We don’t know what will work yet, and furthermore there may be alternative options that are more effective than our first choice. So we have consciously adopted an approach where we pick and try several things in parallel. This includes technologies, connectivity, content, schools, content distribution, etc. We expect to expand the number of parallel paths during our experiments and pilot projects. However, we also select and support combinations which seem suitable.
Here are some of the parallel paths we are currently evaluating:
- Devices: we started with 2 devices: The Kindle Keyboard (3rd edition) 3G+Wi-Fi is the main device – we started the pilot with 5 of these. The current Kindle 4 with the 4 way controller, Wi-Fi, (and no touch screen) – we started the pilot with 2 of these.
- Cases: For the Kindle Keyboards we use the Amazon case that includes a built-in LED light; and for the Kindle 4 we use the Solar-Mio integrated case with solar panel built-in LED light and in-built battery. Although these are expensive, our initial impressions are very positive.
- Charging: Our devices need power, and to be recharged. We are evaluating solar panels, with and without internal batteries, as well as the standard mains USB chargers. We will cover the solar and other power options in another blog post soon.
- Connectivity: as mentioned the Kindle Keyboards include 3G, so the teachers can connect directly to the Amazon store, and search Google and Wikipedia without needing Wi-Fi. As the schools don’t have Wi-Fi 3G connectivity provides virtually immediate access to materials for the teachers, even while teaching, etc. However, we also want to evaluate Wi-Fi, and ways to establish rural Wi-Fi for the schools, and the lowest priced Kindle, the Kindle 4, only comes in a Wi-Fi model. So we need to find ways to support these devices in the field as supplies of the older Kindle Keyboard dry up. We will cover connectivity in more detail in another blog post.
- Content distribution: We are using both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ methods of content distribution. Pull is where the user (a teacher in this case) downloads the content to their eReader. Push is where content is sent to devices. Materials are also copied onto the devices directly from a computer using a USB connection. Services including dropbox are excellent to transfer and share materials over the Internet easily and effectively.
- Materials: Many of the books in Swahili are published via Longhorn Publishers and available from Amazon. However there are other publishers of potentially suitable eBooks who don’t support the Amazon formats, instead they publish books in the ePub format. We are in discussion with various publishers in Kenya, and the UK, to find useful and relevant materials for the teachers; together with ways to make the material ‘work’ on Kindles, other eReaders, and Tablet devices.
We are also evaluating Android Tablets and other eReader devices during the pilot period.