Showing posts with label Bhutan WIRED Project. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bhutan WIRED Project. Show all posts

24 August 2012

Curiosity Post in Bajo WiFi Park

Curiosity Post
This Sign Post stands tall at the entrance of the WiFi Park and I call it curiosity post. If you look at it perhaps you will only be curious about how it was made because you already know about the things that are written on the planks. But in my school where every year over 700 students will walk pass this and not many will know what these are. They will be curious and the next time they are on a computer they explore, that is what this post is supposed to do.
A school is a world in itself; rich and poor, good and bad, intelligent and dull, happy and sad, beautiful and ugly, and many other extremes. And there is another gap that divides students into two, which is called the Digital Divide, and I am hoping to break that barrier subtly. NIIT's Project in schools across the country is training every student from class VII to XII in use of computer technology and they are introduced in use of internet as well. But how much do they know about using internet as a source of knowledge? and as a tool for collaboration and learning? This post has no magic in it but it can trigger the magic students have in themselves.
I have already had several teachers and guests from abroad who passed by the post and asked me, "What is KhanAcademy?" That's where the learning begins. I love explaining about each one of them,

The Curiosity Post is a piece of art created by the eight students I have in class XI computer Studies. Each one of them carved and painted a board each and we had a tough time deciding whom to be placed at the top. I am happy Blogger won the place on the top.The bird nest on the top is borrowed from another class that has done another project of placing bird nest on trees.

Update 25th Aug: 39 Students from Raffles Institution Singapore visited our school yesterday morning along with four teachers. They spent the whole morning mixing with out students in their classes. Some of our students were stunned by the brilliance of these young Singaporean kids.
 One of the teachers, Mr. Louis, who worked in Bhutan for a year and have returned thrice, told me that his student were amazed by the WiFi Park. He says they have wireless internet connection across their campus but having a specific place outside to relax and enjoy is something new to them.

23 August 2012

Creative Works of My Students in School WiFi Park

 I have been dreaming of building a park in my school that will translate the idea of free and open learning environment into a real space. I read somewhere that modern classrooms should be www, which is a pun and interestingly means Wherever, Whenever, Whatever besides its actual meaning.
I planned a park where there will be beautiful benches to rest under the shade of green tress and wherever you sit you could catch strong WiFi connection. The idea was expensive and school had no money. But dreams require passion more than money, and passion I had enough. It didn't take long before I knew I could do it without money. With the plan in my hand I went looking for sponsors and surprisingly I received commitment from many people who would donate cement, wood, nails, electrical equipment, and wireless router.
WiFi Park Board (Hemlal and I carved and painted)

Then I was stranded at the idea of having to make huge number of benches. I would need a carpenter to work for me over a long period of time and he would want me to pay him handsomely. Even if I had money I will run short of bench designs. That is when I turned to whirlpool of creative idea, yes my students. I announced a "Park Bench Making" competition among sixteen senior classes and promised then attractive prizes. Then I went looking for "attractive prizes" while students worked on their benches. The result amazed everybody. Following are some of the benches my students created;
Bench 14, 2nd Prize Winner

Bench 10, Consolation Prize

Bench 5, Consolation Prize

Bench 9, Winner

With major portion of the work happening on its own, I was left with loads of energy to focus on the technical infrastructure, which was completed right away. Then I had to build a pavilion that will not only provide shade but also power supply to charge laptops. A colleague and his class of students volunteered to takeover the work.
The Pavilion
Seven out of 16 benches were awarded prizes based on the judgement of five external judges and acknowledgements were sent to our sponsors. Now the park is ready and opened for operation. You could sit in the shade and enjoy internet.

