Author: Trishala Hirachan

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Creating new NSL content for STEAM-Ahead project

Lalitpur | December 2021:

OLE Nepal is developing digital learning contents for children with hearing impairments by creating interactive lessons with Nepali Sign Language (NSL) integration. The project focused on providing access to quality digital learning resources and capacity development of teachers and local bodies to promote quality learning. 

Currently the development of Nepali Sign Language (NSL) content collection is at different stages. A total of 30 chapters are being developed, out of which four chapters have been tested, ten chapters are being reviewed and updated, and the remaining chapters are in the process of being reviewed. These content include different topics ranging from Nepali alphabet to numbers to focusing on sign language. During the different phases of development, multiple rounds of meetings among team members including NSL experts, interpreters, and content designers were held to make these digital lessons and exercises in each content/topic more interactive and user-friendly.

In 2021, our team focused on the development of digital content for Nepali Sign Language content development. In the coming year we will be deploying these newly developed contents on fully-loaded computers and digital library servers with learning content ranging from national curriculum-based, grade-wise digital content: E-Paath; textbooks; educational videos; audiobooks, and interactive learning softwares. In addition, the STEAM Ahead content developed by Wi-STEAM will also be loaded on these servers. We will organise teacher training programs on the integration of digital learning resources to launch the program at 15 new schools in the project area of Dolpa in Karnali Province. 

User-testing NSL content

OLE Nepal is teaming up with Plan International Nepal to bring quality learning experiences to the children from marginalized communities in Dolpa district through the “STEAM-Ahead: Showing Talent, Equality & Ambition of Marginalised children in Karnali” project. Our goal is to address inadequate learning environments and resources, as well as harmful social and gender norms and practices that have continued to perpetuate inequality in access to quality education opportunities in the region.

The STEAM Ahead project is supported by the European Commission represented by the European Union in Nepal.

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Inclusive learning content development

Lalitpur | December 2021:

OLE Nepal is working together with UNICEF and KDDI Foundation, Japan on a project with the aim to reduce disparities that children with disabilities are facing with their learning, particularly in this COVID-19 context where their physical access to schools and learning environments is greatly reduced. Under this project, OLE Nepal is developing digital learning resources for children with visual and hearing impairments. 

OLE Nepal has a collection of freely accessible interactive digital learning materials activities, also known as E-Paath, that are based on the national curriculum. They are subject-specific and grade-specific content. For the Nepali Sign Language (NSL) accessibility features in the interactive digital lessons (E-Paath), we have completed embedding NSL videos right beside the main activity box on the activity page of the lesson for grades 1 to 6 Nepali, English, science, and math subjects. Our team of NSL interpreters completed producing the videos for sign language instruction, which were then edited into the required format with the correct markers for them to be individually added to the corresponding text and dialogues by software programmers. Our team has completed the NSL videos integration for the selected 288 digital lessons. 

These lessons are currently under-going functionality testing. Additionally, our team has conducted user-testing of the NSL-integrated digital content with the students at two different events. Testing was conducted with small groups of students from different grades from Helping Hands for the Deaf Hostel in Gairidhara, Kathmandu on December 3, 2021, and Adarsha Saula Yubak Secondary School in Bungmati, Lalitpur on December 8, 2021. These testing sessions provided our team with valuable insight into the effectiveness of the contents.

Our team has completed the conversion of 27 school textbooks that are published by the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) and these are being tested by the Accessibility advisor, content expert and the user of accessible books. We have hired two individuals for user-level testing of the accessible books created under this project, as accessibility-feature users reviewing  the accessible books allows our project team to get valuable feedback that they can incorporate to these books, as well as a broader perspective on the contents, their use and relevancy. Additionally, our digital library team is working on making changes to E-Pustakalaya to make it accessible to learners with visual impairments. They are addressing the issues on the digital library to meet the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. User-testing on a new accessible books section in E-Pustakalaya is ongoing at the moment. 

The next steps in this project include selecting pilot schools for pre-testing the contents developed under this project. The schools will be equipped with computers and digital library servers, followed by training of the teachers, so that they can integrate these newly developed digital lessons and accessible books in their classrooms.

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Installing EP servers at local level offices in Karnali and Sudurpaschim Provinces

Karnali and Sudurpaschim Provinces | December 2021:

Our team has completed the installation of E-Pustakalaya offline digital library servers in 22 Municipality and Rural Municipality offices of 4 districts in Sudurpaschim province. All local level offices in Achham (10), Dailekh (5), and Jajarkot (7), now have access to the offline version of our education-focused digital library’s collection of books, videos, audiobooks, and interactive teaching-learning materials. Officials including the Education unit, chief administrative officer, elected officials, and teachers attended the orientation sessions and showed interest in the possibility of expanding the digital library program to schools in their communities.

