Almost half of our country’s children are unable to read or do basic arithmetic. Maybe teachers would like to use additional teaching resources, but the schools have little money and infrastructure.
In the developed world, learning about other cultures is mostly limited to reading about them or watching boring documentaries about them.
Students on both sides have a limited chance to interact with peers outside of their own classroom and culture.
Growing up in South Asia, Oberlin College seniors Prakash Paudel, Saksham Khosla, and Venkata Shiva Mandala were well aware of the conditions in Indian schools. They came up with the idea for LumenEd when they were talking about boosting education efforts in developing countries using technology. They wanted to prove that technology-based learning tools could provide children in rural or underdeveloped areas with a quality education and empower the educators in those regions to enhance their teaching abilities.
LumenEd’s ‘Bright Orange Box’ (BOB),a solar powered device combines a projector, a computer, and speakers. It serves as a multimedia device to play audiovisual content to an entire classroom. Powered by a solar-charged battery, each device is capable of operating without electricity or internet access. The box is built with simplicity, flexibility and durability in mind so that anybody, anywhere can use it. Each device comes preloaded with a library of educational content on a range of core subjects, including English, science, and math. The device also lets you play content from outside that library.
Through its Video Pen Pal Program, LumenEd facilitates video conversations between communities around the world. The integrated video camera on each device allows classrooms to record video messages and share them with their pen pals around the world. The program allows schools in developed nations to sponsor devices for partner schools in developing countries
Solar-powered, Integrated with Lessons, and Fun!
They seem to have checked all the boxes for teaching in the Indian context.
LumenEd’s BOB is solar powered and everything’s pre-loaded (so it works even with no access to internet or electricity). They work with individual teachers to ensure that their library of open-source content is integrated into existing lesson plans. Through their Video Pen-Pal Program, the students enjoy lasting relationships with their Pen Pals, becoming more motivated in the classroom and better thinkers outside it.
The idea for LumenEd came through in 2013 and since then, they have received a $10,000 grant from a US based philanthropic organization.
They have partnered with Teach for India (TFI) to implement a pilot between schools in Delhi and the US.
What the Teachers Have to Say
“So I took a couple of math classes, I was teaching them shapes, and I taught them a couple of things about circles. The fact that there was a video accompanying it really improved their understanding. When [they] took a test they did really well on that. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that they could understand all the concepts visually. Because it was part of the video and they were so excited about the whole thing, they were really listening and most of them got it.” – Joanna Sundharam, a TFI Fellow at the Nigam Pratibha Balika Vidyalaya school in the North Delhi teaching a class of approximately 30 fourth graders.
“I remember the first time I showed them a video in which there were kids from Iraq, Iran and different parts of the U.S.; for the kids it was a very new thing. And in response, my kids planned how they should record their video so that it was [as] impressive as the other classroom’s video. A lot of introspection happened for the kids — how to make their videos better, how to introduce themselves. I think those sorts of questions came out very well when they were doing the Pen-Pal Program.” – Anurag Gupta, a TFI Fellow at the Nigam Pratibha Vidyalaya school in New Delhi, talking about the Pen Pal Program.
They do plan to move beyond India since the problem of poor primary education isn’t just limited to India. Going forward they are working on scaling up the organization, raising money and finding a manufacturer who will be able to make more devices at an affordable price.
They definitely don’t want to be a replacement for teachers. The idea is for LumenEd to ease the burden on the teacher, make teaching more effective and to make the students more engaged with their learning.
The Alternative is an online media publication focused on sustainable living and social impact.