15 March 2012

Thank You and Goodbye SIF

Yesterday a two member team from Singapore International Foundation visited my school to say a formal goodbye after three years of working together. They spent the whole day here auditing the Bhutan WIREd Project they undertook. 
The project identified five schools- Drukgyel HSS, Chhukha HSS, Punakha HSS, Yangchengatsel LSS, and our school Bajo- and trained five teachers from each school in use of Information Technology in teaching. The project donated ICT equipment to set up a collaborative classroom in each school and brought in six teams of trainers to train 25 of us during the project period. The project also walked the extra mile in taking all of us and our principals to Singapore to give us exposure to how schools there use technology in teaching. Each year the brought in a volunteer and left them at our disposal. These three people, Kong Ming, Jermain and Louis, not only survived our culture and discomforts, they also made their places in the hearts of many Bhutanese teachers. Louis came back again to wind up the project and it was then that I realized how deep an impression he has made on me. I felt like a brother returning home.
And now the time has come for them to say goodbye to us and let us walk our own journey. It's no more difficult to walk independently, the project has done its magic on us and I am saying my goodbye happily. In my final words to our Project Manager Ms. Deeksha, "Please say my thanks to SIF for the finding us and making differences in our lives. I am still amazed at the generosity your organization in a faraway country coming all the way to invest so much in our country." Ms. Deeksha smiled and said, SIF's vision is "making friends for a better world", and I couldn't agree less.
It didn't seem to me that SIF is saying their goodbye yet, they may come back with different project anytime soon and I already committed that if they are going to take WIREd project to other schools we are available anytime.
My love and gratitude to SIF and Singapore!

There are 5 Articles on Singapore in my blog, if you wish to read.

31 May 2011

Teaching the Digital Natives

 Teaching is soon going to be a very embarrassing job, with learners knowing far more than their teachers. The kids born in the digital age are exposed to hundreds of information sources through hundreds of technology, which we teachers may not have heard of even. We seem to be happy with how well we can explain the textbook and we are proud of our chalkboard skills, but things are changing so fast that each day a page from our textbook gets outdated, and kids find it hard to believe that there is no icon to click on the chalkboard, forget about 'save' option.
There were times, whole family will scream if a kid runs to touch the video deck, but now without your child's help you will scream at your new phone. Kids walk with Google in the pocket and you talk to them of what you learnt 10 years ago, what do you expect? Yes they are bored with you!
I have joined Bhutan W.I.R.Ed project three years ago to make sure I can always be useful to my students. The Singaporean project pioneered the used of Information Technology in Bhutanese Schools. However, three years couldn't make any difference in the way teaching happens in Bhutan. There wasn't so much energy in the young idea to push through the old mindsets.
However, NIIT offered EPICT Certificate course for the forty Chigphen Rigphel teacher trainers, to be completed in next eight months. Everything about the course shall be done online. At the end of the course, it is expected that the spark of Bhutan W.I.R.Ed project will glow on to become a huge fire of revolution in the way learning happens in Bhutan.
The First Forty- in Samtse with NIIT Staff
Teachers mustn't excuse themselves from learning technology, while the pace is still slow, there will come a time when the chance of coping is far from possible, and that's when you become useless for your students. Being awarded the best presenter during the course orientation I am fully motivated to remain ever useful to all generations of learners.

07 April 2011

Online Question Bank- My broken dream

Months of excitement and planning ended this afternoon after I saw the news in Kuensel. The online question bank that my ministry is planning to come up later this year was my dream project since last year. I have set up a blog last winter to inspire myself, discussed the idea with my friend at Bhutan Web Hosting Solution for a very dynamic website, and consulted my uncle for sources of fund.

Rough Sketch of broken dream
Coining the web address itself took me days. Every address I tried seemed to be booked and finally I landed up with bhutanquestionbank. I sketched a rough logo and sent it out to Phuba Namgay, a Bhutanese painter abroad, for giving it a professional touch. He agreed to do it for me after he is done with his wife Linda’s book promotion.

I sat down with my jobless brother, who is expected to work fulltime on the site after it is launched, and drew the blueprint. I encouraged him to work on it, so that his three years of computer studies comes to some work. My wife looked at my proposal and found it so promising that she agreed to help me through. I have everything ready except the fund it will require, which of course it planned out as well.

