Inveneo Education Archives

Thank You Solar Library Champions!

  1. Posted by Inveneo on February 16, 2016 in the categories: Projects
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We’re extremely grateful for all of our Generosity campaign supporters!  As of February 16, 2016, nearly 60 people had donated approximately $14,200 to our campaign.  We’re excited to begin assembling the Solar Libraries this month to send to Haiti.

In particular, we’d like to give a big shout out to our three Solar Library Champion supporters!

  • Ann Cude
  • Alexandra Grill-Childers
  • Sharon Penley

Thank you to our Solar Library Champions and to all of our donors for your help and support!

Picture for Siemens Project Campaign

Inveneo’s Solar Powered Digital Library Generosity (by Indiegogo) Campaign!

  1. Posted by Inveneo on November 23, 2015 in the categories: News
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Inveneo is proud to announce the launch of its Generosity (by Indiegogo) campaign, which aims to raise $50,000 to deliver Solar Powered Digital Libraries to 15 remote, rural schools in Haiti.  We are grateful to craigslist’s Craig Newmark for his generous contribution of $10,000!  

The Problem

Throughout the developing world, millions of schoolchildren lack (or only have limited access to) books and basic learning resources, much less computers or the Internet.  Transporting volumes of books or computers to schools can be expensive and logistically daunting.  Digital libraries – tablets or computers (PCs) loaded with thousands of e-books and other educational resources – have begun to enhance learning opportunities in the developing world.  However, many existing digital library solutions require Internet or power.

The Solution

Inveneo’s Solar Powered Digital Library (Solar Library) is ruggedly designed for schools lacking educational resources, Internet, and power.  It includes thousands of e-books, lectures, and other educational resources (e.g. Wikipedia) that can be accessed completely off-the grid.

Call to Action

Donate Today!  Please join our campaign by donating today!  We are extremely grateful for any level of support you can provide.  Thank you!

What's in a Solar Library

Inveneo in Haiti: Digital Literacy for 71 Teachers

  1. Posted by Inveneo on August 18, 2015 in the categories: Publications
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Inveneo is proud to announce that, due to its projects and Project Manager in Haiti Michelet Guerrier, there are now 71 more teachers who are digitally literate in Haiti. This newly published report is about an ICT Pilot Program [Extension of the Transforming Teaching Through Tablets (TTT) project] to improve Haitian teacher capacity and access to digital educational resources. Inveneo implemented this pilot program in three primary schools in three different regions in Haiti from March to June 2014 (Petit-Goave, Hyacinthe, and Cascade Pichon) before we expanded the program to reach more than 30 secondary teachers in Petit-Goave. The program’s main goal was to demonstrate the benefits of using tablets in a school environment to build teacher capacity and make educational resources available for teachers.

We re-designed the project to fit not only primary school teachers, but also those working in secondary schools. Read the report and check out all the updates!

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Students Make Innovative Educational ICT Program for Micronesia

  1. Posted by Inveneo on June 12, 2015 in the categories: News
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Longtime Inveneo friend and colleague Dr. Laura Hosman has led her students this past semester on an exciting digital library project at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. One of the project’s leaders, Cecillia Tran, is a 5th year Liberal Arts Engineering Studies Major, and she recently spoke with Inveneo to give an explanation of the ICT project. She has been inspired by how people can make a powerful impact just by using older technology in inventive ways. Read the interview below.

  1. Inveneo: What is the SPELL Project?

SPELL stands for Solar Powered Educational Learning Library. Students in the Federated States of Micronesia as well as Vanuatu have no access to Internet or electricity in their schools. Our solution was to create and donate 50 solar-powered mini servers, pre-loaded with educational content, that could be connected to any WiFi enabled device through a WiFi dongle. The educational content our team curated onto an SD card was based through extensive research of what levels of education were needed on the islands. Some of the materials used were various Khan Academy videos on subject matters such as math, writing, and science. Due to a recent typhoon, we also decided to upload weather related content so students are better prepared if another accident were to happen.

