During his visit to the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, Commonwealth Secretary General His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma launched Aptus – a device set designed by COL that allows educators and learners to connect to digital learning platforms and content without the need for grid electricity or internet access.
Aptus is mobile, lightweight, and packs into a small box, but carries massive potential. The small setup can host up to 32GB of educational content and facilitate interactive, virtual learning anywhere – whether in a remote rural village or on a vast university campus. The result is a classroom without walls that can be set up within minutes and accessed by any learner with a laptop, tablet or mobile device.
Aptus has quickly attracted the attention of educators, institutions and governments who are committed to expanding the reach of modern education, but lack the resources and connectivity to do so effectively. This simple and compact solution is low cost – all components can be sourced for under $80 – and built on open source operating systems and platforms, making it adaptable and customizable to any learning context.
Aptus as released now, includes 1000 videos from the Khan Academy and two courses on Moodle from the VUSSC initiative.
HAME A100 can also serve as a 5200 mAh mobile power bank thus reduce CWW to two components from three.
HAME A100 supports up to 20 wireless devices. (ASUS WL-330gE can only support up to 5 wireless devices)
CWW can be powered on by switching HAME A100 to R position.
The Linux system and all the server contents are stored on the MicroSD card. So CWW can serve contents such as K-12 textbooks, moodle courses or offline Wikipedia by simply inserting in different MicroSD cards.
This, however, cannot be the only approach when it comes to learning-for development paradigm. A large number of learners and teachers in the developing world operate in “unconnected” environments- unconnected to the power grid and to the Internet. There needs to be a different approach to extend them support.
This is where COL’s idea of a “classroom without walls” (Asha Kanwar) can make a contribution. We can imagine a situation where a learner in a typically unconnected environment can access a lesson in an LMS, and complete an assignment, with her/his credentials intact and available to the teacher. Learners can also participate in a socializing process through visiting and commenting on a blog related to the learning materials and courses. This might sound more relevant in Higher Education. Starting from there, it can be extended and adapted to Open Schooling and Non-formal learning in rural and agricultural extension.
At the heart of this is the availability of dual-core tablets and smartphones at affordable prices. One can use a dual core Tablet to create a server that runs Ubuntu, an Open Source operating system widely used in PC’s/laptops, on which an LMS (say, Moodle) and a social networking or content management system (say, WordPress) can be installed. A battery-powered WiFi hotspot can help create a network to which Tablets with learners can be connected. In the following, a preliminary, and successful trial is described. Asha Kanwar is of the view that it should be possible to develop a pack under $ 100 that can enable a teacher to run a classroom without those ubiquitous walls.
Device Configuration Video
Wireless Hot Spot Setup
Configure ASUS WL-330gE Wireless AP
Setup DHCP (Follow the instruction manual) to support at least 200 clients.
Follow the instruction here to install Ubuntu 12.04 on Google Nexus 7.
Tablet computing is a trending innovation that holds great potential in the learning and development context. These mobile devices place education in the hands of learners, wherever they may be, and present endless possibilities for improving the quality and accessibility of education around the globe.
In the consumer market, Tablet PCs are dominating, with devices like Apple’s iPad leading the way. As the trend grows, open source alternatives, such as Android Tablets, are keeping pace and leveling the market with low-cost devices that can be easily customised for high-impact (see analysis in The Economist). This presents even greater opportunity for education and development institutions to harness their value.
To demonstrate the potential held in these devices, COL ventured to acquire, customise and distribute generic Android Tablet PCs to county delegations at the recent 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (18CCEM, Mauritius, August 2012). In collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, and funded by UNICEF/Child-Friendly Schools and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, COL was able to execute this project. We acquired a volume of low-cost devices, and customised them with specialised applications and content that suited the unique context of the conference. Containing conference documentation, publications, educational resources, videos and demonstration software, the tablets were well received by Ministers and Senior Officials.
Since this time, COL has been approached by others who are eager to undertake projects like this in order to further learning and development goals. In support of their efforts, we have summarised important aspects our own experience in the related pages. We welcome all organisations and individuals to consult this step-by-step overview as a guide for leveraging the opportunities presented by Tablet PCs as a tool for learning.
A buying request was posted to Alibaba Manufacturer Directoryoutlining our needs and preferred specifications. Several offers from suppliers were received and reviewed, and the most sound and affordable one was accepted. The chosen supplier is the original manufacturer of the CORTX chip, commonly used in Android devices. An order for 200 Android Tablet PCs was placed.