AED has been designing applied IT projects throughout the world for a variety of development Global Communications and Learning Systems (LearnLink) tasks through the USAID-funded project. This seven-year activity was designed to increase the impact of information, education, and communication technologies within learning systems. With support from USAID Missions, Bureaus, and Offices, and in collaboration with in-country public and private institutions, LearnLink has been implementing activities to link individuals, groups, and organizations, improve their capacity to access resources, and meet learning needs. Concurrently, LearnLink gathers lessons from these experiences and informs USAID of best IT practices
Today, AED is taking distance education further through the use of computer-based tools. Since 1996, AED's LearnLink project has been providing USAID Missions with innovative distance-education approaches. LearnLink has established Community Learning Centers in Paraguay, Ghana, and Benin, and is in the process of setting up others in Haiti and Bulgaria. The purpose of these centers varies by location, but all aim to support formal and informal community learning needs, as well as provide access to email, the Internet, and other modern communication and learning tools. Outreach to educational leaders and women-led NGOs and community groups has been an integral element of our efforts. In Romania AED has supported a local, women-run, child-welfare social-service organization by developing CD-ROM and web-based training modules to train the large corps of unskilled social workers in the country. In Morocco, Namibia, and Uganda, LearnLink is testing computer-assisted teacher-training programs at teacher-training institutions.
LearnLink is also supporting the Ministry of Education in Brazil in its efforts to integrate technologies into the education system through a unique online collaboration known as the Learning Technologies Network (LTNet). All of these efforts and others conducted under LearnLink are demonstrating the possibilities, as well as the limitations, of these learning systems, sometimes in very challenging environments.
LearnLink/Namibia now has four operational teacher-training centers, each with at least six networked computers. In June 2001, these centers began sharing learning materials and learning experiences. A fifth center is pending. Through the LTNet project, established under LearnLink through a bilateral partnership between the United States and Brazil, we use the capacity of the Web to demonstrate important collaborative and information exchange tools for teachers in both countries. This effort is focused on helping educators understand best practices for integrating technologies into education systems, as well as providing a forum for active exchange of ideas, approaches, and lessons between U.S. and Brazilian educators.
Using IT tools to improve the knowledge and teaching of Mayan languages, LearnLink is preparing future teachers in the Quiché region of Guatemala to teach in the local languages of K'iche' and Ixil. The project strengthens both the student teachers' Mayan language skills and their computer skills. Four teacher-training high schools in El Quiché now house educational technology centers where students participate in a pre-service education program. Each center has up to 12 computers with software and supporting peripherals (printers, scanners, and a CD writer), as well as a digital camera, TV/VCR, video camera, cassette recorder, and a photocopier. At the centers, the young student teachers learn basic computer literacy, multimedia production, and Mayan language skills. After school hours, the centers are open to in-service teachers and other community members to use the IT tools.
Multimedia games on CD have been developed for practice in distinguishing similar sounds in K'iche' and Ixil, and two books have been digitized: Gramatica Pedagogical K'iche' and Escribiendo K'iche'.
In Uganda, LearnLink has digitized the text version of the six subjects and this material is currently being integrated into the curriculum. Multimedia resources, some created locally and others found from outside sources, are being added to enhance this digitized version of the curriculum that will be made available to in-service and pre-service teachers at 10 Primary Teacher Colleges. This integration will expedite the development of future modules into the core-curriculum framework. LearnLink aims to aid the Ministry in future enhancements and manipulation of the modules. LearnLink trains local institutional staff in the development of multi-media resources to ensure sustainability.
Through the LTNet project, established under LearnLink through a bilateral partnership between the United States and Brazil, AED uses the capacity of the Web to demonstrate important collaborative and information exchange tools for teachers in both countries. This effort is focused on helping educators understand best practices for integrating technologies into education systems, as well as providing a forum for active exchange of ideas, approaches, and lessons between U.S. and Brazilian educators. It is also connecting Primary Teacher Colleges in Uganda, Morocco and Guatemala, and have assisted several NGOs in Latin America and Africa to get connected to and learn to use the Internet for educational and development ends.
In South Africa and Ethiopia, AED staff are working with educational institutions, NGOs, and community groups to test the applicability of innovative technologies, such as handheld computer devices, to educational and development concerns. In many African countries where notebook computers have been provided to educational institutions, we have demonstrated the use of portable solar panels for trickle charging notebook computer batteries. As the IT industry develops and expands rapidly, AED tries to keep abreast of such innovative technologies that may find special application in resource or infrastructure poor settings.
For UNESCO and the Donors to African Education, AED developed a software package called ED-ASSIST (Educational Automated Statistical Information System Toolkit), which enables countries to process education statistics and produce quality reports without programming. We have conducted assessments and developed EMIS systems tailored to the needs of Zimbabwe, Honduras, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Poland, and the Dominican Republic.
AED builds gender issues into all its programs. LearnLink has just produced a major review of gender and technology USAID's WID Office, which will be available in June 2001. This comprehensive document outlines the current Gender and IT situation in the developing world relating to issues such as:
- Why a Concern About Gender and Information Technology in Developing Countries?
- The Current Situation of Gender and Information Technology in Developing Countries
- Obstacles to Access
- Impact of Information Technology on Women's Work
- Opportunities for Women's Economic Empowerment Through Information Technology
- Political Empowerment of Women Through ICTs
- Ensuring Women's Ability to Take Advantage of IT Opportunities