Thursday, January 1, 2015
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Monday, October 27, 2014
- Lesson Development and Software Licenses ($250)
- Teacher & Student Training at Kokobe and Nohana Primary Schools ($7000)
- Phase I of Project Expansion at Pela Tsoeu ($3524)
- Community Organization,
- Leadership Development and Mentoring,
- Limited Initial Hardware and Software Deployment, and
- Introductory Teacher and Student Training
- deep-cycle solar power system batteries
- laptop batteries, screens, keyboards, motherboards, replacement laptops
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Leslie Engle Young was at a schoolhouse in Agorhome, Ghana, surrounded by a room full of mystified fifth graders. None of them had ever used a computer or surfed the internet, and yet, Young had just handed out a stack of tablet computers, asking them to answer a few basic questions using these mysterious devices.
"The kids had no idea what was going on," she remembers. "The first girl who touched the tablet, I had to hold her finger to get her to touch it, because she was scared it was going to shock her."
Then, something happened that delighted and amazed Young: with no instruction whatsoever, the students started figuring it out. "It was instantaneous," she says. "They opened the browser, saw the empty bar at the top, and everyone just clicks on it. Then they're like 'Oh, there's a keyboard,' and started typing. It's like: 'How did you figure that out?'" By the end of a few hours, the students were presenting the new knowledge they'd acquired all on their own, using devices they'd never seen before.
Young is the director of impact for Pencils of Promise, a New York City non-profit that has built nearly 250 schools across Ghana, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Laos. Last month, Pencils of Promise began experimenting with an emerging style of teaching called the self-organized learning environment, or SOLE. In a SOLE classroom, rather than lecturing students, teachers pose a question and let them use technology and curiosity to arrive at an answer. It's a method designed to encourage critical thinking and knowledge retention.
The SOLE model didn't begin with Pencils of Promise. It's based on the theories, which WIRED explored in-depth last fall, of Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University. But Pencils of Promise is poised to take this growing movement a step further.
Rather than lecturing students, teachers pose a question and let them use technology and curiosity to arrive at an answer.
In 1999, Mitra launched a highly publicized experiment called Hole-in-the-Wall, in which he placed a computer in the middle of a New Delhi slum, and watched to see if kids could teach themselves to use it. They could, and they did. Mitra then parlayed that success into the creation of School in the Cloud, a set of schools based on the SOLE model. He argued that if students could use technology to take a more active role in their own education, they'd learn a lot more than they do in a standard classroom. Last year, Mitra won the $1 million TED Prize to bring the School in the Cloud to life.
Since then, the concept of child-led, technology-enabled education has flowered and is being tested in schools from New Jersey to Ghana. Other organizations like the X Prize are catching on, too. The non-profit recently launched its Global Learning X Prize, offering up $15 million in prize money for software that kids could use to teach themselves. Now, with Pencils of Promise on board, the SOLE model could potentially scale exponentially across its hundreds of schools. That is, if the Ghana pilot works.
Young says Pencils of Promise will be studying the two pilots in Ghana for at least the next six months, with help from a Newcastle University researcher. They'll track metrics like literacy and numeracy rates, but they'll also monitor student attendance to see if the SOLE really does keep kids more engaged, as well as its impact on students' critical thinking skills. If all goes well, the team plans to develop what Young calls "SOLE-in-a-box," that comes complete with tablets, a Wifi connection, and any other materials a teacher would need to run a SOLE.
It's important to note, however, that Pencils of Promise hasn't adopted Mitra's entire model, which entails essentially eliminating teachers and replacing them with technology. Technology, Young believes, can never replace a teacher. Instead, Pencils of Promise is teaching educators how to run a SOLE classroom for, perhaps, a few hours a week. That way, Young explains, the SOLE becomes just another part of the teacher's toolbox.
"We think teachers are really the answer to getting systemic change," she says. "They might teach 25 kids this year, another 25 next year, and so on and so on. If we can fundamentally change the way teachers are trained and supported then we would have a whole different education system."
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Sunday, October 19, 2014
be stepping down at the end of this year and shifting my focus to lesson
development. As a result, L2L is searching for someone to take over and
lead L2L into the future.
We are looking for someone who is familiar with Lesotho and has experience
working with Basotho. Though we are based in the U.S., the president doesn't
necessarily have to be someone in the U.S.
We have a board member in Pretoria, South Africa, who is reluctantly willing
to act as Interim President, if necessary, until we can find someone who
will serve a full 3-year term.
In Lesotho, we currently have a native project leader, project
coordinator, and volunteer. We also have seven directors in the U.S. and
South Africa and over 2 dozen part-time volunteers in 4 countries. Two of
the volunteers are handling fundraising, so that sometimes onerous task
As we are an all-volunteer organization, the presidency is a unpaid
The president would primarily serve as a figurehead, leader, and
motivator, keeping the organization true to our founding philosophy and
approach, as well as acting as a liaison with our Basotho participants and
overseeing all project operations.
The L2L philosophy is to mentor, train, and encourage Basotho leadership,
with community involvement and investment in the project before the
schools or students receive any benefits, and to give Basotho control of
project design and daily operations.
L2L is currently supporting educational work at two schools in
Lesotho, serving nearly 600 students. We are looking to expand to a
third school sometime in 2016, with groundwork being laid in 2015.
I plan to stay active on the Board, so I will be available to offer
support and guidance, if needed, as the new president gets familiar with
If you are interested in applying for the president's position, contact me