South African educational organization Green Shoots asked two IT students, Christian Liboriussen and Ivan Gammeljord, for help. The two young men can usually be found studying at Aalborg University in the master's program in Networks and Distributed Systems. But they are now in South Africa's second largest city to figure out how they can create a system that gives more children hassle-free access to quality math instruction.
POOR INTERNET STANDS IN THE WAY OF DIGITAL MATH
South Africa has few highly qualified math teachers, so 160 schools use a digital teaching program in mathematics developed by the organization Green Shoots. The program has succeeded in increasing the proportion of sixth grade children who pass their math exam by 26.7 percent. Unfortunately, unstable internet connections stand in the way of building on this success.
So it is the job of the two Aalborg students to find a solution that gives the 160 schools more seamless access to math instruction and at the same time gives even more schools the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon:
It is important that this is a universal solution that can be used by everyone and that allows them to be independent of us, says Ivan Gammeljord.
So they cannot just set up routers or internet masts, but must develop intelligent software that can make better use of existing IT resources:
– We have to figure out when and where there is access to the Internet and take advantage of this so the information to be used is sent there, explains Christian Liboriussen.
LIKE GETTING TO THE MOON
The IT solutions that Christian Liboriussen and Ivan Gammeljord are used to working with in Denmark cannot be used in the schools in South Africa. The conditions in the country are simply too different. The two students will therefore need to think creatively in order to devise a system that takes into account the country's challenges:
– When we devise our solution, we have to imagine that we're going to the Moon. There aren’t any technical people who can come and help maintain it at the schools where the links have to work. So whatever we do needs to be very robust and stable. This is also why it has been necessary to come down here in order to understand the conditions and context our solution will be used in, says Christian Liboriussen.
It is important that the program is online so that information can be sent in both directions. First and foremost, the children must receive both their assignments and the response to their assignment immediately. Secondly, Green Shoots must be able to receive automated information on how the students are doing so they can provide feedback to teachers and school leaders so that they can then improve the teaching material.
As it stands now, the exchange of this kind of information often takes place manually. This is enormously time consuming, cumbersome and inadequate. With the new solution that Christian Liboriussen and Ivan Gammeljord will develop in Aalborg, the organization Green Shoots will be able to obtain more data that can be used to improve teaching, and free up resources, making it possible to expand the mathematics program to more schools in South Africa.
But if everything goes as the two ambitious Aalborg University students hope, the roll out of the math program will not stop at South Africa's borders. It must be extended to children living in poverty with substandard internet connections throughout the world.
The collaboration between Green Shoots and the two Aalborg University students came about after the "Reimagine Education" conference in Philadelphia, USA, in 2016 where Jens Myrup Pedersen, Associate Professor in Wireless Communication Networks at AAU, met the director of Green Shoots. They agreed that there was a good match between the needs of the organization and the competencies of Jens Myrup Pedersen's students.
The Green Shoots mathematics program is offered to grades 1-7 and in 2017 was extended to 160 schools. With the new IT solution, the goal for 2018 is to reach up to 200 schools and thus 120,000 students.
The research trip from Aalborg to Cape Town was supported by IT-Vest. The students, Christian Liboriussen and Ivan Gammeljord, will now apply for funding for another trip to Cape Town in the summer of 2018 to implement their solution.
Christian Liboriussen, Master’s student, Networks and Distributed Systems, + 45 60 73 28 50, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ivan Gammeljord, Master’s student, Networks and Distributed Systems, + 45 30 82 35 46, email@example.com
Jens Myrup Pedersen, Associate Professor, Wireless Communication Networks, + 45 21 84 79 31, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ina Rosdal, Press Contact AAU, +45 28 14 71 37, email@example.com