Archives for posts with tag: Technology

So ladies and gentlemen, it’s been exactly one year since ThinkChange Pakistan was launched. Conceived over early morning Skype calls, and an endless stream of e-mails, TC-P is a humble attempt to track the growing social innovation, and entrepreneurship space in Pakistan.  While we are still a long way from capturing this growing #socent/#socinn space in its entirety, we are confident that with your constant feedback, we can continue to chip away at what we have started.

A big thank you to our contributors for making the editorial team’s job a little easier, and to the wonderful change-makers for taking the time out of their ridiculously busy schedules to talk to us about their work.

Since Feb 15 2011 – Feb 15 2012 has been an eventful year for all three of us (TC-P editors that is), we would like to share some of the things we have learned about the #socent and development space in the past twelve months:

Jeremy in action: Making a sales pitch for solar lanterns in Thatta

Jeremy, EcoEnergy Finance

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed already! The biggest change for me in the past year has been joining EcoEnergyFinance as their Director of Operations and conducting their pilot distribution of 100 solar lanterns in Sindh, Pakistan. Working in a social enterprise, rather than talking from the sidelines, has revealed to me the considerable challenges faced in the sector.

One of the toughest challenges has been determining how we work with other organisations to achieve our aims. We’ve had to wrack our brains to develop a partnership model, and after many revisions and meetings where people are confused by what we do, I think we’re making slow steps towards clarity. I’m hoping that after the pilot, I’ll be able to share a great deal more about these challenges, for other people to learn from!

Maryam, IREX:

Html codes, wire requests, grant monitoring, online portals and classrooms – these are some of the things that have kept me busy the past few months. Since November, I have been working to get our program’s alumni activities off the ground. Currently our alumni programming consists of a small grants program for community development projects, and a series of online trainings. My work with TC-P has increased my exposure to fantastic social enterprises working in Pakistan, and instilled in me the importance of sustainability, and establishing rigorous standards for project design, and financial transparency, which has really helped me with my work with the small grants program, as well as ADP.

Since we primarily rely on technology to communicate with our alumni, I was initially daunted by our ‘lack of options’ and honestly, a little skeptical about the impact of online trainings. But thanks to my personal experience with amazing organizations like TechChange, and TC-P posts on mobile technology, and virtual education in Pakistan’s schools, I have realized that I may have been giving edtech a lot less credit than it deserved. I am excited about continuing to learn more about this space, and exploring how it can be realistically integrated in basic education development projects on a larger scale.

Kalsoom, Invest2Innovate

In the last year, I was readying to launch my start-up Invest2Innovate before going live in September 2011. i2i is building early-stage social enterprises and access to capital in new and untapped markets, beginning (of course) with Pakistan. We are currently working with four social enterprise clients, including EcoEnergy Finance (where Jeremy is the Operations Director!), and doing due diligence on a fifth client. i2i is also building the funding pipeline and look forward to potentially building an angel investor network for start-up social enterprises. The road this year has been harrowing, rewarding, tricky, and exciting – all at the same time. It hasn’t been easy, and start-up life is a rollercoaster of emotions, but I wouldn’t change my decision for anything. I think few people can say that they are doing what they truly love, so I feel really blessed to be working with incredible partner organizations and entrepreneurs who inspire me every day.

Virtual Education can be defined as instruction in a learning environment where the teacher provides course content through course management applications, multimedia resources, the internet and video conferencing (Wikepedia 2011).

Triggered by the abysmal state of education in Pakistan, a small group of motivated individuals in Lahore decided to utilize virtual education as a way of addressing the teacher shortage in Pakistan as well  as tapping into the experience of veteran teachers. VEFA aims to ‘generate educational resources to help make up for deficiencies in the schooling system’.

VEFA’s model is currently centered on approaching experienced teachers and getting their lectures on primary school subjects recorded through the Camtasia Studio software. Each lecture will cover a topic or part of a topic of the national curriculum and will be for a maximum duration of 20 minutes. The lectures will then be uploaded and made available online. Once the series of lecture is complete for classes I to 8, VEFA will play the lectures at Virtual Weekend Academies at select locations throughout Pakistan free of cost. The VEFA team is currently working on their first pilot in Lahore. During a Q&A with the TC-P team, VEFA founder Memoona Sajjad expressed great hopes for the project:

VEFA’s first MIRAS weekend academy is all set to be launched in July 2011 at Lahore inshallah. This pilot project shall be the first venture of its kind and the progress of our first batch of students will be monitored to assess the success of this work. We hope participating students will gain not only textbook knowledge but will develop a deeper awareness of relevant issues. VEFA aspires to develop among students a sound grasp over concepts, values and the application in the wider world, of the knowledge imparted to them.

