In line with the current digital era, the National Curriculum Development Center recommended ICT Integration in all subjects in the delivery of the New Curricullum for Lower Secondary in Uganda. Teachers are required to integrate ICT in their daily teaching and replace their traditional methods with modern tools and facilities. They are expected to always be ready and well-equipped in terms of ICT competencies, tools and positive attitude to provide ICT-based learning opportunities for students to improve their learning quality.
Over the last two decades, the rapid growth of ICT has become one of the most important topics discussed by the scholars in education. This is due to the capability of ICT in providing a dynamic and proactive teaching and learning environment.
The Internet Challenge
For Uganda’s digital pedagogy aspirations to thrive, internet connectivity and integrating ICT into education are very important and yet very few schools are connected. 3G coverage still remains a challenge and expensive for many schools. This leaves a huge lot of rural primary and secondary schools undeserved. Open Educational Resources (OERs) have revolutionized the way we learn by making a wealth of learning opportunities freely available to anyone with an internet connection. However, 52% of the world’s population lack access to the internet and cannot use these resources. As a result, the knowledge gap is widening.
Below I share about the tools I have recently interacted with, which contain digital educational content or store copies of educational websites such as Wikipedia, Khan Academy, PhET physics simulations, and much more, and make that content available over a local network connection without internet.
- Microsoft Encarta Multimedia Encyclopedia,
- Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate DVD,
- Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning (RACHEL),
- The Edify Smile-Pi
- and others like Kolibri and the Yaaka DN with locally created content by Uganda.
1. Microsoft Encarta Multimedia Encyclopedia
Microsoft Encarta is a digital multimedia encyclopedia published by Microsoft Corporation from 1993 to 2009, originally sold on CD-ROM or DVD. The complete English version, Encarta Premium, consists of more than 62,000 articles, numerous photos and illustrations, music clips, videos, interactive content, timelines, maps, atlases, homework tools among other features.
When I Joined Busitema University in 2007, I found Encarta Installed on computers at Faculty of Education in Nagongera. Throughout our course we used to utilize Encarta for research especially when internet was off at campus. I also saved a backup image of the Encarta Installation DVD and also installed it to computers at Jinja College where I went for my final school practice and was retained by the school thereafter, first as a lab attendant and later on as a Math and Computer Studies teacher.
Encarta began as a pet project of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in 1993. It started unsettling to the traditional print encyclopedia. As the amount of information available online grew exponentially, it became quaint to purchase DVDs of factual material. While a free, text-oriented project like online Wikipedia could not compete with the graphics and design of Encarta, it was more up-to-date and that was more important to consumers. In 2009 as Wikipedia was becoming more popular, Microsoft decided to discontinue the Encarta business, citing changes in the way people seek and consume information as compared to the pre-Internet and early Internet era. However, most folks at Microsoft don’t realize that Encarta exists and is used TODAY all over the developing world on disconnected or occasionally connected computers.
I recently saw Encarta mentioned in the New Curriculum syllabus books as one of the tools that can be used for ICT Integration, and I retrieved my backup Image of the Encarta Installation DVD. I was impressed that it installed just perfectly on my latest Windows 10 machine and runs nicely. For example, the Encarta Timeline works even today on across THREE 4k monitors at nearly 10,000 pixels across! This was a product that was written over 10 years ago and could never have conceived of that many pixels.
While meeting students at Kololo SS this week, I decided to use multimedia content in the Microsoft Encarta digital Encyclopedia as stimulus material in class. This was projected on the wall and the students were very attentive and engaged.
During our upcoming ITAU workshops this year, we shall freely share Encarta Software to all members who will attend. We are also including it on the next version of the ITAU Master Flash and interested members can call the ITAU Master Flash project coordinator on 0772111223 / 0752111223 for deliveries.
2. Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate DVD
Britannica is the English-language encyclopedia that was in print for the longest time: it lasted 244 years. It was written by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 contributors. The 2010 version of the 15th edition, spans 32 volumes and 32,640 pages.
In March 2012, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. announced it would no longer publish printed editions, and would focus instead on CD/DVD-ROM digital encyclopedias and Encyclopedia. The most notable competitor of the Britannica among CD/DVD-ROM digital encyclopedias was Encarta. The Encyclopedia Britannica company did launch a CD-ROM in 1989, four years before Encarta came along.
