The 2013 SEE Project Report

The SEE Project: 2013 Report

Introduction

The acronym for SEE – Share, Engage and Educate sums up the underlying philosophy of the work that we have undertaken in Fiji since 2011. We share our knowledge in schools by engaging with the key stakeholders – head teachers, teachers, students and school management committees. This is done onsite and also online through our website (https://theseeproject.org/). Through this process we believe that we can educate the stakeholders.

We work with schools and provide them with digital (computers, cameras, data projectors) and print resources (books). Our big idea is to build teacher capacity so that these resources can be effectively embedded in classrooms. For this reason, we have worked with teachers in schools and conducted workshops to build capacity. With ICT professional development activities, we believe that teachers who are motivated can become “ICT champions”. By showcasing their knowledge, these champion teachers will not only influence their own students, but will also have the potential to influence other teachers in their schools and districts. We have also supported schools in times of natural disasters. We provide children with direct financial assistance so that they can realise their dreams.

We work with Education Officers in Ministry of Education and schools. In the past three years we have donated 86 laptops, 169 desktops, 10 robotic kits, 12 digital cameras, 4 data projectors and 1200 library books. Most of the digital resources were second-hand (robotic kits were all new) that was donated to the project by individuals and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. A very conservative estimate of the cost of these resources is $220,000 (Fijian dollars). This estimation is based on similar products that have been advertised for sale (online) in Fiji. As a result of our efforts 30 schools have benefited (including 2 special schools) either through the donation of resources, teacher professional development or both. Fourteen schools received a class set of computers (10 or more) and a library was setup in one of the schools.

The project has not received any external funding. Thus, its survival to date can be attributed to the commitment of a handful of volunteers who have provided countless number of hours for various activities and donors such as QUT. In a significant number of cases the volunteers have self-funded various aspects of the project. Some of the activities that the volunteers have provided their services towards are: (a) planning, preparation and delivery of professional development activities; (b) planning, preparation and delivery of in-class activities; (c) liaising with donors; (d) developing technology solutions for classrooms; (e) packaging and transportation of resources; (f) troubleshooting; (g) liaising with school principals and teachers; (h) maintaining a project blog site, and (i) conducting research and writing reports.

Objectives in 2013:      

Our primary focus was on supporting those teachers who had attended the ICT teacher workshops that we conducted in Lautoka and Sigatoka in 2012. The District Offices identified the teachers and organised the venues for the workshops. Education Officers Seruppeli Udre and John Vincent in Sigatoka and Albert Wise in Lautoka were very helpful in getting this initiative underway. At the workshop there were a number of teachers who were very enthusiastic and keen to use ICT in their classrooms but their schools did not have these resources. A number of teachers who did not attend the workshop also contacted us – expressing their desire to have computers donated to their schools. As a consequence our primary objective for 2013 was to support these motivated teachers so that they could use computers in their classrooms. Hence all our donations were primary directed to these schools.

Tasks undertaken:  

Continuing a productive partnership with QUT

Three faculties at QUT donated the laptops, computers and other peripherals. These were the faculties of Science and Engineering, Business, and Education. QUT has also been very supportive to the project by giving us space to store the computers until they are ready to be shipped. A productive relationship with QUT has been essential in sustaining this project.

Identifying recipient schools

We decided to donate computers to the schools that did not have computers. Thus we emailed all teachers who had participated in the workshops for an expression of interest. Other teachers who had contacted about donations were also included in the list. Interestingly only a handful of teachers responded – a significant number did not even acknowledge the email.

There were some conditions to the donations – one of which was that the schools had to agree to meet the cost of freight from Brisbane and any associated costs on the ground in Fiji. Given that our project does not have any external funding, we needed schools to take freight costs on board. We believe that such an approach also gives schools some real ownership of the computers. They are not merely receiving the computers but making a financial contribution towards the acquisition of this resource. Another significant aspect of the donation was that the schools would upload the Ubuntu operating system on most of the computers themselves. We provided them with the images (iso’s) and supported them with written and online instructions (You Tube) . Here, the idea was to build capacity in terms of how computer software and hardware worked. The Ubuntu operating system was not only a free download but it was general more resistant to viruses. Once schools developed an understanding of how these images worked, they have the option to clean the machines periodically. This not only installs new software, but gives the machines a new lease of life. Another condition was that the schools give us feedback in terms of how the technology was integrated and how it was impacting on students’ work.