VEFA’s target audience are students of grade 1 to 5 studying at public schools in rural or urban areas in Punjab. Their lectures are currently focused on Math and English however, VEFA is considering developing lectures on ethics and Iqbaliyat.

At the moment VEFA is mostly in its production stage. They hope to cover all topics from classes 1 to 5 by January 2012. However they have also identified two in-need schools in Lahore who have agreed to host VEFA lectures on weekends. Further Memoona is confident that online viewership for VEFA lectures will increase dramatically and they will reach their target audience of at least a thousand school children in five years.

The steadily growing use of technology in the field of education is definitely exciting. Just recently a TC-P commentator Muhammad Ansari informed us of a group of students in Karachi using video call technology to teach students about unconventional subjects in order to develop critical thinking. Projects such as these set an important precedent for public and private school teachers. It will be great if the Ministry of Education begins to pick on these trends and get public school administrators to start thinking on more innovative lines.

If you are interested in VEFA’s work, they are currently recruiting teachers and volunteers. For further information, please visit their website.

Michael Trucano in a (fairly) recent blog post touched upon the potential for SMS technology in the field of education in Pakistan. While Trucano was quick to point out that SMS technology is no substitute for schools, he successfully made the case for exploring how basic text messaging can be used to benefit people with low end mobile phones and posed important questions that need to be answered before we expand the use of SMS in schools.

Trucano highlighted the Asghar Mall College pilot project where 150 students who had their mobile phone numbers on file began participating in a daily vocabulary quiz exercise delivered by SMS. These young men from middle to lower middle class backgrounds were sent simple multiple-choice questions.  Texts were addressed to each student individually, using the equivalent of a ‘mail merge’ function. The students would reply via SMS, and then receive an automated response based on their answer.  In this response, a notation was made about whether the answer given was correct or not, and then the correct answer was incorporated into a sample sentence.

Based on the results of the pilot, the Provincial Education Department of the Government of the Punjab is showing interest in exploring these activities further. The project principals have already started thinking about expanding the scope of their activities. For example they are currently toying with the idea of sending text messages to parents to encourage further parent involvement in the student’s academics.

Another example of a project using SMS technology in the field of education is Mobilink’s project to enhance literacy in girl students through SMS. The pilot project was launched in 2009 with the help of a local NGO, Bunyad. In the pilot phase, 250 female learners received informative Urdu text messages daily, which they were required to respond. The program was implemented with the help of 10 teachers enlisted by Bunyad. According to the Mobilink site, the results have been quite positive:

It was found that at the beginning of the program 57% of the girls were graded ‘C’ and only 28% of the girls managed to score an ‘A’. However, near the end of the project the situation reversed with percentage of girls receiving a ‘C’ dropped to only 11% whereas more than 60% of the girls were awarded an ‘A’.

(Of course one cannot jump to the conclusion that the jump in grades was the result of use SMS technology alone – we need more information regarding the information that was contained in the text messages as well as other related factors e.g. teacher involvement with students before, during and after the pilot)

Trucano emphasized that vocabulary-building and grammar quizzes are just two potential applications of this sort of SMS-based interaction. This is clear from the information we have of the Mobilink project where ‘informative texts’ were being sent to the girls as opposed to quizzes.

SMS technology definitely presents some interesting opportunities for classrooms in Pakistan. But before we can advocate for use of mobile in classrooms across the board, we need to move towards addressing the questions that Trucano posed in his blog posts: how many young students have phone and how many can afford to participate in education-related activities via mobile phones?

As we begin to collect more data and the feasibility of use of SMS or mobile technology in Pakistani classrooms becomes clearer, we definitely have some exciting possibilities ahead of us. Have a look at a couple of relevant and interesting examples below to get some inspiration:

The Jokko Initiative in Senegal: Empowering Women through Mobile Technology

Mobile Phone Adult Literary Program in Niger

Although this powerpoint presentation by Creative Commons on 25 uses of mobiles in classrooms is geared towards classrooms with affluent students with smart phones, they are some interesting options available to low-end mobile user phone as well. Check it out here.

If you’ve additional insights regarding the use of mobile technology in classrooms and know of some pilot projects that we may have missed out, please let us know in your comments!

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