The Britannica contains over 100,000 articles, 20,000 images and illustrations, and 1,000 video and audio clips, divided into adult research, student, and children’s libraries. On start-up, you choose the Britannica you want to explore— starting with the adult library this lands you on the reasonably attractive home page, which resembles a browser page, with buttons for paging back and forward, and icons across the top (linking to an atlas, dictionary, time line, and more). You browse content via an alphabetical index in a narrow pane down the left-hand side of the page. Above this is the standard search box. To the right is a large, resizable splash screen that features links to most of the destinations in the icon bar above. At start-up, this holds an image and a “this day in history” blurb; this is also where your articles will be displayed for reading.
The a–z index is a geekish but cool way to waste time, and it might even be useful for finding things if you had some idea what you were looking for but weren’t quite sure how to spell them. The most useful navigation tool, however, is the search engine, where you type in queries (using boolean operators, if you know how). The results, which seem quite complete, replace the a–z index (which you can retrieve via a nearby button, if you need it), and are sorted into articles, images, and book of the year articles.
The majority of the content falls within the adult library. The company has obviously done some work on its children’s and students’ editions, but the adult library is richer. The writing is good, concise, and authoritative. There are more illustrations and clips to go with the content, but by and large you’re still going to read this stuff to educate yourself, not for entertainment. The Britannica is the encyclopedia to go to for research; if you have teen kids whose attention you wanted to keep engaged, you’d probably send them to Encarta (and hope that they eventually graduated to the Britannica).
Britannica is also mentioned in the New Curriculum ICT Syllabus and we are also including it on the next version of the ITAU Master Flash. Interested members can call the ITAU Master Flash project coordinator on 0772111223 / 0752111223 for local deliveries.
3. Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning (RACHEL)
In January this year, I was invited to facilitate a two weeks ICT Training for staff of Mount of Olives College, Kakiri – Wakiso District under the theme, “Utilizing ICTs to enhance teaching and learning (Digital Pedagogy)”. RACHEL is one of the educational programs the school has acquired for ICT Integration in education, and I was tasked to train the teachers on how to utilize it, plus other vital computer literacy skills for teachers like use of word processors, spreadsheets, presentations, Internet and Email.
I had to quickly research about RACHEL and learn it in order to train the teachers, since it was also my first time to interact with the software.
What is RACHEL?
RACHEL, the Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning is a combination of freely available software and content modules that makes it easy to bring online educational materials into places with limited or no internet access.
RACHEL is an initiative by WordPossible.org – It all started when Mr. Norberto Mujica, a Cisco Systems engineer, traveled to Ethiopia and taught classes at a university with a large number of computers, but no usable internet access. He had the idea to put together a collection of materials and store them on a server so that all students could access them. Later that year, Norberto went back to Ethiopia with three more Cisco colleagues. They saw so many kids who could benefit from educational content that they decided to found a non-profit. The group ran into quite a few technical challenges, but they were inspired by the help of the local Ethiopians who worked alongside them. At any suggestion the locals would say “Possible, possible,” then get to work. To honor their optimism, the name “World Possible” was born.
Norberto and a handful of volunteers built the first large version of the offline educational server, which they named RACHEL: Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education & Learning. When the Raspberry Pi was released, they created a Raspberry Pi version called RACHEL-Pi that was even smaller and less expensive to build. The first RACHEL-Pis were deployed in Africa and India.
In 2012 a BBC news piece told the story of RACHEL’s organic scaling in Uganda, which brought a lot of attention and demand for more RACHEL servers. RACHEL was being distributed by UConnect.org, an organization whose core mission was to enhance acquisition and sharing of knowledge and information by students and teachers in Uganda through e-learning technologies in since 1995, signing MoUs with the Ministry of Education from 1997.
The following is some of the content included with RACHEL for offline access.
- KA-Lite includes thousands of videos and exercises on math, science, and more – an incredible learning resource brought to you by the Khan Academy and The Foundation for Learning Equality.
- Wikipedia is the world’s largest encyclopedia, created, moderated, and edited by users for users. This encyclopedia has over 5 million articles with illustrations and is freely available to anyone, anywhere.
