In the fall quarter of 2014, three student teams at Cal Poly worked to create videos that will help spread awareness of bringing information and communications technology (ICT) into schools in remote and resource-challenged Pacific Islands locations. (Scroll down to watch the videos!)
The teams worked in collaboration with partners Ian Thomson and Shikha Raturi, who co-direct the Teacher’s Educational Resource and E-Learning Center at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. Ian and Shikha work closely with Ministries of Education, development organizations, schools and individual teachers across the Pacific Islands. They also conduct national, regional, and local conferences and workshops that support teacher training and skills-building to promote e-learning across the Pacific. In this context, they often make use of videos to illustrate points or to stimulate creativity and/or discussion, yet none of the videos they use were focused specifically on the challenges and opportunities ICTs present for schools and education in the Pacific Islands.
Creating some targeted, to-the-point videos on these precise topics, which could be useful for our partners in Fiji, became our team’s goal. This project took place in the context of a Technology and Public Policy class, and the challenge I issued to the students was to undertake a Learn-by-Doing public policy project that would have an impact in the real world, despite the fact that we were not able to leave our campus setting during the five weeks we worked on the project this quarter. In this case, we chose the policy-relevant activity of awareness-raising, of the public and of teachers, all the way up to policymakers, while also using the very technologies we were advocating for and demonstrating the use of.
The teams set out to understand the appropriate and desired messages to convey, the cultural contexts into which the videos would be introduced and of which the videos would attempt be representative, and the specific challenges and opportunities ICT presents for education in the Pacific Islands. Three groups were formed to further refine the videos’ content, each with a distinct target audience and message.
Although there was variation and creativity in all of the videos, all three teams did agree on using a stop-motion whiteboard framework within the videos, to keep the continuation of the theme, visually, across all of the videos, but also because the writing out of words in a visual manner (while combining this act with the use of technology) tends to help get a message across—especially to teachers!
The first group set its focus on policymakers, emphasizing the point that ICT in the schools can bring about significant benefits, even (and especially) in resource- and infrastructure-constrained locations, through the use of simple and robust technology.
The second group’s video focused on the educators themselves, demonstrating through examples some simple and straightforward, yet creative, methods for using ICT in the schools.
The third video’s target audience is the general public, with the goal of raising awareness of the next stage of our work: Designing, Developing, and Deploying 50 Solar-Powered All-in-One Digital Library Kits to schools across the Pacific Islands.
Please watch the video and stay tuned for updates on this exciting project!
On the final day of class, the students debuted their videos, over a Skype-connected call, to our partners in Fiji. Happily, our partners were quite enthusiastic about the videos, and provided very positive responses to all 3 videos – for example: “Blown away,” “Fantastic,” and “Very impressed” were repeated phrases. We hope they will prove useful!