Knowledge is power. And the internet is a huge repository of knowledge. In Western society, we often take our unencumbered access to the internet for granted. Teachers at schools in the US, and most other developed countries, have access to this giant knowledge-base at their literal fingertips. However, this is not the case for teachers in severely budget-restricted schools in Uganda, and lots of other under-developed countries of the world. If a student asks the teacher a question that the teacher doesn’t know the answer to and isn’t in the very limited resources they have, the question goes unanswered, and the opportunity to gain knowledge is missed.
The goal for the technology training part of our trip this year was to provide a solution to this problem for FoDU’s partner schools that does not cost them anything. We had already provided the schools with some computers and projectors, but the internet solutions we had provided previously were just too expensive to maintain for the schools. In our research for a solution, we ran across an organization (http://racheloffline.org/) that takes snapshots of numerous sites on the internet (with each site’s permission), and saves that data locally on a Wi-Fi access point. The content being stored on these devices are from sites like Khan Academy’s training videos, Wikipedia for schools, online textbooks, interactive world maps, books for early readers, typing games and much, much more. These access points allow multiple computers to connect to it at the same time and access the stored data. In addition, these devices have their own battery, so even in an environment with flaky or no electricity, one of these devices along with one or more laptops/phones/tablets can still have access to this plethora of knowledge.
It has given me great joy this trip to be able to show these devices to the teachers at FoDU’s partner schools and see the excitement in their faces; see them realize what this is going to enable for them, and the world this opens up. Plus, it doesn’t require a monthly data plan. It’s free.
It has also given me a lot of joy to meet and work with the two brand new Technology Advocates that FoDU has hired in Uganda. The primary role of these new staff members is to work with FoDU’s partner schools to train the teachers on computer skills, help with curriculum development using the technologies provided, help maintain the technology devices, etc.
With the new technologies we are leaving behind this trip and the new FoDU staff dedicated to training and helping the teachers effectively use these technologies, I am beyond excited to see what the transformation will be on our next trip to Uganda!