Expression of interest was received from the schools as shown in the table below. The schools also agreed to the conditions of donation. The items donated are also listed. In primary schools we provided sufficient number of computers for a class set so that students could work in groups. In high schools, we provided double the number of computers so that students had the option of working in smaller groups and also individually.

School Laptops Desktops Cameras Data Projectors Month of shipment
Votualevu PrimaryNadi 10 May
Raviravi SangamBa 9 May
Rahmtullah KhanMemorial School

Sigatoka

10 1 May
Balata High SchoolTavua 10 1 May
Sabeto District SchoolLautoka 12 1 June
Sabeto Central SchoolLautoka 12 3 June
Naidovi Primary SchoolSigatoka 11 October
Malomalo Primary School Sigatoka 11 October
Waidra Muslim SchoolNausori 11 October
Viseisei Primary SchoolLautoka 11 October
Lautoka Andra CollegeLautoka 22 October
Vuda Primary SchoolLautoka 11 October
Sabeto CollegeLautoka 22 October
Savusavu Special School Savusavu 5 December
Total  44 123 4 2

 

Freight forwarding

Most of the schools (except Sabeto Central, Sabeto District, Vuda Primary and Savusavu Special School) were billed for freight. The two Sabeto schools were a part of a QUT project and the freight cost was picked up by the project (explained later on). The Vuda community in Brisbane met the cost of freight to the Vuda District School. Laptops to the Savusavu Special School were hand delivered by some project team members when they travelled to Savusavu in December. We have been working hard to get the best freight deals and used three different freight forwarders over the year. The rationale of how the freight costs are determined seems to vary between the companies. The best price we were able to get was $2 a kilo plus a document fee (usually $80). Payments for freight were organised through QUT’s International Student Services. Without this support sending the computers to Fiji would have been difficult.

We were also able to get the support of a small group of students from Brisbane State High School and staff from QUT’s International Student Services. Through their assistance we were able to pack and transport the computers to the freight forwarders. Feedback from the schools suggests that almost all computers landed without any damages. In a small number of cases (3) schools reported computer malfunction upon receipt.

Linking with QUT’s Engagement and Innovation Grant

In June/July, 13 students and 4 staff from QUT travelled to Fiji. This project was made possible through QUT’s Engagement Innovation Grant that was awarded in in 2011. These grants involve a competitive application process and it enables the recipients to engage with external stakeholders that is consistent with the University’sEngagement Strategy. The two participating schools in the project were the Sabeto District and Sabeto Central School. Working with teachers, the QUT students spent the first week integrating classroom activities that utilised ICT in these two schools. They delivered learning activities in science, English, social studies and music in years 1 to 8. QUT students also setup computer labs at the schools – the cost of freight was factored into the project. In the second week, the students focussed on community activities in the Sabeto village. While this project was an independent activity, it built on the existing connections of the SEE project (a teacher from each of these had participated in teacher workshops in 2012). QUT staff and student participation also supported the goals of the SEE project.

Outcomes:

Freight payment

The schools have been quite receptive to the idea of meeting the cost of freight.

Three out of the four schools that received laptops in May made the payment. One of the schools has failed to reimburse the cost of freight. Despite numerous emails that were sent to the head –teacher for an explanation – no response to date has been received. At the time of writing this report, three out of the six schools that the received the desk computers in October had reimbursed the cost of freight. The deadline for making this payment was 30 November. Feedback from the other schools was that the payment was on its way.

Teacher feedback

A survey was emailed to the identified teachers (ICT champions) in all schools that had received computers (prior to July 2013). This survey was deigned to gather data on how the computers were used in the classrooms. Data was gathered under the following headings – “About you”, “School Details”, “Computer use in your classroom”, and “Ideas for 2014”. Nine teachers in six schools completed and returned the forms. This represented a 67% response rate – 6 out of 9 schools. The teachers were from these schools – Balata High, Sabeto Central, Votualevu Primary, Rahmtullah Khan Memorial School, Naidovi Primary, and Drasa Avenue School. Some of the points identified in the responses were as follows:

Background of participants:

  • The sample comprised teachers who taught classes 2-8. Their teaching experience ranged from 2 to 23 years and they had either diploma (66.6%) or degree (33.3%) qualifications.
  • They all owned a desktop or laptop and the average age was 2.7 years.
  • 66.6% claimed that their knowledge of computers was fair to good but all were using their own computers to create worksheets, write reports, and conduct research.
  • All had Internet access but for 66.6% of the sample connectivity ranged from fair to poor.
  • On average teachers checked their emails once a week.

