Inveneo schools Archives

Bringing High-Speed Broadband to Vocational Schools in Palestine

  1. Posted by Aaron Mason on May 3, 2013 in the categories: Education, News, Projects

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

Digital Literacy for Haiti Rebuilding

  1. Posted by sguser on April 15, 2013 in the categories: News

Mercidieu François assisting two DLHR participants at College Mahatma Gandhi
Mercidieu François assisting two DLHR participants at College Mahatma Gandhi

The riverside city of Hinche sits high on Haiti’s fertile central plain, sixty miles northeast of the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince. A rural community of roughly 50,000, Hinche has remained untouched by many modern conveniences. Before municipal electricity became available in 2012 townspeople would gather outside the mayor’s office to watch a single television screen swiveled to face out into the street. A few of the city’s central streets have been paved with concrete, but many of the city’s straining oxcarts and pickup trucks still travel over knobby dirt and gravel roads. And while many carry mobile phones, access to computers and the Internet has been nearly nonexistent.

In the spring of 2012 Inveneo and NetHope launched the Intel-funded Digital Literacy for Haiti Rebuilding (DLHR) program, providing basic computer training to more than a thousand community members in rural Haitian communities like Hinche. The majority of participants come directly from the small, rural communities where the training center computer labs are located; some ford rivers and walk for several hours to attend the trainings. For many, this is their first time touching a computer. Learning quickly, they use their new skills to further their education, improve their businesses or hunt for a job.

The DLHR program builds off of one of Inveneo’s previous projects: the Haiti Connected Schools (HCS) program. Through the HCS program Inveneo and their Haitian IT partners deployed solar-powered computer labs in schools in 40 locations across rural Haiti. Connected to the Internet, these labs provide an opportunity for students, teachers and administrators to augment academic lessons with computer-based technologies.

By making use of resources already deployed in the field, the DLHR program expands accessibility to community members based near these schools. Both schools and communities benefit from the program: schools gain long-term financial sustainability of the computer labs by offering computer training beyond the school population; community members learn computer and Internet basics, skills that help them participate in a modern economy. Local teachers, technicians and interested community members also have opportunities to participate in advanced training modules and become Community IT Instructors. These Community IT Instructors form the backbone of the program, inspiring other community members and acting as a local resource to provide computer training long beyond the limited timeframe of the program.

One of these Community IT Instructors is Mercidieu François. Mercidieu was hired as a lab administrator at College Mahatma Gandhi in Hinche after the school received a computer lab through HCS. The young Haitian had previously completed a year of Microsoft Office training at a local vocational school and had some experience teaching, but had never received formal training as a teacher. Mercidieu jumped at the opportunity to participate in the training to become a Community IT Instructor.

Mercidieu presenting at the December DLHR workshop
Mercidieu presenting at the December DLHR workshop

Together with teachers and technicians from all over Haiti, Mercidieu participated in two workshops on teaching techniques. He learned about lesson planning, teaching methods and pedagogy and how to use IT in the classroom. Mercidieu says the workshops helped him formalize his understanding of what it means to be a teacher.

“It was a good experience for me,” said Mercidieu. “I learned some strategies I can use with my future students and I love the simplicity of the documentation they used to teach… From these workshops, I learned about questions to ask myself when I have to plan a lesson… What makes me happy about participating in this program is that it has helped me to learn how I can teach effectively.”

During the first community training in Hinche, Mercidieu started as an observer, quickly moving into more active roles, first as an assistant instructor and then as lead instructor. Today Mercidieu coordinates and teaches computer classes for students and community members, and uses his experience to coach other teachers.

With this experience and training, Mercidieu has become known in his community as a capable and qualified computer instructor, with schools and colleges in and around Hinche asking him to teach classes. The additional income from teaching these courses allows Mercidieu to continue his studies at Queensland University in Hinche. In addition to the financial benefits, Mercidieu values the way the DLHR program has grown his ability to share his enthusiasm for learning and teaching computer concepts:

“As a teacher of computers and Microsoft Office, after completing two sessions on the techniques of teaching, there is in me a kind of metamorphosis. That is to say, a transformation in the way I expose courses now in different institutions in my home area… I am practicing [different techniques of facilitation] and I am teaching in a better way.”

All told, DLHR is expected to train 40 IT instructors, providing skills and access to over 3000 community members throughout rural Haiti. With 30 trainers working and over 700 students enrolled so far, Mercidieu and his cohort are well on their way.

