content development for Teachers’ Portal, a2i is facilitating the capacity development of the government offices on e-learning content development.
MuktoPaath impacting people’s livelihoods
Now, not only upcoming entrepreneurs like Fatima, but also civil servants, private sector enterprises and any individual can get access to e-learning content for government provided training programs either free or at a reasonable cost, and can receive honors upon successful completion of the courses. This innovative learning method can make meaningful contributions to attaining SDGs goal no 4 (Quality Education) and 8 (Decent Jobs and Economic growth) and eventually earning a middle income status in the world arena.