School details:

  • Student to computer ratio ranged from 1:6 to 1:90.
  • 85.7% of the schools have computer labs.
  • All schools had at least one computer lesson per week for students.
  • Only some computers in the schools had Internet access.
  • On average teachers used the computers once a week.

In-class activities

Teachers were asked to provide some details on how ICT was integrated in their classrooms. This aspect of the project is more important than the donation of technology itself. Unless these technologies are used effectively in classrooms –such donations can become almost valueless. The teachers were asked to identify the top three activities that their students had done with computers during the year. There was strong evidence of a range of activities that were being implemented in classrooms. The responses from the teachers is summarized in the table below:

Lesson objective Software/hardware Outcomes
Class 3
Create a photo story on the topic “An inter-island journey by boat” Photo Story 3 Students were actively engaged and they developed image-editing skills.Use of photos was very effective for visual learners.
Create a bar graph on where students lived Excel Students were able to present the data as a bar graph.
Class 4
Develop an understanding about families through digital images Digital images and data projector Students were able to understand more about different types of families through digital images.Students found the activity interesting and it was quite effective for visual learners.
Develop an understanding of circulatory system Digital images and data projector The use of multimedia helped students understand how the circulatory system and in particular the heart functioned.
Write sentences using correct grammatical structures, punctuation and tense Tux typing The software acted as a tutor – it identified their errors. Students used this knowledge to correct their errors. As a consequence they were able to write correct sentences.
Class 6
Use the computer keyboard effectively Tux Typing High levels of student commitment with evidence of the use of right fingers with increasing typing accuracy.
Write a story about your grandfather Libre OfficeWriter Students found the task interesting and enjoyable.Spell check made the writing more efficient.
Develop mental mathematics skills  Tux Maths Students had the opportunity to engage in mental mentally challenging questions of increasing difficulty – it catered for different abilities.
Class 8
Prepare a report on sources, uses, and conservation of water in students’ localities Libre Office Writer Students developed typing and formatting skills.The quality of the their work was enhanced in terms of presentation and was completed in a shorter time frame.

Using computers was seen as an incentive and they were quite motivated.

Present data on water usage in a day Libre Office Calc Students developed typing and formatting skills.Students were able to convert data into tables and graphs and interpret them.

The quality of the their work was enhanced in terms of presentation and was completed in a shorter time frame.

Prepare a quiz on water uses, sources and conservation Libre Office Impress Students developed their knowledge about how hyperlinks worked. They also developed their knowledge on various aspects of the topic.
Create a quiz on Navala Village Libre Office Impress Students’ developed their knowledge on hyperlinks.Students were excited, interested and engaged. Through the quiz, they were able to develop their understanding of Navala Village.
Write a short story on a chosen topic Storybook Weaver Students expressed their thoughts through drawings, graphics and text.The task gave them an insight into how books are published.
Read and edit a written article Microsoft Word Students demonstrated basic formatting skills (e.g. bold, italics, spell check etc.) associated with Word.Students corrected errors in written text and enhanced the quality of the presentation.
High School
Form 3
Introduction to the topic: density Libre Impress & Writer The quality of the presentation and especially the diagrams enabled the students to learn the content.
Research on the topic – Momentum Internet (Firefox) & Libre Impress Students researched and gathered relevant information. This value of this task was reflected in the quality of students’ responses to questions.
Participate in an online quiz on energy Gizmo, Internet (Firefox), PDF Reader Students were buoyed by the activity. There was evidence of good understanding in students responses to questions.
Form 5
Identify parts of an information system Libre Impress Students enjoyed the task and they were all engaged.Students were able to demonstrate their keyboarding, communication and teamwork skills.
Create a bar graph and pie chart from given data Microsoft Excel Students were able to demonstrate their understanding of the given data through appropriate graphs. 
Create a database of library books Microsoft Access Students were able to create and demonstrate how a database works -through queries and searching records.Students were able to understand the value of electronic and manual records.
Form 5
Introduction to the topic: symmetry Internet (Firefox) & mathisfun website Students were able to develop their understanding with greater ease because the website was giving instant feedback.There was good evidence of self-paced learning.   Students found the task interesting and enjoyable and it made the activity very efficient.
Participate in an online quiz on energy Internet (Firefox) & mathisfun website Students were able to draw and interpret graphs.Students were able to develop an understanding of the concepts faster.
Introduction to the topic: transformation Internet (Firefox) & You Tube Videos could be replayed a number of times and this enabled students to develop their understanding at their own pace.