- PhET Interactive Simulations, a project at the University of Colorado Boulder, is a non-profit open educational resource (OER) project founded in 2002 by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman. PhET began with Wiemans vision to improve the way science is taught and learned. Their stated mission is “To advance science and math literacy and education worldwide through free interactive simulations.”
- Math Expression – Math tutoring materials including videos, study tips, practice questions and step-by-step solutions.
- For each lesson, read the study tips carefully and take note of the important concepts/ideas before watching the video. These tips will guide you in your math thinking strategies.
- Music Theory – Comprehensive music theory lessons and exercises to begin your journey into the realm of music.
- Interactive World Map – Enables you Browse the world from the global to the local with this interactive and searchable world map from OpenStreetMaps and the XSCE project.
- Wikivoyage – Worldwide travel guide with a wealth of information on destinations around the world. Make geography come alive! This module is provided by Kiwix.
- CK-12 Textbooks – High quality textbooks on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) from ck12.org.
- GCF LearnFree.org – Hundreds of high-quality illustrated articles and videos focusing on technology, job training, reading, and math skills, produced by the Goodwill Community Foundation.
- TED Talks: TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an invitation-only event where the world’s leading thinkers and doers gather to find inspiration. This collection includes nearly 2000 short videos on thought provoking topics from several years worth of events around the world.
- Great Books of the World – A searchable, categorized selection of over 400 of the most beloved and respected books from around the world, collected from Project Gutenberg.
- African Storybook Project – These enjoyable, illustrated stories will assist young children as they learn to read. Gathered from African communities, they include characters and topics more familiar and relevant to children there.
- MIT Scratch – Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively. Scratch is designed especially for ages 8 to 16, but is used by people of all ages.
- Scale of the Universe – Explore the universe from the fantastically small to the awesomely large with this interactive demonstration of the size of things. This module requires Flash or a Flash-capable browser like Chrome.
- Hesperian Health Guides – Easy to understand, practical, accurate, and heavily illustrated guides on health topics that for remote areas where access to medical personnel and facilities is limited.
- MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia – More than 4,000 cross-referenced medical articles from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Includes comprehensive illustrations and photographs.
- Practical Action Well organized and illustrated information on a wide range of agricultural, environmental, and health topics.
- Infonet-Biovision – Well organized and illustrated information on a wide range of agricultural, environmental, and health topics.
- UNESCO’s IICBA Electronic Library – Teachers’ resources from the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa.
- Understanding Algebra – A complere, concise, and illustrated textbook introducing algebra that can be viewed here or printed out.
- Wiktionary is a collaborative project to produce a free-content multilingual dictionary. It aims to describe all words of all languages using definitions and descriptions in English.
- RACHEL-Plus Lesson Planner and Content Storage lets you add your own content to the RACHEL-Plus pi
The actual educational content made available offline in a RACHEL server is owned by their own creators:
- All Wikipedia content is available for free at www.wikipedia.org.
- All Khan Academy content is available for free at www.khanacademy.org.
- All CK-12 content is available for free at www.ck-12.org.
- All MedLine content is available for free at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/.
- All Hesperian content is available for free at www.hesperian.org.
- All Gutenberg content is available for free at www.gutenberg.org.
- All OLPC content is available for free at www.laptop.org.
- All MIT Scratch content is available for free at scratch.mit.edu.
- All UNESCO’s IICBA content is available for free at www.eng.unesco-iicba.org.
- All Math Expression content is available for free at www.mathexpression.com.
- All Music Theory content is available for free at www.musictheory.net.
In Uganda, RACHEL is currently promoted and distributed by Elearner Uganda, Elearning Service Center at the Ministry of Education and Sports, 4th Floor, Legacy Towers Kampala. Interested in RACHEL? Fill in this form to be contacted for delivery and installation assistance.
Kolibri is specially designed to provide offline access to a curated and openly licensed educational content library. Available in dozens of languages, the Kolibri libraries are designed to support a well-rounded curriculum, including both formal educational materials–such as lessons and assessments–and exploratory materials, such as books, games, and simulations.