But now with the dream shattered, I have nothing to worry about except my brother’s job. I am surprise my ministry is going to pump in Nu.700,000 for the site alone and then additional fund for training, whatever that means. I only wish if they could offer me the project, because I have the passion. Passion to move on without having to push. Hope the ePortal won’t go to sleep after a while like most other websites, without me! 

05 July 2010

Showing Middle Finger at 65

Dr. Low with monkey hanging on her neck at Chukha

At 65 I would be complaining about my joint pains, grumbling about my children, carrying loads of medicine and worse of all doing just nothing, simply waiting for death. Or may be not; I can change that today! I sat down listening to Dr. Low’s powerful lecture and breathtaking presentations on dreaming big. My thirst for seeing Shiv Khera in person is quenched after these two days of workshop with 65 years young lady.

Her part of the workshop was actually meant for principals but since the last minute adjustment excluded them she carried on with us, and thank god she did. It wasn’t a classical workshop where we wait for the tea breaks and lunch break and eagerly fill up the allowance bill and then rush back home. We thank god that we were here.

Dr. Low inspiring People back in Singapore
She didn’t appear 65 in anyway; she emits rays of energy, happiness and satisfaction.  She dances, jumps, puts her foot on the table, shows her middle finger … She makes us laugh our lungs out, makes us play some funny games and puts us in deep realization and then gives us the want to do things that we dare not wish for. She is a living example of a person who dreamed big and let dreams happen.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; there is where they should be. Now, put foundations under them       - Henry David Thoreau
At 65 I don’t want to complain about my joint pains, grumble about my kids and survive on drugs anymore, I want to be strong enough to show my middle finger, run and scream with my grand children, help my children in buying their first cars, go on vacation with my wife and be a source of happiness to people around me. And it all starts now with a vision.

Note: Dr. Low Guat Tin is from Singapore, she is a trainer of managers. She is here in Bhutan to facilitate a workshop for Singapore International Foundation’s project in Bhutanese Schools.

19 November 2009

Bajothang School Wireless Network: A generation ahead!

When I heard the news (on BBC) of a city in England where every citizen gets access to free wireless internet connection (first of it kind in the world) I just realized that Bajothang School is not bad! You walk into my school campus with a laptop (with wireless device) and you are connected 100mbps wireless network with 24 hours internet for free (Of course I should authorize you).

We began with a dial-up connection in 2007, then we taught internet from book and students has to imagine what email is and search engine… By last year we moved on to broadband. Sharing the internet on an imperfect network was difficult; on top of that broadband is not a connection to be shared on network.
I knew development is going to rain on us when a Singapore International Foundation chose our school along with four other for their Bhutan W.I.R.E.D Project. The core of the project is to use ICT in teaching and learning. And the dream is to connect the five schools with MoE to share resources through internet. The project donated 10 laptops to each school, with a LCD projector each and cameras. We are half way through at the moment but the going is good!

The broadband became old fashioned suddenly; we opted for lease line (all high school must have got this scheme from MoE). Our network became reliable and we started sharing the internet connection. Then the Bhutan W.I.R.E.D required our school to have a domain server which glorified our network and made my college dream come true. Mr. Kong Ming, a volunteer for the project, came out of his shoes to set up the whole thing.

Mr. Karma Jurmi, the man who looks after ICT department in MoE, promised us a set of wireless equipment and he kept his word. Right after we had the network and domain server done we got the wireless set. The power of this tiny device still didn’t cease to amaze me. I worked out a blueprint and left no building in school out of network, through wire and the wireless.

There are about 30 teachers in my school and 27 of us own our own laptops, which are connected to internet as long as they are in the school premises. Mr. Kong Ming showed me even more amazing things we could do on our network. We already started having a school intranet site (of course just within our school network but far more interactive and useful than school website we have) where we can post school announcements, have subject wiki pages, share files, discussion forum, etc.

