In the campaign period, voters were keen on which political party’s manifesto reflected their wish for the Kenya of the near future. So scrutiny was quite huge, and ICT focus is quite huge in Kenya. The two main sides, in Kenya, Jubilee and CORD made their promises in writing and made them on-line for voter’s perusal. One thing was an item of huge discussions on-line, most welcoming the idea, some critiquing the validity and sense of the idea. Recently, Kenyan Daily Newspaper editor Wachira Kangaru mentioned in an article that Samsung was angling to bid for the business of supplying the laptops for the schools if the Jubilee government does indeed get voted in. And eyes shifted on Samsung. Jubilee is in and they have to live up to their promise.
I sought to get an opinion from Samsung, through Samsung Electronics East Africa’s COO Robert Ngeru. Mr Robert thinks this is quite a noble idea, but says there is even a better one that could get impressive results in achieving the objective of making our pupils get exposed to technology early enough. He noted that it’s quite a good idea to have our pupils get to experience the technologies that run our ICTs as this exposes them to learn their talents and skills as early as possible and this could guide their parents in shaping their children’s future.
Solar Powered Laptops and Internet Schools
The better idea that Mr. Ngeru proposes is Solar Powered Internet Schools. A model that has since worked successfully in South Africa’s rural areas. This is an all-inclusive product by Samsung and partners that involves a Smart School Solution that integrates an internet connected server, tablets or laptops and a smart-board This concept just requires data access and the sun to run. In areas that have minimal infrastructure like the far fetched areas of Kenya, a full Internet School will be set up. This will be a specially built containers with classroom furniture, laptops and/or tablets with keyboard docks, smart-board, server and a connection to the internet. This will then be powered by solar panels set on a second container with several batteries for power storage.
For areas that are already connected to the power grid, the set-up will just involve the classroom fitted with networked laptops, a server and the smart-board. This will then be connected to the internet via either Satellite, SIM card or LAN depending on the infrastructure available.
It doesn’t end there as this is not just a hardware solution. Samsung and partners Intel, Microsoft and KIE (Kenya Institute of Education) have made it an all-inclusive product with hardware and software for region-specific curriculum. The server will be set up with a live feed on an internet connection to feed the school with current material in tandem with the school curriculum.
Samsung is willing to train the teachers to get them understand how to manage the class using a Learning Management Software that they developed to integrate the server, tablets and the smart-board. Of-course this wont come smoothly as there is the problem of change in the way of doing things and we all know the hitches of system change-over. Once set up the learning Management Software will enable teachers control what the students access, even with internet access. The teacher is able to control the screen that students look at on their laptops in-case of a demonstration. These laptops will also have short-cuts to most needed applications in the classroom environment.
Teachers will also be able to give exercises that will be monitored on the server and they can then proceed to help out a student who is stuck since they can see what is happening on all student screens. Other ways this will make teaching easier is by showing a screen from a student to show the class how either something is done or to show them how to get through a problem if any student gets stuck.
This system, beyond giving the teacher confidence when teaching, they will then have folders in which they can store specific classroom material and even drop assignments in all students folders. The system will also assist the teachers in tracking progress of students’ performance.
This solution is not just for Kenya as it’s already been implemented in South Africa. Rwanda also commissioned deployment of the same within this week and Samsung is in talks with Tanzania and Ethiopia over the same. The first phase will be the internet schools to give exposure to students. Then the real deal comes where software to have the learning process revolutionized to involve more interactive learning is implemented.
So what really is better, laptops given to class 1 pupils or such a comprehensive solution that seeks to prepare them in the immersion to smart learning?