ICT in Education Toolkit Version 2.0a
September 2006
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ICTs for Education: Resources
1 Background
2 The Potential of ICTs
  Expanding Educational Opportunities & Increasing Efficiency
  Enhancing Quality of Learning
  Enhancing Quality of Teaching
  Faciliating Skill Formulation
  Sustaining Lifelong Learning
  Improving Policy Planning and Management
  Advancing Community Linkages
3 From Potential to Effectiveness

ICTs for Education: A Reference Handbook
1 Decision Makers Essentials
2 Analytical Review
3 Resources
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  3. From Potential to Effectiveness

3.1 Infrastructure

Resource 3.1.1 - Electric and Solar

Many communities do not have reliable electric source to power radios, televisions and computers. Some are experimenting with solar energy to run their hardware. Below is one such case:

Honduras Solar Village [56]

San Ramón, a village of about 840 people located in the hills above Choluteca (Honduras), is proof positive of the power of new technologies to leapfrog over traditional barriers to development. San Ramón has become the world's first solar power community hooked up to the Internet.

Although located a mere 24 kilometers from a main thoroughfare, the journey up to San Ramón requires a good 45 minutes in a 4x4 all-terrain vehicle - and a strong stomach. There is no road to speak of. Rather, a path of stones, ravines, and otherwise tough conditions leads slowly upwards. It has been this lack of accessibility, coupled with the relatively low number of inhabitants and high unit costs that has made the government less than anxious to extend the electric distribution network from Choluteca to San Ramón.

San Ramón started exploring the potential of alternative energy sources. In February 1999 solar panels were strategically installed throughout the village. The energy generated through the solar panels powers a variety of community services. Included here are:

  • five streetlights;
  • six classrooms, each of which has its own electrical outlets for a TV/VHS, computer, or other pieces of equipment;
  • a community center, also with outlets for fans, computers, TVs, etc.;
  • an innovative classroom equipped with 11 computers, a TV, video and tape recorder, digital cameras, scanners, printers, etc.;
  • a health clinic, including a heating and cooling system for water, storage of medicines and vaccines; and
  • lighting within the village's church.

In October of 2000, San Ramón went global, wired to the Internet through each of the 11 computers in its innovative classroom.

Two additional solar villages are currently under preparation: Las Trojas (with a population of just over 190) and La Montaña (population of 240),

Resource 3.1.2 - Wind Power - Spirit Lakes Community Scolls

In 1991, Spirit Lake Community Schools in Iowa, USA, began studying the use of wind as a renewable source of energy. With the support of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the school used the first year of the project to measure the wind speed on the proposed site and analyze the school district's electrical costs. In addition, the team became familiarized with wind turbine manufacturing and the federal and state rules and regulations regarding energy production and use. With a mix of federal grant and a low-interest loan, the district bought its first turbine to supply electrical energy for the elementary school. An agreement with the local utility company defined that during peak demand and/or low winds, the district purchases electricity from the company and during excess production, the company purchases electricity from the district. The turbine began producing electricity in 1993 and nine months later it had produced 1,570,000 KW hours of energy, providing all of the electricity for the school and a reimbursement from the utility company. In 1998 the school made the last payment on the loan for the turbine and the savings are now going to the school's instructional program. The turbine has also been used as an educational tool and has attracted many schools and visitors to study renewable sources of energy. A second turbine has been installed and in 2007, when both turbines are paid for, the district expects to have about $120,000 tax-free income from the project to improve education in the area. [http://www.spirit-lake.k12.ia.us/~apeck/bg/building.htm.]

Resource 3.1.3 - Pedal Power - Bijli Bike

The Association for India's Development (AID) has developed a Pedal Power Generator or Bijli Bike that converts human power to electricity. A student pedaling for 15 minutes can light up 2-3 classrooms using 11-18 W CFL lamps for one hour. An initial prototype that could generate 70 Watts was first tested in the Domkhedi village, in the tribal belt of Maharshtra where there is no electricity grid. A new, perfected design is available from Rashron Ltd through mail order. More than 30 generators have been distributed to groups in several states including Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and others. AID is also collaborating with other groups to bring alternate energy through pedal and wind to Indian villages. [http://www.aidindia.org/hq/projects/illus/pedal2.htm]

Resource 3.1.4 - Connectivity

Turning computers into powerful communication tools requires access to the Internet; however, getting a school on line, particularly in a remote area, is not a straightforward task. In many areas, the communication infrastructure is either nonexistent or expensive to use. Some forms of terrestrial wireless and satellite technologies are being introduced that do not require installation of wire line networks and are ideal for remote and isolated areas. Below are two examples:

SchoolNet Namibia: A Wireless Solution [57]

Almost two thirds of Namibian schools still don't have a telephone, but that won't keep them from accessing the internet any more. Construction has begun on an ambitiously novel project to provide internet service without need of wires or phone lines.

When completed, SchoolNet Namibia, which provides internet service to Namibia's learners, will be able to hook up hundreds of schools via a narrow-band radio network that will cover most of the densely populated North, as well as urban pockets. This network will cover almost 900 schools and 54,000 km2. Three Windhoek-area schools have already begun surfing wirelessly.

The system works much in the way that cellular networks do. First, a series of strategically placed towers bring a signal to a given area. Devices called subscriber units located on school grounds then pick up the broadcast signal to send and receive data on pre-ordained frequencies. Bridging technology, which allows signals to hop from tower to tower, carry the packets back and forth to SchoolNet servers physically connected to the Internet.

