For the last 2 years, Educatech has provided for its classrooms what we call a “numeric room” that includes interactive boards, projectors, a laptop for the teacher, and twenty-five to thirty Intel Classmate PCs for students. Most schools added a router and an internet connection–although the bandwidth was only 64kbps, but this is what they could afford. We encouraged them to use Skype for interaction with other schools throughout the country. But with Haiti’s slow internet connections this suggestion was not straightforward to implement.
However, we found that having technology in a school is not enough. We learned that adequate content is needed. Right from the start we searched the internet to find free software in French for education. But we found that there isn’t much that’s available. Furthermore, ninety-nine percent of schools in Haiti do not have a library—we have been trying our best to help schools understand the importance of having a library. We bought a volume license from Microsoft for the use of the Encarta encyclopedia since it could be used offline. We also encouraged the schools to use UNESCO’s online library that has more then 18,000 books. We created a CD with useful information concerning education, software for math, physics, English, etc. and we gave the CD to the schools for free, and included a reference guide with useful tips for the CD’s integration in the curriculum.
Educatech’s vision is to offer to the population digital learning materials whether in French or Creole. We’ve had many meetings with “Imprimerie Deschamps” [the main publisher of educational contents in Haiti] to convince them to create a website that will give access to all the educational books in their system from kindergarten to university. The idea will be that a student would pay a flat fee of US$25 for the year with a pin number that will allow them to use all the books for their school year from October to July. The Imprimerie Desschamps is studying the possibilities. We hope to eventually work with them to make it happen. Deschamps gets an annual subvention from the government, and we have encouraged them to apply those funds to the purchase of servers, to pay their authors, and to use the balance to encourage other writers to produce new contents in Creole. If we are unable to convince them to implement a program like this, Educatech will evaluate whether to develop our own contents and share it with the schools.
We are also planning the development of software in creole. This is very important: the penetration of the cellular phones is now at 40 percent, and apps for education could be used on the cell phones as well, which would be especially useful for the remote regions of Haiti.
Something else that we are looking into is how to create “Creole technology lexicon”. To do this we would need to set up a team of linguists, technicians and historians to create a database and share it with the entire Haitian community.
We believe that MIT could help Educatech achieve this vision, whether by sharing MIT’s previous educational initiatives in other countries, its expertise in developing digital learning materials or through access to MITs library and courses.