ICT in Education Toolkit
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ICTs for Education: Resources
1 Background
2 The Potential of ICTs
  Expanding Educational Opportunities & Increasing Efficiency
  Enhancing Quality of Learning
  Enhancing Quality of Teaching
  Faciliating Skill Formulation
  Sustaining Lifelong Learning
  Improving Policy Planning and Management
  Advancing Community Linkages
3 From Potential to Effectiveness

ICTs for Education: A Reference Handbook
1 Decision Makers Essentials
2 Analytical Review
3 Resources
4 PowerPoint Presentation
  3. From Potential to Effectiveness
 

3.1 Infrastructure

Resource 3.1.1 - Electric and Solar

Many communities do not have reliable electric source to power radios, televisions, and computers. Some, like the one discussed below, are experimenting with solar energy to run their hardware.

Small-scale electricity generator sets – commonly known as gensets – are among the most technologically and commercially mature options for distributed energy generation. Generator sets have relatively low capital costs but high running costs due to the need to purchase fuel and provide regular maintenance. If routine maintenance tasks are not carried out regularly, the genset may break down before its time.

For generator sets with a capacity of less than 3 kW, gasoline and diesel are popular fuels. Genset engines may also use other fuels, such as propane, kerosene, biogas, biofuels or fossil/biofuel mixtures.

Source of excerpt and for further information: 

http://www.dot-com-alliance.org/POWERING_ICT/   

To learn more about energy options go to:

http://www.dot-com-alliance.org/POWERING_ICT/pub/Energy_Options.htm

Honduras Solar Village [56]

San Ramón, a Honduran village of about 840 people located in the hills above Choluteca, is proof positive of the power of new technologies to leapfrog over traditional barriers to development. San Ramón has become the world's first solar-powered community hooked up to the Internet.

Although located a mere 24 kilometers from a main thoroughfare, the journey up to San Ramón requires a good 45 minutes in a 4 x 4 all-terrain vehicle—and a strong stomach. There is no road to speak of. Rather, a path of stones, ravines, and otherwise tough conditions leads slowly upward. This lack of accessibility, coupled with the relatively few inhabitants and high unit costs, has made the government less than anxious to extend the electric distribution network from Choluteca to San Ramón.

San Ramón started exploring the potential of alternative energy sources, and, in February 1999, solar panels were installed strategically throughout the village. The energy generated through the solar panels powers a variety of community services, including:  

  • five streetlights;
  • six classrooms, each of which has its own electrical outlets for a TV/VHS, computer, or other pieces of equipment;
  • a community center, with outlets for fans, computers, TVs, etc., as well;
  • an innovative classroom equipped with 11 computers, a TV, video and tape recorders, digital cameras, scanners, printers, etc.;
  • a health clinic, with a heating and cooling system for water and storage of medicines and vaccines; and
  • lighting in the village's church.

In October 2000, San Ramón went global, becoming wired to the Internet through each of the 11 computers in its innovative classroom.

Two additional solar villages are currently under preparation: Las Trojas (with a population of just over 190) and La Montaña (population of 240).

Resource 3.1.2 - Wind Power - Spirit Lakes Community Scolls

In 1991, Spirit Lake Community Schools in Spirit Lake, Iowa, began studying the use of wind as a renewable energy source. With the support of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the school district used the first year of the project to measure the wind speed on the proposed site and analyze its electrical costs. In addition, the team familiarized itself with wind turbine manufacturing and the federal and state rules and regulations regarding energy production and use. With a federal grant and a low-interest loan, the district bought its first turbine to supply electrical energy for the elementary school. An agreement with the local utility company specified that, during peak demand and/or low winds, the district must purchase electricity from the company, and during excess production, the company must purchase electricity from the district. The turbine began producing electricity in 1993, and nine months later it had produced 1,570,000 KW hours of energy, providing all of the electricity for the schools and a reimbursement from the utility company. In 1998, the school made the last payment on the loan for the turbine, and the savings are now going to the school's instructional program. The turbine has also been used as an educational tool and has attracted many schools and visitors to study renewable sources of energy. A second turbine has been installed, and, in 2007, when both turbines are paid for, the district expects to have about US$120,000 in tax-free income from the project to improve education in the area. For additional information, visit http://www.spirit-lake.k12.ia.us/~apeck/bg/building.htm.