VSAT in Uganda [58]

Small satellite earth stations operating with geosynchronous satellites can be used for interactive voice and data as well as for broadcast reception, by using For example, banks in remote areas of Brazil are linked via VSATs, and the National Stock Exchange in India links very small aperture terminals (VSATS). VSATs for television reception (known as TVRO-television receive only) deliver broadcasting signals to viewers in many developing regions, particularly in Asia and Latin America.

Uganda is implementing a World Links pilot project in the use of VSATs. Fourteen secondary schools and one National Teacher's College are provided with VSATs for high-speed Internet connectivity. The VSAT system uses a national network of 2.4 meter dishes operating in the C-Band. (Due to climatic conditions, C-Band (3 - 6 GHz) is less susceptible to interference from heavy rains as its wavelength is much bigger than the size of a raindrop). The system is full duplex (two-way) so no PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), microwave links or optical fibers are needed for a return link. The link is asymmetric - i.e., more bandwidth will come to the schools than go from the schools.

The "download" bandwidth, 256 Kbps shared among the network of participating sites, guarantees that each site has a minimum of 23 Kbps to operate simultaneously. Any school will be able to "burst" or obtain higher bandwidth (within the total amount) if other schools are not using it. The "upload" bandwidth is a dedicated 32 Kbps per site during the pilot phase. While this bandwidth currently isn't sufficient to do video-conferencing or video streaming, schools can purchase more bandwidth to enable this if there is sufficient interest for additional capabilities.

Ten of the fifteen participating sites will have stand-alone VSATs (i.e., antenna, wireless units, routing equipment), a server and at least ten PCs on a local area network (LAN). An eleventh site has an onward connection to four other schools via a point-to-multipoint Spread Spectrum wireless link through Ethernet bridge equipment. With a wireless Ethernet connection, the four "remote" sites require very little maintenance and their bandwidth usage can be tracked and controlled by the VSAT "hub" site with appropriate monitoring software.

The cost of satellite connectivity is about US$400 a month per site. Each new school or institution added to the network, as a "hub" or "remote" site will share some of the connectivity costs. This will lower the overall operating costs for all schools involved.

3.2 Hardware

Resource 3.2.1 - Computers: Low-Cost Alternative

Although the price of computers is going down, for many developing countries these costs are prohibitive, if computers are to be provided across the school system in numbers that serve the educational objectives. There have been some humble efforts in countries such as Brazil and India to address this issue and produce a less costly computer with a longer operational life.

In India, a small company, Media Video Limited, is providing low-end computers priced between 30 and 65 US$. Another new low-cost product is the Simputer, Simple Inexpensive Multilingual People's Computer. The device uses a touch screen interface, but allows for an external keyboard through a USB interface, for those who require data entry capability. It is built around Intel's StrongARM CPU, and is based on the Linux operating system, with 16MB of flash memory, a monochrome liquid crystal display (LCD), and a touch-panel for pen-based computing. The user does not have to be literate; the device reads out text and supports Hindi, Kannada, and English.

Brazil's version of the Simputer is the Volkscomputer. Very similar in configuration, the machine will have a 500-megahertz processor, 64 megabytes of main memory and 16 MB more on a flash chip that substitutes for a hard drive. There's a 56 kbps modem and the software is Linux-based and, therefore, free. Because the machine is modular, schools can link a series up to a regular PC that would act as a server. Volkscomputer was created by the Federal University of Minas Gerais as a result of a commission last year by the Brazilian federal government. Still in its prototype stages, Brazil hopes to sell it to individuals on an installment plan for as little as $15 per month. In addition, installing the Volkscomputer in schools will give Internet access to 7 million students.

Resource 3.2.2 - Recycling

While organizations, schools and families struggle to get computers and enter the digital revolution, ever more computers are being discarded for the sole reason that a newer version is in the market. There are presently international, regional and local efforts to collect discarded computers, clean them and distribute them to schools.

There is, however, a glitch is this potentially happy-ending affair. Most computers that are being discarded no longer have software installed, and/or cannot support newer software. The use of older software limits the usefulness of these recycled computers. In consequence, some recycling organizations accept donations of only more recent models, such as Pentium 75 or higher. This requirement excludes a significant amount of computers that are now being replaced, particularly those from the late 1980s, including the 386 and 486 series. [59]

Some organizations are trying to address the problem by providing software packages that can be run on any computer, from a 286 to the newest Pentiums. NewDealsoftware, sold by Breadbox, [60] restores the core functionality of old computers. It contains a complete suite of integrated software applications, including design and internet applications. It has a point-and-click interface, like Windows, with two major differences. First, runs on computers with as little as 640K RAM and 20 MB of free Hard Disk space. Second, the retail price is below $100.

56 Excerpted from: Aimee Verdisco and others. May/June 2001. "Honduras: Solar Energy Bridges the Digital Divide." TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
57 www.schoolnet.na
58 Excerpted from: Anthony Bloome. January-March 2002. "Uganda: Wireless School Internet Connectivity." TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
59 See Sonia Jurich. May/June 2000. "Recycling Computers: A Simple Solution for a Complex Problem." TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
60 http://www.breadbox.com/geocats.asp


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