The Peoples Network - a Technology framework for supporting refugee education
The solution proposes creating a scalable learning environment with the aim of fostering a learning community as well as storing and delivering content through open systems. Many solutions proposed provide good recommendations on curriculum selection, teacher and volunteer training, student evaluation and the measurement of metrics. This proposal aims to incorporate these into a single ecosystem.
Because children’s experiences are limited by their surroundings, the environment we provide for them has a crucial impact on the way the child’s brain develops (Strong-Wilson & Ellis 2007, p43). The project aims to include fun experiences and make kids view school as a positive place to explore & learn. The content distribution system can be tailored to suit any curriculum & supports both online and offline access.
The solution comprises of the following components
- Solar powered Shipping container/s retrofitted for use as a school due to their widespread availability, portability and scalability (they can be combined and stacked)
- 98” outdoor screen on the outside the container wall to allow additional learners to attend class. The outdoor tv incorporates a PC and is also WIFI capable.
- Microwave Radio transmission to allow for the creation of a private network. This will allow a single teacher to stream a lesson to other containers in the camp allowing the teacher to be in multiple places. Trained Volunteers or community members will man the other containers.
- NFC Tags in the form of a necklace or wrist band will allow students to store their learning profiles offline. An online profile will also be stored in a cloud based system. This will help in the event the child is displaced from the learning environment and access to their online portfolio.
- Offline content serving system using the Rachel.org Raspberry PI solution
- Kinetic energy school park to offer learners the ability to charge their mobile devices
- Mobile devices for the learners
What are the key outcomes and impact of your solution?
The proposal is multifaceted and incorporates many solutions It is hoped that the solution will
- Help with resource limitations faced by teachers in the refugee camps and has been designed with this in mind.
- Be used as a blueprint for standardizing technology used in refugee camps.
- Present recommendation’s for designing a green learning environment.
- Provide a technology hub which can be adapted to serve any curriculum offline or online
- Allow the schools to serve more students by integrating a screen outside.
- Inspire and educate kids, teachers and parents through offering engaging content such as VR and a playground Google Expeditions.
- Create an enjoyable learning environment through the use of current technology and provide fun activities at school to encourage the learners to attend.
- Create a community focused kinetic energy playground near the schools where parents and kids can charge devices. Access to energy in camps is low and the park can be used to power devices and lights and play music.
- Provide Google Cardboard to learners and use Virtual reality provided by google expeditions to stimulate learning and help the kids escape their current environments.
- Allow the school containers to be used for entertainment during idle periods by screening family content on the outdoor screens.
When the solution is finalised the design of the entire system will be open source and available for anyone to reproduce. One of the benefits is that it can be rolled out relatively quickly. Due to its portability it can also be used in the event that physical infrastructure for learners is not available. Many of the existing solutions propose novel ideas for learner assessment curriculum or access to virtual learning hubs. I believe that when paired with this solution they are highly achievable. The system is designed in a modular fashion and can be modified to provide smaller distribution centres that serve content around the camp. Mobile broadband is expensive for many refugees and it unlikely they will use this for educational purposes. The distribution network that the school containers provide can be used for offline access to learning material. Along with the kinetic energy charging playground which will allow kids to play and charge their (or their parents) mobile devices the centre will attract both learners and parents.
Teaching resources can be maximized by streaming a lesson in large camps to multiple locations manned by community volunteers. If mobile broadband is available at one container, then via the closed microwave network this can be streamed to the other containers without using multiple broadband. The master container can serve as a breakout for the rest of the network. NFC based tags will allow students to take a copy of their learning profile with them if they are displaced. The stored profile should allow them to resume their education from any enabled container school.
What actions do you propose to realize your stated goals?
A lean 6 Simga approach has been taken to analyze this problem. Currently we are in the Analyze and Improve phases. All modules defined in the system architecture will be mapped against and tracked using the 6 Sigma philosophies.
To ensure a successful deployment is vital that appropriate stakeholders are mapped against the relevant module in the 6 Sigma Control phase to ensure stickiness and continuity. Detailed mappings of the processes and steps for each module in the system architecture remain to be done.
Phase 1 – How Do we fund everything and what’s needed ?