SPELL Students and Dr. Laura Hosman

Dr. Laura Hosman (left) with several of her students working on the SPELL project.

  1. Since the Banana Pis are going to Chuuk, will the educational content be in English, Chuukese, or another language?

The educational content will be in English, since students are required to learn English in the classroom. However, there will be some content that is in Chuukese.

  1. What is the role that students play within the SPELL Project?

We divided into four teams. There is a contents and deployment team who are responsible for researching and curating the educational materials that is put on the SD card. There is a design team responsible for creating the outer shell for the mini-server itself so that there is a protective casing and an attached solar panel to power the server. We also have a SPOT team (systems performance optimization team) that is responsible for testing and configuring the Banana Pi (mini server) and WiFi dongle. And also, we have a promotions team that is responsible for the marketing and branding of the project. We even created a website and logo for the team.

  1. How will this project made a difference in Micronesia?

This project will give students who don’t have access to Internet or electricity a new way to receive their education. They will have the chance to be able to interact with electronic devices that many of us are fortunate enough to have easy access to. Our contents team is working very hard to provide a good, substantial amount of information and educational materials that would be helpful. The platform could possibly open their minds and eyes like never before.

  1. What lessons have you learned from this project?

I think we learned a lot of real world skills, especially teamwork; our class was composed of students from many different backgrounds of education. For example, we have many liberal arts and engineering studies majors, as well as electrical engineering, computer science, journalism, graphic communication, and political science. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and have seen many different perspectives as we’ve moved along through different parts of the project. We also learned that projects will not always go as planned. We have hit many bumps in the road and have had to change directions, but it was a good experience for all of us. We managed to work our way through them. Finally, we learned a lot about Chuuk and the islands, what educational access they have, and how we can make a difference. That’s what excited me about this class: this project really could make a difference and we could reach out to people who are in need. It’s exciting to be a part of a project that would go beyond the classroom and make a tangible difference that matters in the world.

  1. What can the ICT community learn from SPELL’s experience?

I think it’s amazing what a difference a small group of 15 people can make. We were donated 50 Banana Pi brand units, given as part of LeMaker’s non-profit educational program. We turned them into a powerful educational tool that we believe could make a real difference in Chuuk students’ lives, as well as other countries, that may not have Internet access or electricity in their schools.

The ICT community should be aware that anything can make a difference. Products that one may think is outdated can be turned into something incredible that would help people. Sometimes it’s the small but innovative changes that can make a big impact.

Update: Haiti’s Transforming Teaching Through Tablets Project

  1. Posted by Inveneo on January 12, 2015 in the categories: News
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Written by Michelet Guerrier, Inveneo’s Project Manager in Haiti

In our continuing efforts to support the participating schools in the Transforming Teaching Through Tablets (TTT) Pilot Project, we have had constant communication with the teachers who received Google Nexus Tablets loaded with content for professional development and attended Inveneo’s ICT training program, since our last August report.

Besides regular phone calls and emails to school administrators and teachers, we prepared a two month evaluation which we administer to every teacher participant and school administrator to learn more about what has worked well so far and what needs some improvement. This is so we can provide appropriate support either remotely or on-site. This is a good way to keep the teachers engaged in their own professional development process.

TransformingTeachingWe thought it was a wonderful idea to stay in good communication with the teachers to support them when needed and evaluate the ongoing impact of the project. And the perfect time is during school time between September and June (in the case of Haiti) when teachers and students are really active in the teaching-learning process.

Below is the summary report from the first two-month evaluation (September-October 2014) from the teachers in Petit-Goave, Hyacinthe, and Cascade Pichon.

What has the team learned so far? 

