Theirworld digitizing education in Lebanon and teaching coding

In Lebanon, integrating technology with education has been witnessing growth lately, and Theirworld is contributing to that, by implementing a tech program in two public schools.
by Zeina Nasser English Zeina_w_Nasser

21 August 2018 | 15:59

Source: by Annahar

This photo shows one of the students learning coding as part of Theirworld's Lebanon projects. (Handout)

BEIRUT: Technology has changed the possibilities within teaching and learning domains, according to Statista. Digitizing education has gradually gotten more common in many countries in the past few years. Even in Lebanon, integrating technology with education has been witnessing growth lately, and Theirworld, a UK-based education charity is contributing to that, by implementing a tech program in two public schools.

Theirworld's work in Lebanon is funded by UK People's Postcode Lottery, whereby the proceeds generated from the players of the UK lottery are invested in Theirworld's work with children and education.


TECHNOLOGY VS. QUALITY EDUCATION
Theirworld’s work focuses on giving children all around the world the best start in life. In Lebanon, the organization ensures Syrian refugee children can access education. Through their delivery model, they pilot project interventions and produce research in collaboration with local partners to test which educational approaches are most impactful for Syrian refugee children and what can be taken to scale.

 Collaboration was crucial to their success.

They collaborated with a group of civil society, social enterprise and international technology partners – with support from the Lebanese Ministry of Higher Education – to implement education-technology interventions in two public schools in Lebanon.

Kimberley Green, Lebanon Project Manager at Theirworld tells Annahar that “in the context of Lebanon's public schools, which saw over 220,000 Syrian students enrolled this year, technology offers a great way of teaching them basic skills in engaging ways, and can help transcend the challenge of language and a new culture.”

Many changes were recorded since the program started and until now. Theirworld has also been conscious of developing the technology skills of teachers at the two pilot schools. The organization has worked with Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) to provide coaching and hands-on support for teachers on how to integrate technology into their daily lessons, with great success to date.   

“During my visits to our pilot school tech hub program, I have seen how teachers share with big smiles all that they have gained in the way of new technology skills to share with their students,” Green mentions passionately.

Theirworld is also running code clubs in partnership with United Lebanon Youth Project (ULYP) in non-formal education settings. The programs have equipped young girls from marginalized communities with general skills and coding that they can take with them into the workforce. 

Kimberley attended the launch of Theirworld’s second round of pilot code clubs in Lebanon in February of this year and was welcomed by a group of 50 young girls from Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian backgrounds.  
“The ability to bring girls together in a multicultural setting to learn coding among other crucial life skills is transformational,” she says. 

LAL TARGETING LEARNING GAPS
Lebanese Alternative Learning (LAL) collaborated with Theirworld to provide Tabshoura digital content on Rumie tablets. Their role was mainly to be content providers and adapt their system to be compatible with the Rumie tablets. Tabshoura content is adapted to the Lebanese Curriculum learning outcomes.
Through funding from Olayan Foundation, LAL partnered with Digital Campus, an organization committed to promoting learning research, innovation and developing capacity through the use of appropriate technology.

Their main achievement is the OppiaMobile open source mobile learning platform. It delivers learning content, videos, and quizzes. All the content and activities can be accessed and used even when internet connection is not available. When internet becomes available, tracking and quiz scores are sent back to the server for tutors, teachers and trainers to track the progress of their learners. Learners also earn points and badges for completing activities and modules. 

Nayla Fahed, co-founder and CEO of LAL, says: “we succeeded in adapting our learning content to the OppiaMobile and sending it to Rumie.”

Refugees were always a main focus of Fahed’s work, who thinks that “refugees have learning gaps, and for them, schools are not the only answer. They need alternative ways to learn to fill those gaps and be able to integrate in formal schools.”
Through LAL’s partnership with Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD), public schools will be encouraged to use Tabshoura content. 

LAL signed an agreement with CERD for the accreditation of their content and its introduction in public schools. They also contacted the Prime Minister’s office to potentially be part of a tech hub in public schools.

Fahed holds a Ph.D. in 18th century French Literature and has been teaching for 24 years. After volunteering in hospitals to teach children suffering from long-term illnesses, she felt the need to develop alternative solutions to avoid school dropouts.

This, in collaboration with Naji Ghorra – who implemented an e-learning platform in all faculties at Saint Joseph University in Lebanon – led to the creation of the e-learning platform Tabshoura and the foundation of the Lebanese Alternative Learning NGO (LAL) in December 2013. Ghorra created, administered, and coordinated the Tabshoura e-learning project in 2014.
The Syrian refugee crisis increased the need for such platforms, which is why she resigned from her teaching position at Saint Joseph University in August 2016 and devoted herself to LAL’s mission.

ULYP: EMPOWERING CODING AMONG THE UNDERPRIVILEGED
United Youth Lebanon Project (ULYP), a Lebanese NGO, allows children from different underserved communities to meet, work together, and learn cooperatively by participating in educational programs catered to meet their needs and fill educational gaps. 

Both ULYP and Theirworld started working together in 2017 and have been implementing coding programs for girls ever since.
Jennifer DeKnight, Project Manager at ULYP tells Annahar all about “Together Let’s Code” (TLC) program, which ULYP piloted in 2015. The results and impact of the program exhibited the value of offering the learners a chance to explore their capabilities in technology and boost their confidence.

In the summer of 2017, ULYP and Theirworld launched the first TLC Code Club based on a comprehensive curriculum developed by Their World and leveraging best practices from ULYP’s TLC program.

Theirworld helped ULYP take the program to the next level by introducing the Kano Kits, which allow girls to build their own computers and explore a range of coding programs, all with a targeted curriculum aimed at providing them with role models in the technology sector and connecting coding to real-world applications. 

The two organizations strengthened their working relationship after the first TLC Code Club and together they are implementing three additional clubs for 150 girls, which will conclude in late August 2018.

 Students reported that they felt the program helped them improve their communication skills, logical thinking, self-confidence, and problem-solving.

 “Watching them learn how a computer works – and the excitement in their eyes as the computer that they built turns on for the first time – is by far the best part of the program,” DeKnight tells Annahar.

She would certainly recommend coding for more public schools, “because to code or not to code is no longer a question,” she says, adding that “the future is coding, and the future starts now for the youth of Lebanon.”

She expressed her hope that organizations such as Theirworld can continue to support programs like this, and in particular, focus on creating opportunities that are sustainable within schools and community organizations so that students have consistent access to coding and technological opportunities.


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