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Contextualizing Learning in Developing Countries

We have a bunch of ideas and it's a little bit of everything and we didn't know where to put it above

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  • Youth Group

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SMARTlearners Donation Drive: “A Smartphone for Every Learner”

For some learners in our communities, sometimes the root of the problem is as simple as not having one’s own smartphone device. Many students, even in urban places in Bhutan, still do not have access to smartphones with enough storage space to even install e-learning softwares. Or, parents have to share their devices with their children.

The lack of these devices leaves students behind or absent from their online classes, unable to participate and learn. We propose a donation drive to provide a smartphone device to every student in our communities.

E-Learning Platform for Developing Nations

We propose an e-learning platform which has voice commands. In developing countries, where many people are illiterate, apps that can send voice messages (such as WeChat) have been seen to be immensely popular and helpful in aiding communication and learning. It can be inferred that this “culture” of voice communication is not very different from how learners communicate in classes. Thus, an online learning platform that capitalizes on voice features would be immensely helpful, especially in the context of a developing country.

Leaving no one behind

It has become even more challenging for special needs students to continue regular classes and learning.There are a myriad of ways to employ technology and virtual aids for different types of special needs, such as for those who are hearing impaired, visually impaired or are on various spectrums of autism or aspergers. For some special needs children, these methods can eliminate triggers that may be caused by face-to-face interaction, and for some, it may open up the world to them. Thus, we propose the development or introduction of various online learning platforms for learning with special needs. These platforms would be different in the sense that it would incorporate elements that are familiar to special needs learners, such as having the modules in the local language, landscape or everyday activities.

Radio is Not Dead: Educational Programs Broadcast on Radio for a Reach Far and Wide

Although all parts of the country (Bhutan) are electrified and have internet accessibility, many students in Bhutan do not live in households that have internet access or a television set. However, their households are very likely to own a radio. We propose going back in time- to reach out to the remotest parts of our communities via radio.

Creative Homework: New Assignments for Autonomous and Curious Learners

When every student has access to the tools to learn, an important aspect is to focus on the content of the learning material. Reading out textbooks and telling children to write answers that can be picked from the textbooks can make children passive, rather than active learners. Thus, creative homework, such as the type based on the syllabus but letting children work with the things available in the house. For example, a teacher can tell a student to make a litmus paper at home with which they can identify the PH level of food available in their house.

With the sudden change from class setting to online learning, both teachers and students are jumping feet first into unfamiliar technologies and pedagogies with minimal training. Emphasizing on empathy and flexibility in the syllabus should be encouraged. Right now, teaching excellence is more likely to take the form of allowing students flexibility so that they can care for children learning remotely, rather than handing them another tightly comprehended assignment. Here are a few ideas on how we might engage and educate students remotely, without heavily relying on the internet:

i) Encourage student collaboration and discussion:

Weekly lesson plans should include opportunities for students to respond to questions in a discussion board format to encourage collaboration and idea sharing. Students could be requested to read and comment on one another’s work. Assignments could be designed in such a way, where students are able to share and collaborate in small groups.  

ii)Design hands-on learning curriculum: Design assignments that could be completed at home, with family and community involvement. For example, 1) Social studies could be combined with art, where students could explore learning opportunities in their local parks or outdoors in nature. 2) For History, students could interview their grandparents and bring a historical topic to life through storytelling.

iii) Encourage self-assessment learning:

Students could be taught to reflect on their learning and performance, set goals, and create action plans. Throughout the learning process, students could keep a journal and later be graded (for accountability)

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed features of the education system that are failing our learners, particularly, as we have observed in our country, a) the dependency on teachers (or parents) who “tell you the answer,” and b) curriculums that do not encourage curiosity and self driven learning about the world and the interest of the learners. The learning gaps that are so apparent in the current scenario is, in a way, an exacerbation of pre-existing practices that were already producing different educational outcomes in real classrooms. Thus, the aforementioned are the two pathologies of the pre-COVID school system that we wish to leave in the past.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

We are a newly formed group of young people in the Global Shapers’ Hub, Thimphu. We are not only enthusiastic but also committed to embark on activities and projects that bring an impact on our community. Participation in the IDEO challenge was an opportunity for us to begin this journey. We enjoyed getting together to assess the scenario as we observed and experienced it through our siblings, cousins and parents dealing with the educational outcomes currently, and brainstormed possible (and wild) solutions that could work in the unique context of our society and community. We may also take up some of the above proposed solutions as a project for the Hub.

What region are you located in?

  • South-eastern Asia

Where are you located?

Thimphu, is a burgeoning metropolis in its own right— commercially, politically and culturally. Some of the most talented people in the country call Thimphu their home. It also receives one of the highest rates of urban migrators and university graduates. While the city has found itself increasingly struggling with inequality, safety, and livability, it is also a place of opportunities and optimism essentially, because at the end of the day, the people in this city care for one another.

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GS Thimphu Hub , thank you all for your incredibly thoughtful, detailed and student-centered submission! Sounds like your brainstorming session was a huge success - look at all the relevant ideas you generated! I'm Rachel, one of the Community Coaches. I am especially moved by your inclusion of how to approach remote learning with students with disabilities - I wonder if you've had the opportunity to view Include2020 by Melissa Diamond . May serve as a point of inspiration for your own idea!

Like Aakar Mehra mentioned below, I'm also intrigued by the Creative Homework concept, particularly the self-assessment piece. How might parents/caregivers be part of the assessment process (assessment for growth and learning, not for a grade)? How else might students creatively assess their learning? Excited to see where this takes your group! Best of luck!

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