Since the submission of their learning portfolio that was a requirement for owning the tablet and participating in our certification ceremony that followed, all the teachers have used their tablets at least five days per week. They have used their individual tablet at home as a reference for lesson planning, reading, and browsing the Internet. At school, it is used as a tool for class instruction whenever possible. Bruny Casseus, a 5th grade teacher at Harry Brakeman says, “With my tablet, I take pictures that I use as teaching materials. I use the French dictionary to look up [a] word’s meaning and spelling when I plan lessons. I also use other applications on the tablet to teach math and facts about animals.” Renault Emilien, who is teaching 6th graders at Ecole Methodiste de Hyacinthe, explains that “being able to use a projector with the tablet in our classrooms is making a big difference in how we teach and how our children learn. We are doing more in less time and the students seem to become more motivated to participate in activities in the classroom”.

Eight teachers at “Ecole Methodiste Hyacinthe” participated in the program and successfully met the requirements of the program. They attended all training sessions, participated actively in workshops, and created and submitted a learning portfolio.

Electricity is still an issue for Harry Brakeman and Cascade Pichon schools. At Harry Brakeman, the teachers have still not found an opportunity to use the projector. The school directed noted that there has been no electricity in the city during the day. In addition, there has been a serious political problem leading to street demonstration in the city since late August 2014 that has terribly affected the functioning of schools in the area.

In Cascade Pichon, one school under construction (with the help of an organization called Heart to Heart) is about to finish. Once fully completed, the school might have a solar power system if funding is found. That will be another huge step in improving education in that community.

We asked the teachers, “in your opinion, what has changed in your teaching thanks to your participation in the techno-pedagogical training program of Inveneo’s TTT project?”

For this question, let me share the teachers’ opinions with you.

According to Marie Therese Philibert, who is responsible for the primary section at Harry Brakeman School: “The tablets are really bringing a change in our school when we consider the applications and resources we have access to now. This is a revolution.”

Catherine Sincere: “I think what has changed in my teaching through my participation in the techno educational training, is how to get and use new and reliable resources to teach in ways that encourage my pupils to better participate in the process. Indeed the Inveneo program allows me to shape young minds and affects the education in an integral way, it shows us how we should exercise our thinking on the subject of education and teaching.”

Emilien Renault (Methodiste Hyacinthe 6th Grade teacher): “With my participation in techno- pedagogical training program of Inveneo, my way of teaching has changed a lot since I implement what I have learned from the training. My students learn better and I find better results. Before I attended the training, I was always the one speaking to the students. But now it is the students who speak and I help them discover the knowledge. I was very surprised to see…what I needed to be a good teacher.

Guirlene Rene (Harry Brakeman 3rd Grade teacher): “After my participation in the techno- pedagogical training program by Inveneo, teaching becomes easier and [it] helps my students learn better.”

Glose Louis (2nd Grade-Harry Brakeman): “After my participation in the training program, I have learned to make my class more active.

Question 2: How have your students benefited from your training and use of technology?

Below are some of the answers from the teachers:

Blaise Enseau (Cascade Pichon School): “My students and I have benefited lots of big things from the program. I have used the videos to teach story tales to the students. The training materials have influenced me to use new working methods. Learning about the technology will help me be a good teacher. I like it when I need to check the meaning of a word in the dictionary. I look and find it very fast. When I am a good teacher, my students will be good students.”

Jean Guithaud Barthelemy (Cascade Pichon School): “This training that I attended with the tablet helps me a lot. I have benefited many things. It has brought me a new method for teaching and [will] help my pupils learn better. It is that I see and understand the real value of the training. I have even introduced my pupils to the use of the tablet.”

Jean Marnochy (Harry Brakeman School): “I can say that the tablet is very useful for course presentation. It helps me plan lessons better and faster.”

Compere Desil (Harry Brakeman School): “With this Inveneo Tablet program, I am happy to have been a participant. Besides my learning of technology, I have also learned new things relating to pedagogy that can help teach my students in a modern way. I am now able to train myself with the training materials available on the tablet, and my students can benefit…This training has encouraged in me the interest for research of new tools [for] teaching and learning.”

Mirlande Benjamin (Harry Brakeman 1st Grade Teacher): “I have shared part of what I learned with Inveneo. My pupils have used my tablet to take pictures and make short videos we use as learning tools for all.