The first step in would be to secure funding and sponsorships for the equipment necessary to create a prototype network. Funds will be raised by crowd sourcing funds from the public and private sectors to purchase the containers and retrofit them. . I would like to lobby Solar City and Tesla and convince them to sponsor solar panels and batteries for the power. For the microwave communications I will approach the leading Telecoms Vendors such as Ericsson and Huawei. Most Telecommunications providers support humanitarian efforts and I do not believe they will say no to supporting such a great cause. For the kinetic energy park I would like to create a challenge aimed at all Global Energy Providers and companies in this space such as WeWatt and Ampy to create optimized kinetic parks to be used in the Refugee camps. Mobile Broadband providers in country will need to be lobbied to sponsor mobile broadband connections. Virtual Reality Kits will be sourced from Google and Google will be approached to allow access to their Google Expeditions program. Google expeditions has been chosen as it allows for offline use in a closed network provided the teacher’s devices contain the relevant content and the cardboard apparatus is relatively inexpensive.
It is hoped that the large cell phone vendors (Samsung, Sony and Huawei) will be willing to donate tablets and phones for use in the classrooms. Crowd sourcing funds from the public and private sectors to purchase mobile devices and tablets for the learners is also an option. The public can also donate mobile devices and PC’s to the project, I would look to http://www.computeraid.org/ to assist with this phase. Funds will need to be raised to purchase the raspberry PI’s which will service the offline content either from UNICEF (https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/tag/unicef/), UNESCO or local government.
Equally important will be securing funding from UNICEF and UNESCO to pay teachers and volunteers who man and maintain the containers. Discussions with UNICEF, UNESCO and local government will help to decide what curriculum learners should use. Training for the teachers and volunteers on how to use the containers and equipment is also vital and I will be able to assist with this and create the training material for them as well.
Once all equipment has been purchased a Proof of concept at an appropriate camp will be performed to determine how successful the system works and to debug any issues that may arise. Ideally 2 -3 fully kitted containers will be required. Site surveys are also crucial to determine what type of communications modules are required. For example, if mobile broadband and Wi-Fi are prevalent in a camp already the system can be customized to leverage of this connectivity. After the site survey’s are done the relevant modules from the system can be shipped to the destination country and assembled on site or the entire container can be fitted and shipped to the country. This will depend on where the containers are being sourced and shipped from.
Phase 2 – How will the community interact with and use the system for learning
Once the school containers and network are setup and deployed. A 4-8 Week training program will be launched to train volunteers and teachers to use the systems so that they are comfortable teaching and using the features available. Learning content will be loaded on the system and this will be dependent on the curriculum required in that country. Additional learning materials will also be available via offline storage and internet based.
Fairness to Students: The container school will host a maximum number of learners. The outside screen and extendible design of the container school will allow more learners to be accommodated. The number of students outside the tent should ideally be not more than double the number inside to allow for rotation of the students. This means that on alternating days, different students will have a chance to learn inside the container and this will ensure fairness. For the model to work it is necessary that all students are equipped with mobile learning tablets (As with Bridge international schools). A teacher will man the inside of the container and volunteers can assist the learners outside.
Rotation of Teachers : The container school system uses a concept of a master container – in which an experienced teacher (virtual, remote or real) will host a lesson and a slave container – which will be manned by volunteer teachers or members of the community who are interested in employment. The primary master container will stream the video lesson to the secondary containers. Ideally if all containers are equipped as the master container with a video camera, teachers can be rotated around the refugee camp, ensuring that all learners have teacher interaction. This model is useful in the event that teachers are scarce.
Virtual lessons are possible if the master container has a mobile broadband connection and streams to the slave containers. This will allow learners to receive lessons from anyone in the world. Volunteers to manage and watch the children will still be required.
Distribution of content to learners: All content specific to the chosen curriculum will be available offline in each school and access to online content is possible if the container is broadband enabled. Learners will access lessons via WiFi connection to the school during class or after. Work remains to be done on scaling the WIFI network. Currently 50 learners at a time can access the content per container.
Lessons can be done in real time if sufficient teachers are available or using the master slave concept with a primary teacher manning one container and streaming the lesson and secondary support staff manning the others. Content can be updated at any time in the network as the design will allow for synchronization between master and slave schools e.g. if the master has a mobile broadband connection and the primary content database is updated, this can be used to update the slave content databases via the microwave transport connections.