To facilitate broad, low-cost adoption, Kolibri is designed to run on as many devices and operating systems as possible, leveraging existing legacy hardware or low-cost off-the-shelf devices. This includes Windows, Linux and OSX. The cost of Android tablets is plummeting, so we’re also building Kolibri to run standalone as an Android app. Kolibri comes with tools such as a coach dashboard, exam creation, exercises, assignment of content for differentiated instruction, and a recommendation tool that displays useful and relevant next steps based on a learner’s history, progress, and goals. Devices running Kolibri will be able to find and directly connect with each other over a local Wi-Fi network, allowing for easy content sharing and data updates
The cloud-based platform KOLIBRI STUDIO gives users full control over the organization of their educational materials. Using this content curation system, anyone can explore pre-organized libraries of open educational resources, and bundle, tag, differentiate, re-order, and distribute their contents offline as custom channels.
You can download the latest standard customisable version of Kolibri from the project developers’ website at learningequality.org/download/
Customized Kolibri version for government of Uganda
The customised Kolibri platform available online at e-learning.education.go.ug is an initiative between the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education and Sports and National Information Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U) and UNICEF.
With this customized Kolibri, pupils, students and teachers in government schools can access content on Mathematics, Sciences, technology, arts, humanities and life skills in form of text, videos, interactive simulations and digital education games. and offline also contains videos in sign language, ebooks for children with low vision and audio books for the benefit of children with disabilities.
At the launch of the 4th phase of NBI in Northern Uganda by President Yoweri Museveni in June 2019, Kolibri was demonstrated before the President who toured the computer lab at St. Charles Lwanga College in Koboko District where the launch took place. UNICEF and NITA-U revamped the computer lab while UNICEF installed Kolibri on the computers, trained the teachers and oriented the students on how to utilize the platform.
5. The Edify Smile-Pi
The Edify SMILE Pi (SMILE Plug) is a low-cost hardware solution that allows you to create a private micro-cloud for up to 20 users. SMILE Pi creates a portable Wi-Fi access point, gateway, and content server with which users can access SMILE from any device that has wireless receivers and a web browser. The SMILE Pi can also serve static content from a plugged in USB Flash Drive. The SMILE Pi serves the Stanford Mobile Inquiry-Based Learning Environment (SMILE) software, in addition to other available open education resources. The software contained on the SMILE Pi is all freely available, permissively licensed Open Educational Resources. Several Open-Source packages are sourced from the RACHEL plus additional ones like coding applications, Bible Applications and Fantastic Phonics which are very good especially for kids in primary schools.
The Smile Plug package is configured by a team with members from both Edify and Seeds of Empowerment.
Seeds of Empowerment is a global non-profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to bring empowerment through education. Building upon both innovative mobile technology and educational research from Stanford University, SoE emerged in 2009 as a catalytic force to reach remote populations worldwide through mobile learning. The SoE team partners with local underserved communities around the world to improve access and quality of education, to amplify and augment learning programs where they exist, and to create new opportunities for learning where traditional education systems are lacking or non-existent.
Edify is an international non-profit 501(c)(3) organization who’s mission is to improve and expand sustainable Christ-centered education, globally. Currently, Edify supports schools in 11 countries. Edify seeks to achieve this mission by focusing on three areas: Edify places a strong focus on training school leaders and teachers to provide a biblically-based, high-quality education and develop Christ-like character in students. Edify offers school owners access to lending capital so they can improve and expand their facilities. Edify provides schools with access to education technology for the classroom, specifically focusing on tools for literacy and critical thinking skills.
In Uganda, Edify supports over 400 schools and in February, they invited the school heads and Teachers for workshops on Educational Technology. I was privileged to be invited to facilitate 5 of the workshops which were held at Ndejje University Kampala Campus, Vision for Africa Primary School, Mukono, Uganda Christian University Mukono and the final one at Elephante Commons in Gulu town.
Interested in acquiring some Smile-Pis for your school? Fill in this form to be contacted for delivery and training.
As an advocate for Digital Pedagogy, I encourage all teachers to install Encarta and other related (more up-to-date resources like Britannica , RACHEAL, EDIFY Smile Pi, KOLIBRI, among others) which give access to digital educational content which can help us expose our learners to the different experiences needed to achieve the learning outcomes suggested in the new Curriculum. I am also making plans to redevelop my initiative of Sharebility Uganda so that is can be deploy-able for Offline access and later be periodically synchronized with the online version.
Article by Mukalele Rogers National Coordinator - ITAU (2018 - 2020) +256776960740 / +256706060740