Conclusion 

In conclusion, we can say that these teachers have been learning a lot from the program. New habits have been formed. They have become more aware of what planning teaching for learning involves. And we are happy to have facilitated that to happen. The two biggest challenges encountered since the beginning remain the same: electricity and connectivity. But work is being done to overcome these challenges. The school administrators believe that they will achieve much more with more access to electricity and Internet, which I believe, too.

Because we believe that successful technology deployment results from relevant capacity building and ongoing support, we want to keep this healthy relationship with the school administrators and teachers to keep them on the track of improving their professional practice and students’ learning.

Again, we would like to thank our partners. Please, feel proud of your valuable contributions in making a positive change in the lives of the most vulnerable.

On behalf of these teachers, Emilien Renault, a 6th grade teacher at Methodiste Hyacinthe, would like to congratulate Inveneo and its partners for this beautiful program developed for the improvement of education in rural Haïti.

Inveneo Joins with U.S. Students to Further ICT Research

  1. Posted by Inveneo on June 11, 2014 in the categories: Education, News
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Inveneo recently joined with Illinois Institute of Technology’s Professor Laura Hosman to lead student teams in addressing the challenges facing off-grid schools that want to harness ICTs to improve educational opportunities for local students. Bridging together their hard work, skills, and efforts, the student teams successfully developed the SolarCubed ICT Lab, which is a portable solar computer lab in a box that can be conveniently transported to developing schools in need of technology.

A school in Chuuk, Micronesia

A school in Chuuk, Micronesia

SolarCubed was initially deployed to a school in the island state of Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2012. Chuuk is one of four states that comprise the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The FSM consists of approximately 607 total islands strewn about the Western Pacific that maintain an average temperature of around 87 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Chuuk is the most populous of the states and is home to 11 main lagoon islands and 14 surrounding atolls and lower islands. There is a very high population of youth on these islands.

After the first SolarCubed deployment, it was discovered that the technology was not being used in the school in Chuuk as hoped. What was contributing to the lack of technology use? One of Dr. Hosman’s classes recently created a technology readiness site survey that would determine a school’s readiness and capacity to make use of the solar-powered computer lab. This baseline survey was made to have a factor of universality so it could be used in many different locations around the world to evaluate existing conditions.

With the leadership of Prof. Hosman and partnership of the Inveneo team, the class was given the opportunity to push the envelope on ICT initiatives even further. Inveneo was a huge help when it came to getting this team to think critically from a global point of view. The students wanted to facilitate the survey via Android mobile devices, so that it could be administered on-the-go on the most commonly used devices across the developing world.

When the class started in the spring semester of 2014, the students learned that simply providing the SolarCubed ICT Lab to less privileged schools was not an effective method to helping them take advantage of this technology efficiently. The main challenge was figuring out the best way to know which schools could be considered “ready” to make use of the technology, in terms of both the infrastructure and the human side of things, while not being able to travel to Chuuk ourselves.

The class was tasked with creating a technology readiness site survey designed to capture the attitudes of school administrators and teachers towards ICT and the school’s capability of sustaining it. The survey would be administered on a mobile device (for ease of use by the survey administrator), and local partners in Chuuk would be the ones carrying out the survey. Although connectivity would not be a necessity while the survey enumerators were administering the survey, they would eventually upload the survey data to us back in Chicago.  The class planned to assess the factors that were deemed important in terms of schools being able to take advantage of computer-related technology.

DrHosmanClass

Dr. Hosman (center) and her IIT class, 2014.

The survey-making process included:

  • Forming suitable questions that would be easy to comprehend in different regions of the world and would help reveal needs, capabilities, and interest in ICT.

  • Assessing existing open-source software options for creating and administering surveys on mobile devices. The class chose to use ODK (Open Data Kit) Collect as the main survey software, along with FormHub for creating the survey spreadsheet.

  • Administering the survey to multiple test groups, in Chicago and abroad, to help filter out any questions that seemed to be unnecessary or confusing.

