An e-learning competition aimed at developing new interactive content for education is moving ahead as 16 teams have been selected to participate in a boot camp starting this month.
Ilm Ideas, an education project funded by the UK Department for International Development, started the Ilm Apps Challenge in May in collaboration with the Pakistan Innovation Foundation (PIF). More than 180 entries were received. After brainstorming and hackathon sessions in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, 16 teams were selected to take part in the boot camp. Four more wild card entries are expected to be announced by next week.
The two-month boot camp is starting from July 15. It will include training sessions and visitations to various schools.
At the end of the camp late in August, 10 final teams will be announced. The winning teams will receive funding from Ilm Ideas. In January, the teams will deploy their ideas in the field for three months.
Organisers of the competition said there was a shortage of scientifically-validated interventions for the education sector. This was something the competition aspired to address.
Talking to The Express Tribune, PIF founder Dr Athar Osama said e-learning was a relatively new concept in Pakistan.
“The idea is to promote learning through local content creation and gamification of education,” he said. Athar said any e-learning effort should be undertaken through a systematic process. “There may be a lot similar efforts on e-learning being undertaken in Pakistan, but all of it is being done haphazardly. We are not doing this just because somebody else is doing something similar. People who have such an attitude fail to focus on evidence-based technology,” he said.
“The PIF conducted an e-learning landscaping prior to the challenge to identify the nature of interventions being done in Pakistan,” Athar said. He said two to three scientifically-validated projects would be selected at the end of the competition.
“By the end of the competition, we should have some validated interventions for education so that if a donor wants to scale it up further, it can do so based on evidence,” Athar said.
3D science practicals
The team Arbisoft, which is taking part in the competition, aims to digitise all practical experiments of matriculation and O-level curriculum into 3D simulations.
The team seeks to supplement practical experiments for schools where labs exist and offer an alternate virtual low-cost platform for schools that do not have labs and equipment.
Arbisoft project manager Usman Younas said the idea aimed to give students a visual understanding of concepts.
“The desired output is for the students to be able to learn any science practical easily,” he said. Younas and his team created a prototype of two physics experiments in 3D simulation for the challenge.
Younas said e-learning tools were very important for Pakistan which lacked educational resources.
App for children
In trying to find culturally relevant content for their two-year-old daughter, Aiyaz Kidwai and his wife, both graphic designers, set out on a journey to produce creative technological content.
The result was a mobile app called Duddoo Aur Dhobi, developed more than a year ago.
Kidwai’s new idea is aimed at incorporating elements of local culture like professions, arts and crafts into the app.
“It is not really about converting textbooks into apps. It is about reviving rare and extinct elements of our tradition for our children,” he said.
Targeting children between the ages of six to nine, the idea uses localised history and sociology.
Kidwai said working people like the washerman, cobbler and gardener had a peculiar cultural standing in our society.
“Teachers and parents want interactive and interesting content that is locally relevant for children. These tools have a long lasting impact on children,” he said.
Making maths fun
GenITeam, a company specialising in mobile games and apps, proposed gamification of mathematics to make learning the subject fun and challenging.
Using word-based problems, the concept incorporates visuals and board game elements into apps, which can be used by students on smart phones or tablets.
GenITeam Marketing Manager Jibran Ghani said the app would utilise attractive styles to make learning fun and also offer an analytical tool for teachers to evaluate students’ performance.
He said they had already spoken to a number of schools where the beta version of the app would be launched. “Private schools are already incorporating tablets in their classrooms. The government needs to subsidise gadgets and encourage local content,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2014.