My senior IT teacher BB Ghalley is on his masters in India. He writes me a mail once in about two months. He tells me that his university has just a few slow computers connected to internet where hundreds stand in line. Is it really a university then? I know his wits can’t withstand this story of a high school he once used to be in. But it’s true Bajo is one generation ahead of many school in the country.

19 August 2009

Singaproean Curry- I can like it!

It's been over six months now and Mr. Kong Ming is still having hard time finding "eatable" food in Bhutan. He has been to restaurants that serve Chinese food to find Bhutanese versions. I have taken him to best hotels in the town just to displease him at the end. Many friends invited him for dinner and no one could impress him enough, just because he is as honest as one could be. But how much ever honest he may be I am worried he will go back home a skeleton.

May be it's not the same with all Singaporeans, but Kong likes less sugar, less salt and less oil in everything he eats. Where would he find such food in here? Wherever he goes he is treated as special guest and thus served with best tea and best dishes- and you know what we call the best! Come on he even finds Pepsi and Coca Cola too sweet to consume. Mineral Water alone keeps him alive.

Kong likes food at my place, wait, wait I mean it. He would drop in every evening, as long as he is in our school, for dinner. My wife can cook the food he likes. Actually it is simple, just cook something really bad, something you would usually serve an ulcer or diabetic patient. He says "I am not crazy about food", but I find him crazy!

Well this time he brought a packet of soup sent to him right from Singapore. Of course it is like the "stone soup" story. You require pork ribs. The soup is boiled and the ribs are added in it to be cooked for 30 mins. Then ready! He lend his hand in preparing and so sweetly he did the serving that night. He ate like hell. I liked it too. I mean I can like it!

13 August 2009

Let’s call it a day!

The whole day I was with computer and usually by now I would have long gone into slumber but you know when something is achieved you want to try your luck on another. Infact today I achieved more than just something. Mr. Kong Ming was on his fourth (may be fifth) visit to our school. Precisely he is a volunteer from Singapore working in the MoE for Bhutan WIRED Project sponsored by his government. He was actually our facilitator but necessity made him a great computer troubleshooter.

This morning we began our work on setting a domain server which is meant to connect the five member schools, Bajothang HSS, Drukgyel HSS, Chukha HSS, Punakha HSS and ChumgangLSS with MoE to share resources on the new teaching method (the soul of the project). However, there were million things to be done before we could actually begin;

· The Operating systems (Windows Xp) must be upgraded to SP 3 (Sp 3 Patch is 316 MB and requires 24 hours to download, god! What is wrong with the Broadband?)
· Windows Xp must be the Professional Edition (not Home Edition) (Gosh, many of the computers are installed with the Home edition; each reformatting process takes about an hour)
· The Internet browser should be Firefox (of course this is not so hard)
· The computer must have good Antivirus software (Where do we get good antivirus in Bhutan? Well Symantec is there, pirated though just like all other software)
· And the worst of all was, the computer speed must be good and that takes the most of the energy…I think I will give the whole chunk of tips to speed up your computer in my next post

  • The actual server setting can be done only after a few days it seems...

Mr. Kong skipped his lunch and didn’t mind missing the dinner but I did. I often reminded him, “Let call it a day” It was he who deserved rest and he did seem to want it. By and by we stumbled on hundred problems and made me a better computer man (well I am thought of as a computer repairer in the area) and the best part was the speeding-up-computer tips, of which Kong has already made a checklist (I will really make it in my next post; I do have his permission) When we finally came out of the computer lab it was dark and raining. It had never occurred to me that there is such great charm in calling it a day after sweating myself to death and coming alive out of it with lot of thing to keep for a life time…it didn’t end there though…we continued more troubleshooting after dinner on my computer…ha ha ha my eyes are aching so bad I think let’s really call it a day!