The class’ local partner on the ground in Chuuk was the team at iSolutions, a computer networking and consulting business located on the main island of Weno, which is the capital of Chuuk. This team was lead by TR Mori, whom Dr. Hosman originally met while working in Chuuk, Micronesia. iSolutions also runs the only Internet cafe in Chuuk.

To help with this project, the iSolutions team administered the survey on the ground in Chuuk. The iSolutions team members needed to learn how to use “ODK Collect,” the mobile technology platform that was chosen to administer the survey, as well as to familiarize them with both the questions and the overall goals of our survey.

Ultimately, data was collected from six schools. Unfortunately, all of these schools were on the main island, and were not the intended targets. Outer-island schools would be good candidates to receive technology in the future–specifically, the SolarCubed ICT Labs. Each of the main-island schools that was surveyed already had access to both electricity and ICT. Nonetheless, the class could begin analyzing the data to determine whether the assessment tools that were created would be useful.

DataEvaluation

The data evaluation metric

Data was analyzed by breaking down the portions of our survey into four key attributes that determined overall readiness. The four key attributes included:

  • Potential Impact of the Technology

  • Infrastructure

  • Experience with Technology

  • Attitude Towards Technology

From this point, questions from the survey were grouped based upon their relation to each attribute, and the answers were evaluated to determine readiness.

The students were surprised to have received data from schools that already had access to technology, but this underscored a point that Prof. Hosman emphasized throughout the semester: the human side of technology initiatives is always the most complicated and challenging. Nonetheless, we are confident that with time (and relevant data), our site survey does have the ability to promote accuracy and increase successful efforts to assess the readiness of schools around the world for ICT initiatives, due to its global clarity and effectiveness in assessing global technological needs.

If you would like more information on our project or SolarCubed hubs, please visit www.solarcubed.org to keep up with our progress. Additionally, online versions of the surveys have been uploaded to FormHub and may be found here:

SiteAssessment V1.5 Part 1

SiteAssessment V1.5 Part 2

Written by Anndriene Bell, one of Dr. Hosman’s students at IIT. You can reach Anndriene Bell by email.

Inveneo Presents at Ethiopian ICT Showcase in Collaboration with RTI

  1. Posted by Inveneo on April 25, 2014 in the categories: Education, News, Projects
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For many years students in Ethiopia were not educated in their own native language, and instead, they were only taught to read or write in one Ethiopian language called Amharic.

13879382155_9d72452241_z.jpgInveneo is collaborating with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and RTI as a partner in USAID’s Ethiopia READ project, a program that was created to enhance reading comprehension in one’s own native language for 15 million children in Ethiopia. To further the project, our Director of Project Management, Kassia Echavarri-Queen, and Project Engineer, Matt Crum, collaborated to create an ICT Showcase in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that focused on discussing which educational ICT technologies would be the most efficient and suitable solutions for the Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed Technical Assistance (READ TA) program.

The READ TA Project is a five-year program created to improve the early grade reading skills of young students Grades 1 through 8 across the country. The project now promotes teaching reading comprehension in seven languages that allow students to learn to read and write in their own mother tongue language.

Inveneo gave several presentations at the ICT showcase. More specifically, Matt Crum spoke about local Content Server, LED/Hybrid Projectors, Virus Protection, and gave additional information about a baseline survey which was conducted last year. He explains further, “We want to be able to get some of the best teaching content available into these schools to help the curriculum through interactive multimedia, videos, and access to information. That’s the main purpose that we’re coming in with. With Internet connectivity you can show a video of a great teacher and people can interact with experts in a field.”13726744874_beb44bdfde_z.jpg

Representatives from certain organizations were also given the chance to present ongoing or completed ICT initiatives that would strengthen READ TA’s mission.

Other participants of the showcase included representatives from the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, local ICT initiatives, and READ TA Partners such as RTI, CoreNet, and Whiz Kids Workshop. The showcase was not open to the public but overall still had about 80 attendees.