Resource 3.1.3 - Pedal Power - Bijli Bike

The Association for India's Development (AID) has developed a Pedal Power Generator or Bijli Bike that converts human power to electricity. A student pedaling for 15 minutes can light up two to three classrooms using 11 18 watts CFL lamps for one hour. An initial prototype that could generate 70 watts was first tested in the Domkhedi village, in the tribal belt of Maharshtra, where there is no electricity grid. A new, perfected design is available by mail order from Rashron Ltd. More than 30 generators have been distributed to groups in several states, including Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and others. AID is also collaborating with other groups to bring alternate energy through pedal and wind to Indian villages.  For additional information, visit http://www.aidindia.org/hq/projects/illus/pedal2.htm.

Resource 3.1.4 - Connectivity

Turning computers into powerful communication tools requires access to the Internet; however, getting a school online, particularly one in a remote area, is not a straightforward task. In many areas, the communication infrastructure is either nonexistent or too expensive to use. Some forms of terrestrial wireless and satellite technologies are being introduced that do not require installation of wire line networks and are ideal for remote and isolated areas. Below are two examples.

SchoolNet Namibia: A Wireless Solution [57]

Almost two-thirds of Namibian schools still do not have a telephone, but that will no longer keep them from accessing the Internet. Construction has begun on an ambitiously novel project to provide Internet service without wires or telephone lines.

When completed, SchoolNet Namibia, which provides Internet service to Namibia's learners, will be able to hook up hundreds of schools via a narrow-band radio network that will cover most of the densely populated north as well as certain urban pockets. This network will cover almost 900 schools and 54,000 square kilometers. Three Windhoek-area schools have already begun surfing wirelessly.

The system works much in the way as cellular networks. First, a series of strategically placed towers brings a signal to a given area. Devices called subscriber units located on school grounds then pick up the broadcast signal to send and receive data on preordained frequencies. Bridging technology, which allows signals to hop from tower to tower, carries the packets back and forth to SchoolNet servers physically connected to the Internet.

VSAT in Uganda [58]

Small satellite earth stations operating with geosynchronous satellites can be used for interactive voice and data as well as for broadcast reception For example, banks in remote areas of Brazil are linked via very small aperture terminals (VSATs), and the National Stock Exchange in India links brokers with rooftop VSATs. VSATs for television reception (known as TVRO [television receive only]) deliver broadcasting signals to viewers in many developing regions, particularly in Asia and Latin America.

Uganda is implementing a World Links pilot project in the use of VSATs. Fourteen secondary schools and one National Teacher's College have been outfitted with VSATs for high-speed Internet connectivity. The VSAT system uses a national network of 2.4-meter dishes operating in the C-Band. (Due to climatic conditions, C-Band [3–6 GHz] is less susceptible to interference from heavy rains because its wavelength is much bigger than the size of a raindrop.) The system is full duplex (two-way), so no public switched telephone network (PSTN), microwave links, or optical fibers are needed for a return link. The link is asymmetric—that is, more bandwidth will come to the schools than go from the schools.

The "download" bandwidth, 256 Kbps shared among the network of participating sites, guarantees each site a minimum of 23 Kbps to operate simultaneously. Any school will be able to "burst" or obtain higher bandwidth (from the total amount available) if other schools are not using it. The "upload" bandwidth is a dedicated 32 Kbps per site during the pilot phase. While this bandwidth currently is not sufficient for videoconferencing or -streaming, schools can purchase more bandwidth if there is sufficient demand for additional capabilities.

Ten of the 15 participating sites will have stand-alone VSATs (i.e., antenna, wireless units, routing equipment), a server, and at least 10 PCs on a local area network (LAN). An 11th site has an onward connection to four other schools via a point-to-multipoint Spread Spectrum wireless link through Ethernet bridge equipment. With a wireless Ethernet connection, the four "remote" sites require very little maintenance and their bandwidth use can be tracked and controlled by the VSAT "hub" site with appropriate monitoring software.

The cost of satellite connectivity is about US$400 a month per site. Each new school or institution added to the network as a "hub" or "remote" site will share some of the connectivity costs, which will lower the overall operating costs for each of the schools involved.