Each local level was provided with an E-Pustakalaya offline server manual that contains basic information on how to use digital resources available in servers, and basic troubleshooting techniques on servers and routers. The library server also has an android app for users to download books on their mobile phones so that they can read them later.  Users can access the digital content on their mobile devices through wireless network (offline) setup. A poster with information on how to access the server was also placed at each location for visitor/community members, and it also has contact information so that interested schools and libraries can reach out for offline digital library installation.

After the installation of digital library servers in Karnali Province, our team met with local on December 15, 2021, Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Nepal’s team met with the Secretary – Krishna Prasad Kapri, Under Secretary – Bishnu Prasad Adhikari, and officials at the Ministry of Social Development at Birendranagar, Surkhet in Karnali Province. At the meeting, OLE Nepal’s Senior Manager, Mr. Tikaraj Karki shared updates about the installation of offline E-Pustakalaya digital library servers at 12 different local level offices (5 in Dailekh and 7 in Jajarkot district) in Karnali Province, completed by OLE’s team. Attendees were given an orientation on the features and contents of the educational offline library server, and there were further discussions on the possibility of expanding the digital library access in the province.

Meeting with officials at Ministry of Social Development at Birendranagar, Karnali Province

With the completion of installation of digital library servers at 22 municipality offices, our team has successfully equipped 59 municipalities in the region with offline E-Pustakalaya digital library servers, and provided hands-on training, orientation and dissemination of E-Pustakalaya content. We are proud to partner with the United Nations World Food Programme Nepal to provide free and open access to the digital library resources in Sudurpaschim and Karnali provinces.

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Refresher Training in Jajarkot

Jajarkot | December 2021:

Our training team completed the refresher training program for the teachers from 12 laptop program schools in Jajarkot. The training program was held in two separate locations for teachers from six schools at each event. The training event for schools at Nalagad Municipality was held on December 3-5, 2021, and at Kuse Rural Municipality was held on December 9-11, 2021. Following covid safety precautions, only two teachers from each school were invited to participate in the training. 

This was the final of the three-stage training program for teachers from 12 laptop program schools in Jajarkot, which was launched in September 2019. The refresher training for laptop program schools is designed to help teachers deal with challenges and any issues encountered while integrating digital resources in their daily classroom. During the training sessions, teachers revisited the key concepts and skills learned in the initial and in-school training. Teachers were provided an open forum to share their best practices and revisit strategies for overcoming technological, pedagogical, and management challenges. 

To ensure efficient integration of digital lessons in classrooms, the trainers emphasized the necessity of thorough planning and preparation. Teachers also discussed the status of the laptops, library servers, network and power equipment at their schools, and how they could increase and utilize the maintenance fund for the up-keep of the devices with support from local authorities.

Some photos from the training program:

Teacher training and technical support for the laptop program in Jajarkot were launched in partnership with World Food Programme (WFP), under their School Meals Programme, which is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition grant. Laptops for the schools were made possible through the contributions of our supporters. The WFP district coordinator for Jajarkot observed both training events.

Special thanks to Ram KC & Karen James, and the communities in Goshen and Middlebury, Indiana who come together each year at annual OLE Nepal benefit events to support access to quality education for children in remote parts of Nepal.

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New ICT-integrated classrooms in Lalitpur

Lalitpur | November – December 2021:

OLE Nepal launched ICT integrated teaching-learning program at three new schools in Lalitpur. Shree Mahalaxmi Secondary School in Nakhipot, Shree Shanti Vidhyashram Secondary School in Patan, and Shree Shramjeet Kishor Secondary School in Lakhusi are now equipped with an offline digital library network set up with Raspberry Pi computers, which sufficient devices for each student in the largest class size. 

Our team completed a three-day teacher training program for the teachers of all three schools to launch the program. The training was designed to help the teachers develop skills in integrating technology and digital learning resources in the classroom. 

Participants were trained on the integrated approach to teaching learning in the classrooms with the use of OLE Nepal’s E-Pustakalaya and E-Paath, as well as technical aspects of the program. The presentations, hands-on activities, practice teaching, and planning exercises are all geared toward assisting teachers in seamlessly integrating digital learning materials into their everyday classroom instruction.

The hands-on training program for teachers was held at their respective schools after our technical team completed the full setup of computer labs. At Shree Shramjeet Kishor Secondary School, 10 teachers attended the training that took place on October 24 – 26, 2021. 19 teachers from Shree Shanti Vidhyashram Secondary School attended the training program on October 27 – 29, 2021. At Shree Mahalaxmi Secondary School the training was conducted on  November 29 – December 1, 2021, where 17 teachers participated in the three-day event.