As a first component in the READ TA project, Inveneo in conjunction with its local ICT partner Corenet did a baseline survey back in 2013. The survey measured ICT capacity in the College of Teacher Education (CTE), School Cluster Centers (SCCs), and satellite schools (which are all primary schools). Throughout the survey Inveneo measured power, current ICT equipment, Internet access, software in use, technical capacity, and current support plans (if available). From the survey Inveneo discovered that there’s diversity in all the CTEs and their individual capacity.

Our exciting work in Ethiopia will continue to grow throughout the next several months. Inveneo plans to build tools to enable monitoring and evaluation for this project in case there are any technical issues.

Looking for more information? Stay up-to-date with all of our projects by following us on Twitter or Facebook.

 

*This article “Inveneo Presents at Ethiopian ICT Showcase in Collaboration with RTI” is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of Inveneo and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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Inveneo Enhancing Educational Offerings and Spinning Off a Broadband Startup

  1. Posted by Aaron Mason on September 12, 2013 in the categories: News, Uncategorized
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Model-classroom-teaching-using-ICT-in-Malawi_5493178855_o

Delivering sustainable computing and wireless connectivity is at the heart of Inveneo’s mission. Our belief is that technology can fundamentally transform the way a community engages with the world and pursues economic opportunities. Our commitment to this belief has brought us through designing and manufacturing sustainable hardware, serving rural organizations and building partnerships with local ICT entrepreneurs. The results have spanned from placing solar powered computer labs in thousands of schools to deploying large-scale broadband networks for healthcare, economic development and relief.

Earlier this year we revisited our strategy and began to make a few significant changes. We moved away from building and selling our own equipment to focused on identifying and sharing the best equipment and software solutions for education and connectivity. Now, nine months later, we’re using what we’ve learned to make a few more changes to our model, intensifying our focus on technology and connectivity for education and spinning part of our broadband connectivity team off into an independent venture.

Sharpening our Focus on Education

Education is going through a technological revolution on a global scale. With equipment costs plummeting, low-power device options multiplying, and with content and online education availability increasing rapidly, the potential for vibrant, sustainable models for technology in underserved schools is finally emerging.

At Inveneo we believe that this shift in the development landscape makes education the single most important place for our technology and expertise to focus. With recent large-scale education projects in Haiti, Tanzania, Uganda, and smaller projects in many more countries, we’re focusing on how to scale rollouts of computing and tablets to maximize sustainability and development impact with education partner experts. Our education technology solutions encompass all of the things we do best – low power computing, power systems, robust networks, management software and very importantly local partners to design, deploy and support the systems. We’re making education top priority moving forward. Our local partnerships are fundamental to Inveneo’s vision and approach, and we look forward to continuing our work with you, our partners, on implementation, support and maintenance, and business development.

Spinning Off Broadband

Another key decision is to spin out a new entity focused on accelerating access to broadband in emerging markets. Almost two years ago Inveneo launched our Broadband for Good (BB4G) initiative to determine how to drive critically needed broadband access by deploying cutting-edge broadband technology and new partner delivery models in developing countries. The BB4G initiative allowed Inveneo to explore the needs of countries, carriers and governments around the world and to deliver high quality, cost effective network models with local partners. This includes our Haiti network used by two major telecoms and covering a quarter of the country, as well as networks serving three education programs across the West Bank of Palestine and connecting islands and schools in the South Pacific. However one thing we’ve learned is that broadband, in a not-for-profit setting, is best suited for project-specific implementations. Inveneo will continue to deliver broadband projects for education.

However, the more we understood the vast need for broadband in the countries where we work, the more we realized that deploying project-based broadband networks, while highly impactful, would not deliver broadband at the same speed as a for-profit model.

Introducing Volo

Inveneo is proud to introduce Volo, Inveneo’s first spin-off, which will center its efforts on broadband services for emerging markets.

Volo’s goal is to deliver broadband in emerging markets around the world. Using our experiences during BB4G, the new Volo team will be working to provide connectivity using cutting-edge technology and a network of partners. Mark Summer and Kristin Peterson will head the new Volo team, however they will continue to serve on the Inveneo board and support our efforts.