Tracking of student learning and establishing a student profile: This has been covered really well in the All my talents valued project - (http://solvecolab.mit.edu/challenges/2016/learn-refugee-education2/c/solution/1328933) It is hoped that system will be used and incorporated to work with the container schools. I would like to enhance this system and provide learners with and NFC tag necklace or bracelet which can store their progress and profile offline. This will help with displacement of students and serve as a means to track their progress. If they are in the vicinity of a container school they should be able to produce their profile. Such a system could also be used to store the learner’s vaccination records and general health if the health care system at the camp is provided with the NFC technology in the containers. Work needs to be done on how the student profile and progress will be optimally stored on the NFC tag. Tags can be read/written to using a raspberry PI with NFC module.
The Energy Playground: Since access to electricity is a common problem in refugee camps, students need a way to be able to charge their devices. I wanted to ensure there was an element of fun to the schools and I also wanted get more parents involved with the school. The idea of a kinetic energy park appealed to me as it would enable learners and parents to charge their devices and provides a practical solution to a huge problem. Taking your kid to the park and letting them play and have fun as well as charging mobile devices coupled with being in the vicinity of a content hub (the school) is a fairly attractive. It is hoped that additional media could be displayed on the outdoor screens to generate revenue through advertising to subsidized some of the costs incurred in the network (paying the teachers and staff). The kinetic park can also be used to provide light at night through charging lamps. The aim of the park is to promote health, encourage family time and offer a green solution to the energy problem in refugee camps.
Who will take these actions?
In country and Internationa; Architects/Designers to assist with container fitting and sourcing.
MIT to assist with Setup and customization of the Rachel.offine system and NFC read/write for the student tags
Kinetic charging playground – Issue a global Challenge to energy companies and universities to sponsor and design kinetic energy parks.
Telecommunications Vendors : Huawei, Ericsson, Ceragon, Radwin to assist with solar powered microwave nodes for inter school communication
Telecommunications Operators: In country providers to be petitioned for subsidized mobile broadband for leaners.
Connectivity to also be discussed with UNHCR Connectivity for Refugees project – determine feasibility of mobile broadband in the camp.
IBM to assist with cloud based storage for learner information and analytics
Tesla and Solar City and other suitable to assist with Green Energy solution for containers
Obtain mobile devices and tablets from Private sector and community donations – computeraid.org can assist with refurbishing old equipment. Second and devices that are donated also reduce electronic waste
The solution can be deployed anywhere however it is targeted at large camps with constraints on teachers ad resources.
What do you expect are the costs associated with piloting and implementing the solution, and what is your business model?
Retrofitting of a single container to be locally sourced – approx $10 000
Outdoor 98” screen $800-1500
Communications Microwave kit Sub 6Ghz – approx $5000 per link
Solar Panels and batteries - $8000 (based on the Tesla Powerwall and Solar City Estimates)
Raspberry PI Computers with screen - $100 – total dependent on classroom size. However if we assume 25 learners can fit into a single container - $2500
Mobile Tablets / Phones – approximately $50 each – 50 learners - $2500
Laptops for Teachers and Volunteers approximately. $400 each
NFC Tags – 10$ each
Kinetic Energy Parks – Vary in cost and the cost is largely depending on how much equipment is placed in the playground.
At a high level approximately $35 000 per container. I would think that a budget of $350 000 would be sufficient to create a Proof of Concept network and run a pilot. Given that the top 200 advertisers in the US alone spent $137.8 Billion in 2014. I don’t believe that 30-40 000 dollars isn’t a lot to spend on the refugee network .I am confident we can lobby the Fortune 500 companies to support this initiative.
A prototype system can be built in 6-8 months with the aim of deployment occurring during the next year. Teacher training will occur in parallel to the the deployment phase. Ideally the container installation on site and teacher training can be done in 2 months learners can access the system in the remaining 10 months.
Once the prototype design is done and deployed evaluation of the systems effectiveness can be measured. The idea of the container system is for the entire project to be open sourced so that in a 5 year period it can be produced and rolled out in large scale. As the price of technology decreases the container design can be improved and redistributed globally for everyone to use.
Kinetic Energy Playgrounds
Content Delivery System
Virtual Reality for School
How can we improve learning outcomes for refugee and displaced young people under 24?