Our findings:

  1. Our initiatives so far suggest that teachers are making good use of the donated resources. While this evidence has not been demonstrated in all schools, nonetheless it is pleasing to see the efforts of some of the teachers – the ICT champions.
  2. The role of the school principals and head-teachers is critical to the success of ICT integration. There is strong evidence that where the principals/head-teachers are proactive towards this initiative, teachers also become more motivated.
  3. It is also noteworthy that some of the motivated teachers have taken the initiative to drive the ICT agenda in their schools. As a consequence they convinced and got the support of their head-teachers and school committees and made this a reality.   This demonstrates strong support from school management committees towards technology acquisition and integration.
  4. Responses to emails have been problematic – this applies to most of the individuals that we have dealt with in this project. Emails are handled in three ways – either the response time is relatively short (this is rare) or a response is received at some time after the email is sent or the email ignored altogether.
  5. Internet connectivity and the lack of computers has hindered most of the teachers from using them more frequently.
  6. Some schools are quite happy to receive the donations but do not provide any feedback.

Recommendations:

  1. The Fiji Government’s latest increase in education funding is highly commendable. Of significance is the funding allocation towards ICT. Technologies on its own do not make a difference – teachers do. Most teachers have not had any formal training on how ICT’s can be integrated in their classrooms. This is an area that has had a significant emphasis in many developed countries and even with this emphasis – effective integration of ICT is education is still problematic. Unless teachers in Fiji are appropriately supported through professional development activities, the ICT initiative of the Fiji Government may not realize its full potential. ICT teacher champions should be given opportunities to participate in short and long term professional development activities. There no shortage of such teachers – all they need is an opportunity. Institution such as the Queensland University of Technology can assist to fulfill this need.
  2. A teachers’ ICT network with some connections with organizations overseas (such as the Queensland Society of Information Technology in Education) can be quite valuable to developing teacher capacity.
  3. School leaders (head-teachers and principals) should also be given opportunities to participate in professional development activities. Such activities should be quite rigorous and have clearly defined outcomes.
  4. There is a need for more timely communication to emails and other deadlines. Given that ICT has revolutionized communication – all users should adapt and adopt accordingly.
  5. Some former Fijian residents and many Australians who would be quite willing to support schools – in the same way as we do. However, schools need to not only accept donations but also show some outcomes. These outcomes should be communicated clearly and regularly. This is the basis for strong partnerships. This can lead to productive outcomes in schools.

Future directions:

  1. The SEE Project will continue to support schools with digital technologies. This support will be strengthened in schools where there is a strong evidence of ICT integration (e.g. Balata High School).
  2. We will also develop teaching ideas that will be shared with teachers online. In 2014 we will make digital stories our focus and work with teachers to develop their strategies in this area.
  3. The project has a strong desire to conduct teacher professional development – but we lack funding. We would like to engage with the Ministry of Education and find ways in which this can be achieved.
  4. Late last year Dr Vinesh Chandra was awarded a grant as part of the Study Overseas Short – term Mobility Program (STMP). The Australian Government sponsors this program. It will enable 10 students and a staff from QUT to travel to Fiji and engage in classroom activities at Somosomo District School on Tavenui Island. The focus of the activities will be on using ICT to deliver learning outcomes that are aligned with the Fijian Curriculum. The students will work in cross faculty teams to deliver these activities. Secondhand resources (laptops, digital cameras) will be used in the project. These resources will be handed over to the schools once the QUT team leaves. While this grant was not awarded to the SEE project, it advances and supports our work in the area of ICT integration in Fijian Schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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