What this Means for Inveneo and You

Refocusing our efforts and modifying our team will of course have an impact on Inveneo, as we are an exceptionally close-knit organization. There have been a few additional staffing changes, including the announcement of Bruce Baikie as Inveneo’s new Executive Director.

We want to make sure that you understand that while we’re excited to make our internal changes, these changes will not affect our current projects. We’re excited to have the opportunity to use technology to serve the communities we work in, and we aim to continue this as we push forward. We believe that this new focus will help us grow even faster, allowing us to help even more communities around the world.

We hope that as part of the Inveneo family you’re as excited as we are about these changes. Thank you for all the support you’ve given us over the past eight years, and we look forward to eight more!

Yours,

The Inveneo Team

For questions please contact either our partner manager FJ Cava at fj@inveneo.org or executive director Bruce Baikie at bruce@inveneo.org.

Bringing High-Speed Broadband to Vocational Schools in Palestine

  1. Posted by Aaron Mason on May 3, 2013 in the categories: Education, News, Projects
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A high-speed wireless antenna sits alongside a Palestinian flag in Salfit, Palestine. Photo: Bob Marsh
A high-speed wireless antenna sits alongside a Palestinian flag in Salfit, Palestine. Photo: Bob Marsh

In 2011 the students of Salfit Secondary Industrial School enjoyed what appeared to be a well-appointed computer lab. One of eleven schools in Palestine’s Technical Vocational Educational Training (TVET) program, the school’s desktop computers formed neat rows along the lab’s walls. Flat-screen monitors glowed with Facebook, Google and Wikipedia.

But looking closely and you’d have found very little movement on those pages. The internet, while technically available via the school’s DSL line, was incredibly slow. Loading simple pages would often take minutes when they would load at all.

Computer lab at the Salfit Secondary Industrial School, one of the TVET schools connected by Inveneo. Photo: Bob Marsh
Computer lab at the Salfit Secondary Industrial School, one of the TVET schools connected by Inveneo. Photo: Bob Marsh

In 2011 Inveneo was contacted by USAID, Cisco and the Palestinian Ministry of Education who were all looking for a solution to the bandwidth problem. These eleven schools were established to provide core vocational training – from auto repair to computer science to agriculture – to the next generation of Palestinian workers, an important part of the Ministry’s educational plans. Remote training, centralized data and advanced collaboration tools, all envisioned as part of the TVET system, had simply not been possible. With Inveneo’s expertise and funding provided by Craig Newmark’s CraigConnects organization, the decision was made to connect the schools in the TVET system with high-speed broadband.

Computer science students at Nablus Industrial Secondary School. Photo: Bob Marsh
Computer science students at Nablus Industrial Secondary School. Photo: Bob Marsh

The first step was to begin conducting site surveys at each of the schools, including an all-girls school and a school across the Israeli-Palestine wall.

“When I first visited the TVETs they all had DSL,” said Inveneo’s Bob Marsh, “but it was heavily congested to the point of being basically unusable. At least one was getting just 8kbps, which is just one-seventh of old-school dial-up. I met one principal who had to disconnect the entire school every time he needed to send just one email, and even then it would take fifteen minutes to go out.”

Antiquated infrastructure and extreme network congestion are common across Palestine, where unreliable service and massively shared connections are more rule than exception. What the TVETs needed was a new network from the ground up.

In 2012 Marsh returned to Palestine to evaluate vendors and proposals. A number of different network designs and implementation partners were considered and ultimately a set of high-bandwidth wireless connections were designed to connect the TVETs to one another directly via VPN, bypassing any existing infrastructure. This design would guarantee high-speed connectivity between the schools allowing direct communication and the sharing of a single high-speed internet connection. Once the network was designed a sustainable service and maintenance plan was developed.

CoolNet was selected as the local implementation partner based on their bid as well as their track record implementing the previously successful Model Schools Network, another Inveneo-guided project connecting 57 schools all over Palestine’s West Bank. A final contract was agreed on covering equipment, installation, internet service and inter-school connectivity for three years.

