Sir John Daniel, President and Chief Executive Officer
Former US President Ronald Reagan used to say that you can achieve anything provided you don't mind who takes the credit. The Commonwealth of Learning, through its Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) in New Delhi, is pleased to have had an unacknowledged background role in the recent announcement of a $35 laptop by India's Minister for Human Resource Development.
With the encouragement of the Government of India my CEMCA colleagues Ramamurthy Sreedher and V. Krishnamoorthy have been working on the development of an inexpensive educational computing device for the last year. COL and CEMCA have no intention of entering the computer marketing business, but we develop hardware and software in the same spirit that we create Open Educational Resources – in order to share developments that promote learning.
Given our open attitude to intellectual property my colleagues were unconcerned at sharing prototypes and ideas with notoriously 'leaky' Chinese designers and manufacturers. It has been interesting to see several very similar 'laptops' with price points of around $65 hitting the market at the same time.
Our device, which we call EduFrame and is marketed by M/S Orbit Peripherals Pte Ltd, Singapore as the Datamini Netbook, is available at US $73.80 ex Hong Kong (plus customs duty and other charges). The plans for the device, which are freely available to anyone who wants to take this further can be obtained at www.cemca.org/eduframe/eduframereport.pdf.
Design began by merging a Netbook with a digital photo frame and has proceeded from there. 55 sets (copies) of the current machine have recently been manufactured at a unit cost of US$73.80. The functionality and capabilities of the machine are: Internet browsing, e-mail, reading texts, working on spread sheets, almost all of Office functions, watching CDs/ DVDs. The main catch is that the memory is sufficient only for booting the machine. However, memory can be incorporated via an external hard drive/ a flash drive/ SD Card.
COL's and CEMCA's aims are educational and 30 of these EduFrame machines are now being used by Grade 3 primary school children on one of the atolls (Villigille) in the Republic of Maldives. Thirteen courses have been scanned and are available on pen drives for the students to use. The Republic of Maldives has a special challenge. Since the country is composed of many atolls and islands, the student population is scattered as are the teachers. In some islands there may be only ten pupils and it is not cost-effective to appoint a teacher for them. The Ministry of Education came up with the idea of using the EduFrame to impart quality education to students in remote atolls after seeing the demonstration of a digital photo frame in May 2009.
We consider this a pilot research project to test the ICT skills of the students as well as the user friendliness of the EduFrame, while also making quality education available to students across the country. The 13 courses on the machines are: Arabic 1, 2 and 3; English 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, Environmental Studies 3 A, 3 B, Primary Maths 3 A, 3 B, and the New English Pupils' Book.
I look forward to giving an update on this pilot in due course.