3.2 Hardware

Resource 3.2.1 - Computers: Low-Cost Alternative

Although the price of computers is going down, they are still prohibitive for many developing countries if computers are to be made available across the school system in enough numbers to serve the countries' educational objectives. There have been some humble efforts in countries such as Brazil and India to address this issue and to produce a less costly computer with a longer operational life.

In India, a small company, Media Video Limited, is providing low-end computers priced between US$30 and US$65. Another new low-cost product is the Simputer (Simple Inexpensive Multilingual People's Computer), which uses a touch screen interface, but allows for an external keyboard through a USB interface for those who require data entry capability. It is built around Intel's StrongARM CPU and is based on the Linux operating system, with 16MB of flash memory, a monochrome liquid crystal display (LCD), and a touch-panel for pen-based computing. Users do not have to be literate; the device reads out text and supports Hindi, Kannada, and English.

Brazil's version of the Simputer is the Volkscomputer. Very similar in configuration to the Simputer, the Volkscomputer will have a 500-megahertz processor, 64 megabytes of main memory, and 16 MB more on a flash chip that substitutes for a hard drive. Thesystem has a 56 kbps modem and the software is Linux-based and, therefore, is free. Because the machine is modular, schools can link a series up to a regular PC that acts as a server. Volkscomputer was created by the Federal University of Minas Gerais as a result of a commission last year from the Brazilian federal government. Although the Volkscomputer is still in the prototype stage, Brazil hopes to sell it to individuals on an installment plan for as little as US$15 a month. In addition, installing the Volkscomputer in schools will give Internet access to seven million students.

To create affordable PCs, Intel is stripping out the extras. The Affordable PC, an Intel-designed PC for this market, is a desktop that cannot be upgraded. It comes with 128MB or 256MB of memory, a 40GB drive, optical drive and two USB slots. Memory can't be added and some of the other options on typical western PCs are gone.  Intel is also developing Classmate PC - a sub-US$400 notebook for schools in developing countries. It will come with about 1GB of flash memeory instead of a hard drive so as to withstand accidents. For further information go to:

http://news.com.com/Intels+bridge+for+the+digital+divide/2100-1005_3-6084250.html

Another attempt is the US$100 laptop designed by the MIT Media Lab. The "machine will be a Linux-based, with a dual-mode display—both a full-color, transmissive DVD mode, and a second display option that is black and white reflective and sunlight-readable at 3× the resolution. The laptop will have a 500MHz processor and 128MB of DRAM, with 500MB of Flash memory; it will not have a hard disk, but it will have four USB ports. The laptops will have wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as a mesh network; each laptop will be able to talk to its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc, local area network. The laptops will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data." The designers expect is to have units ready for shipment by early 2007. For more information go to: http://www.laptop.org/faq.en_US.html

Resource 3.2.2 - Recycling

While organizations, schools, and families struggle to obtain computers and enter the digital revolution, ever more of them are being discarded solely because a newer version is available. International, regional, and local efforts are underway to collect discarded computers, clean them, and distribute them to schools.

There is a glitch, however, with this potentially happy-ending  situation. Most computers that are being discarded no longer have software installed, and/or they cannot support newer software. The use of older software limits these recycled computers' usefulness. Therefore, some recycling organizations only accept donations of more recent models, such as Pentium 75 or higher. This requirement excludes a significant number of computers that are now being replaced, particularly those from the late 1980s, including the 386 and 486 series. [59]

Some organizations are trying to address the problem by providing software packages that can be run on any computer, from a 286 to the newest Pentiums. NewDeal software, sold by Breadbox, [60] restores the core functionality of old computers. It contains a complete suite of integrated software applications, including design and Internet applications, and it has a point-and-click interface, like Windows, but with two major differences: first, it runs on computers with as little as 640K RAM and 20 MB of free Hard Disk space, and, second, it retails for less than US$100.

Below are links to some organizations that are providing recycled computers to developing countries:



56 Excerpted from: Aimee Verdisco and others. May/June 2001. "Honduras: Solar Energy Bridges the Digital Divide." TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
57 www.schoolnet.na
58 Excerpted from: Anthony Bloome. January-March 2002. "Uganda: Wireless School Internet Connectivity." TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
59 See Sonia Jurich. May/June 2000. "Recycling Computers: A Simple Solution for a Complex Problem." TechKnowLogia. Available at: www.TechknowLogia.org
60 http://www.breadbox.com/geocats.asp

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