An IT teacher inspects an antenna on top of the Hebron Industrial Secondary School in Hebron, Palestine. Photo: Robert Marsh
An IT teacher inspects an antenna on top of the Hebron Industrial Secondary School in Hebron, Palestine. Photo: Robert Marsh

In early 2013 the project install was completed and Marsh returned to Palestine to perform a comprehensive performance test and site inspection of the system. Visiting each of the TVET sites, Marsh visually inspected every element of the system, checking that wires were nailed down, networking cable was set in conduit and visiting the rooftops to physically tug on equipment.

After completing physical inspections at each site Marsh tested the network performance using several independent tools. The websites Speedtest.net and pingtest.net along with the open-source bandwidth measurement tool Jperf were used.

The result? Connection speeds of 10Mbps were confirmed at each of the schools, and a 30Mbps connection was confirmed between the network core and the internet at large. The network was 100% operational and Internet speeds at each of the schools were now registering at over 1,000 times faster than in 2011. Broadband had arrived.

Virtual network diagram showing the TVET locations.
Virtual network diagram showing the TVET locations.

The full inspection took a total of just four days. The remote nature of several of the locations in Palestine made travel logistics a challenge, but the high quality of the installation, adherence to contract specifications and the stellar network performance made verification easy for Marsh.

“The most amazing thing about this trip is that nothing unexpected happened,” said Marsh, “This project was a smooth operation from start to finish with no surprises. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”

Marsh with the principal of the Salfit Secondary Industrial School.
Marsh with the principal of the Salfit Secondary Industrial School.

The success of the TVET project validates Inveneo’s position that design, local knowledge and the right partners are just as important as technology in broadband deployments. The combination of technical expertise and local partnerships allowed Inveneo’s role to be one of evaluation and oversight, keeping expenses low and local.

“The TVET project is a great example of Inveneo’s design abilities,” said Kristin Peterson, Inveneo’s CEO. “This would have normally been an incredibly expensive project, but we came in with deep networking experience, a unbiased approach researching all options and a focus on meeting the needs of the TVETs. Our experience and local partnerships made this possible, affordable and sustainable.”

Unfortunately Marsh’s last trip coincided with the beginning of a large-scale Palestinian teacher strike, and as of writing the schools have not returned to a full schedule. Once the strike is settled and students arrive, however, the Internet, powerful educational tools and the whole world will finally be at their fingertips.

The campus of Nablus Industrial Secondary School, waiting for students to return. Photo: Bob Marsh
The campus of Nablus Industrial Secondary School, waiting for students to return. Photo: Bob Marsh

How Schools in Haiti Surprise Us

  1. Posted by Inveneo on August 22, 2012 in the categories: Education, News, Projects
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In June, the Inveneo team in Haiti, Sybille Fleischmann, Michelet Guerrier, and Ronald Benjamin took a trip to Ouanaminthe to visit two schools where we deployed computer labs and trained teachers. This initiative was sponsored by Digicel Foundation and Kellogg Foundation.

One of these two schools, Ecole Nationale Ti Laurier, was a concern for us. I am Michelet Guerrier, project manager for the Haiti Connected Schools Program, and I worried about the management of the computer lab, but I was happily relieved. When Ronald and I went to Ecole Nationale Ti Laurier, our visit intended to surprise them, but they surprised us. When I looked at the door and the walls of the lab, there were lots of decorations made by the teachers posted almost everywhere. It was clear to any visitor that it is a well-operated computer lab.

We found Arold Phanord, one of the teachers we had trained in February, deep in a teaching context. Students were being guided and each student in the lab was working on a different program on the computers. A 20-year old 6th grader was on Google searching for information about Jean-Jacques Dessalines and when I interviewed him, he said:

“I did not even know the word ‘òdinatè‘ (‘computer’ in French Creole) before the school received these computers. But now, I have learned so many things in two months, I think I will be smarter from day to day.”

A lot more positive things can be expected from this school. And I hope we can use it as a model to inspire other schools, like those in the Haiti Connected Schools Program.