Mercidieu and a fellow community IT instructor prepare a lesson plan for a class on Microsoft Excel 2010.
Mercidieu and a fellow community IT instructor prepare a lesson plan for a class on Microsoft Excel 2010

Digital Literacy for Haiti Rebuilding

  1. Posted by Aaron Mason on April 15, 2013 in the categories: News

Mercidieu François assisting two DLHR participants at College Mahatma Gandhi
Mercidieu François assisting two DLHR participants at College Mahatma Gandhi

The riverside city of Hinche sits high on Haiti’s fertile central plain, sixty miles northeast of the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince. A rural community of roughly 50,000, Hinche has remained untouched by many modern conveniences. Before municipal electricity became available in 2012 townspeople would gather outside the mayor’s office to watch a single television screen swiveled to face out into the street. A few of the city’s central streets have been paved with concrete, but many of the city’s straining oxcarts and pickup trucks still travel over knobby dirt and gravel roads. And while many carry mobile phones, access to computers and the Internet has been nearly nonexistent.

In the spring of 2012 Inveneo and NetHope launched the Intel-funded Digital Literacy for Haiti Rebuilding (DLHR) program, providing basic computer training to more than a thousand community members in rural Haitian communities like Hinche. The majority of participants come directly from the small, rural communities where the training center computer labs are located; some ford rivers and walk for several hours to attend the trainings. For many, this is their first time touching a computer. Learning quickly, they use their new skills to further their education, improve their businesses or hunt for a job.

The DLHR program builds off of one of Inveneo’s previous projects: the Haiti Connected Schools (HCS) program. Through the HCS program Inveneo and their Haitian IT partners deployed solar-powered computer labs in schools in 40 locations across rural Haiti. Connected to the Internet, these labs provide an opportunity for students, teachers and administrators to augment academic lessons with computer-based technologies.

By making use of resources already deployed in the field, the DLHR program expands accessibility to community members based near these schools. Both schools and communities benefit from the program: schools gain long-term financial sustainability of the computer labs by offering computer training beyond the school population; community members learn computer and Internet basics, skills that help them participate in a modern economy. Local teachers, technicians and interested community members also have opportunities to participate in advanced training modules and become Community IT Instructors. These Community IT Instructors form the backbone of the program, inspiring other community members and acting as a local resource to provide computer training long beyond the limited timeframe of the program.

One of these Community IT Instructors is Mercidieu François. Mercidieu was hired as a lab administrator at College Mahatma Gandhi in Hinche after the school received a computer lab through HCS. The young Haitian had previously completed a year of Microsoft Office training at a local vocational school and had some experience teaching, but had never received formal training as a teacher. Mercidieu jumped at the opportunity to participate in the training to become a Community IT Instructor.

Mercidieu presenting at the December DLHR workshop
Mercidieu presenting at the December DLHR workshop

Together with teachers and technicians from all over Haiti, Mercidieu participated in two workshops on teaching techniques. He learned about lesson planning, teaching methods and pedagogy and how to use IT in the classroom. Mercidieu says the workshops helped him formalize his understanding of what it means to be a teacher.

“It was a good experience for me,” said Mercidieu. “I learned some strategies I can use with my future students and I love the simplicity of the documentation they used to teach… From these workshops, I learned about questions to ask myself when I have to plan a lesson… What makes me happy about participating in this program is that it has helped me to learn how I can teach effectively.”

During the first community training in Hinche, Mercidieu started as an observer, quickly moving into more active roles, first as an assistant instructor and then as lead instructor. Today Mercidieu coordinates and teaches computer classes for students and community members, and uses his experience to coach other teachers.

With this experience and training, Mercidieu has become known in his community as a capable and qualified computer instructor, with schools and colleges in and around Hinche asking him to teach classes. The additional income from teaching these courses allows Mercidieu to continue his studies at Queensland University in Hinche. In addition to the financial benefits, Mercidieu values the way the DLHR program has grown his ability to share his enthusiasm for learning and teaching computer concepts:

“As a teacher of computers and Microsoft Office, after completing two sessions on the techniques of teaching, there is in me a kind of metamorphosis. That is to say, a transformation in the way I expose courses now in different institutions in my home area… I am practicing [different techniques of facilitation] and I am teaching in a better way.”

All told, DLHR is expected to train 40 IT instructors, providing skills and access to over 3000 community members throughout rural Haiti. With 30 trainers working and over 700 students enrolled so far, Mercidieu and his cohort are well on their way.

Mercidieu and a fellow community IT instructor prepare a lesson plan for a class on Microsoft Excel 2010.
Mercidieu and a fellow community IT instructor prepare a lesson plan for a class on Microsoft Excel 2010