A total of 115 Raspberry Pi computers have been installed in the three program schools. OLE Nepal helped set up the new computer labs in partnership with KDDI Foundation, Japan and in close coordination with Lalitpur Metropolitan City Office.

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Raspberry Pi computer lab with digital library set up in Kavre

September 2021 | Kavre

OLE Nepal has successfully completed offline E-Pustakalaya (digital library) installation and setting up Raspberry Pi computer lab at Golmeshwori Primary School, Kavre. Our technical team and trainer visited the school in Kavre, on September 14, 2021, to set up the Raspberry Pi (RPi) computer labs and conduct orientation on the offline digital library. 

The visiting team setup 18 units of RPi computer sets along with all the accessories in the computer lab of the newly constructed school. They installed the  E-Pustakalaya offline server and connected the wireless Router to it, so that students and teachers can access the library on their mobile devices. After the installation was complete, the technical team conducted an orientation on the contents of E-Pustakalaya and the RPi computers. The teachers were introduced to the features, functions and tips on proper handling of the installed devices. Our team demonstrated how to connect the RPi, laptops and mobile devices to the digital library server using the router to access the educational content of the library. 

This orientation session was followed by a hands-on session on the functions and handling of the equipment by the teachers. At the end of the session, the teachers were able to find useful learning materials in the digital library and were confident about the use of the digital library equipment. The Raspberry Pi computer lab and digital library in Golmeshwori Primary School, Kavre was launched in partnership with Kids of Kathmandu.

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Laptop program launched at Shree Karang Ganjo Rikung Basic School, Karang, Dolpa

September 2021 | Dolpo

OLE Nepal recently launched laptop-based teaching and learning program at Shree Karang Ganjo Rikung Basic School, Karang, in Upper Dolpa, with support from Himalaya Hilfe Freiburg (HHF), Germany. The school is located in the remote part of the Shey Phoksundo Rural Municipality, requiring 4 days of walk from the nearest airstrip in Juphal. OLE Nepal’s team conducted a four-day basic teacher training in Dolpa for the teachers on how to integrate digital resources in their classrooms. Following the training, fifteen laptops, an offline digital library server and other related equipment were handed to the teachers.   

Our team of two trainers traveled to Dolpa to conduct teacher training. The training conducted between August 29 – September 1, 2021, held in Dunai, included 3 teachers (2 Male and 1 Female). The training focused on pedagogical and technical aspects of the program. On the pedagogical part, they were trained on child-friendly teaching-learning practices for the effective integration of E-Paath and digital learning resources into the classroom. This included the preparation of an integrated lesson plan, job chart, techniques of classroom management, use of teacher notes, and maintaining records. On the technical part, they were trained on basic troubleshooting techniques on E-Paati.  The teacher training sessions were hands-on practice sessions. During the training, the teachers also prepared an action plan with a list of immediate activities for the successful implementation of the program.

Following the training, fifteen laptops, an offline digital library server and other related equipment were handed to the teachers. 15 child-friendly laptops were prepared in the August third week. These laptops are low power, low cost, durable and child-friendly designed for primary grades. These laptops were first examined for physical damage and then they were put through component testing. After the complete testing, they were installed with the software package and interactive digital content E-Paath, Baal Pathmala, and other learning games. Additionally, a digital library server and router were also provided for the school setup.

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New 119 E-Paath content developed for CEHRD learning portal

OLE Nepal has completed the development of 119 new digital E-Paath lessons for grades 1 to 3 as part of the ‘Digital early grade learning content development for COVID-19 response’ project with support from USAID through the Early Grade Reading Program II that is being implemented by RTI. In addition to digital lessons in English, Nepali, Math and Our Surrounding subjects, the new collection includes 15 Nepali Sign Language (NSL) content and 10 lessons and games for students with dyslexia. The completed activities will be handed over to the Centre for Education and Human Resource Development (CEHRD) so that they can be uploaded to the government’s official learning portal.

During this project, our team of curriculum experts, content designers, graphic designers and illustrators, software developers, and translators worked together to create interactive digital educational activities that complement existing content on the CEHRD’s online learning platform. From conceptualization to design and development, the team paid close attention to ensure that the activities meet the learning objectives, and at the same time are fun and engaging for young learners. Graphic elements, animations, text, and audio components were contextualized to match the local environment. Content Experts for each subject were responsible for conceptualizing and reviewing the content.

