USACF’s Bridge Project targets the well-known “digital divide” problem: so many schools and students have limited or no access to the internet and therefore to the valuable educational resources online.
New technology and very innovative work by our colleagues at the California NGO World Possible, enable us to “bridge” that “divide” by first taking digital “snapshots” of online resources, saving that content onto powerful, portable devices, and installing these devices on-site.
One of our new tools (a “RACHEL-plus”) is a portable, battery-powered hard drive packed with a large collection (300 gigabytes) of website copies of educational content on a device that creates a wireless “hotspot” capable of serving 50+ devices, providing local access to RACHEL’s library of website copies and more.
In 2016 Bob Rollins joined USACF as our Ed Tech Specialist. Bob, a veteran teacher and longtime advocate of classroom technology, is spearheading USACF’s Bridge Project. In 2017 USACF launched five pilot projects in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The Port Elizabeth pilot project is the most promising. We are working with our longtime partners at Teba Trust (based in Johannesburg) and the Helping Hands Trust (based in P.E.).
In March, 2017 we launched in P.E. to great excitement and fanfare. Our local partners helped us identify the site, Chatty Secondary School. Chatty is in the impoverished and severely under-resourced “Northern Area” of P.E., where the crushing legacy of apartheid plays out daily.
USACF’s pilot project has already transformed the learning environment at Chatty. First, the 1,000+ students at the school now have access to powerful learning tools including Wikipedia and Khan Academy. Second, the teachers are able to use a wealth of resources for their planning and also for classroom teaching via projectors. Third, a broad range of curriculum and exam prep materials posted online by the SA education ministry are now available (easily and at no charge) to everyone.
We are working hard planning and fundraising for our upcoming rollout phase. Supporting USACF will help a huge cohort of earnest, dedicated students and teachers overcome very dire odds.