The main purpose of this project is to provide continued support in developing more content to enhance the learning of children of Nepal, at least to those who can get access to the internet or can manage to get E-Paath offline. Under this project, OLE Nepal has designed, and developed  a total of 119 new interactive digital content for primary grades 1-3 for Nepali, Math, English,  Hamro SeroFero / हाम्रो सेरोफेरो (‘Our Surrounding’: integrated Science and Social Studies) subjects as well as contents for Nepali Sign Language (NSL) and for dyslexic children for the CEHRD learning portal. Additionally, Math and Hamro SeroFero (Science and Social Studies) were developed in both Nepali and English languages. 

The total number of new chapters developed per grade and subject is given below:

GRADE

ENGLISH

MATH

NEPALI

OS

NSL

DYSLEXIA

TOTAL

1

5

6

5

15

   

31

2

3

5

4

16

   

28

3

6

8

5

16

   

35

 

15

10

25

TOTAL

14

19

14

47

15

10

119

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Developing accessible content and digital library for students with learning differences

OLE Nepal has embarked on a new project, supported by UNICEF and KDDI Foundation, with the aim to reduce disparities that children with disabilities are facing with their learning. The project is particularly relevant in the COVID19 context where their physical access to schools and learning environments is greatly reduced, and the school shutdown has disproportionately affected students with learning disabilities. Students with learning differences who depend solely on their teachers’ instruction have been left out from the online home-based learning experience. We are working to increase inclusive access to learning materials on our free and open digital learning platforms – E-Paath and E-Pustakalaya. Our approach to make the learning experience inclusive will move away from traditional methods and towards technology, while promoting lifelong learning.

With the understanding that inclusive education needs to start at the foundational level, we are working with Nepali Sign Language (NSL) experts and interpreters to create NSL instructional videos and embed them on digital learning content E-Paath for Grades 1-6. While all of the contents have text for corresponding audio/sounds, we believe that students with hearing impairments will benefit from having NSL instruction within each E-Paath lesson and exercise.

Our technical team is working on adapting our free and open digital library to ensure it meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), to make the library accessible for users with visual impairments through the use of screen reader software so that they can easily navigate through thousands of resources available. Early adaptation to accessible assistive technology is not only advantageous, but also cost-effective in the long-run. A major part of this project will be creating school level textbooks that are usable with assistive technology. Not many digital books have been converted to a format that can be read by assistive technology for easy access. Our team will work together with experts to create accessible content for the digital library. 

The inclusive education contents developed under this project for Nepal Sign Language (NSL) instruction and with accessible books for students with low-vision or blindness will then be tested and piloted in schools for students with visual impairments, speech-hearing impairments. OLE Nepal’s technical team will prepare and provide computers recommended and selected for their assistive technology and ease of access features that meet the needs of the users. The computer labs will be equipped with a power back-up system to avoid any disruptions during classroom sessions, and an offline digital library server (E-Pustakalaya), which will host the offline version of the digital library space with accessible learning contents.

The computer lab set ups in these schools will be accompanied by a teacher training program at the school. The training will help prepare the teachers on the use and methods of instruction for students on interactive digital learning NSL contents and assistive technology. After the teacher training program, OLE Nepal’s teacher trainers and technical staff will provide support based on the school’s requirements. Our content team will also monitor the usage during this period.  We plan to have further discussions with the teachers and students of these test schools to learn about their needs and experiences.

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Students learning on tablets during lockdown

OLE Nepal launched a home-based learning program in partnership with the Lalitpur Metropolitan City Office (LMC) and KDDI Foundation to address the changing education challenges faced by disadvantaged students using affordable, offline devices. Students in six pilot schools in Lalitpur were able to take home customized tablet computers loaded with digital learning resources on a rotational basis during the most recent covid outbreak. These pre-loaded tablets allowed the students to continue learning at home by following activities in their grade-specific workbooks and custom study plan for the months that the schools remained closed. Teachers in the pilot schools proceeded with caution and followed all safety precautions while facilitating the tablet check-out and rotation program. The program has helped public schools students who do not have access to devices and connectivity at home.

Students from Jalpa Secondary School in Dhapakhel, Bal Binod Secondary School in Na:Tole, Yashodhara Bouddha Secondary School in Thaina, Prabhat Secondary School in Tygal, Harisiddhi Secondary School in Harisiddhi, and Shramik Bal Bigyan Basic School in Pulchowk, Lalitpur was given weekly study plans with workbook along with the tablets to enable them to study at home, even without access to the internet. These tablet have been pre-loaded with over 40GB of learning content including OLE Nepal’s interactive E-Paath (epaath.olenepal.org) digital content, instructional videos produced by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, science and math educational games (games.olenepal.org), and other reference materials such as dictionaries in English and Nepali language.

During the last academic year, the schools in Lalitpur have had to shut down a few times. During the shut down the tablets have helped students transition into learning at home and school. These tablets have been used while in-person classes were in session as well.

PHOTOS: 

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