Some teachers predicted that BluPoint technology would improve attendance. But who knew that it would improve the attendance of the teachers as well as the students? Who knew that it would attract students at the weekends to return to their schools? Or that BluPoint could reinvent and rejuvenate dusty, unused IT equipment? Or that it would improve the grades of pupils and the confidence of teachers?
In October BluPoint revisited Durban with Dixons Carphone. Their mission: to find out what difference BluPoint technology makes to rural, disconnected schools.
Durban Case Study: October 2016
In October 2016, BluPoint returned to the beautiful region of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, last visited in July when we introduced offline access, without any airtime costs, to educational materials at 13 schools in KwaDukuza. This was done as part of a pilot programme with Dixons Carphone and Mr Price Foundation (MRP).
The BluPoint team was joined by a group of Dixons Carphone employees, they revisited the schools of KwaDukuza, 2-hours north of Durban, to catch up with the staff and students and to hear their experiences of using BluPoint over the past few months.
Students: Increased attendance and more engaged
We were encouraged and grateful for the enthusiastic reception to BluPoint by both teachers and pupils. Principals of the schools reported to us that learner attendance had increased, as the children were attracted by the free and fast availability of digital learning materials making them feel more included and consequently engaged in the class.
One pupil, who had recently transferred from a school where she had been behind in mathematics, commented that she had managed to catch up with her peers thanks to the lessons on BluPoint.
Teachers: Attendance and Self-Confidence Improved
Most surprising to us was the observation that teacher attendance had also increased. Once introduced to BluPoint by on-site facilitators, it was clear from speaking to the teachers that their self-confidence has dramatically improved. Many teachers take the learning support material on BluPoint offline to their homes in order to prepare for their lessons. In addition, some educators actively use BluPoint in the classroom, together with tablets, PCs and projectors to support their teaching.
BluPoint Hubs: Easy to use
During the visit, we observed many different ways that the schools have engaged with BluPoint. We found the level of engagement is not necessarily dependent on the familiarity with or availability of technology, as schools that have little or no computing equipment have engaged most enthusiastically.
Most importantly, we were told on many occasions how easy the BluPoint hubs are to use.
Video content has had the greatest impact, as these large digital artefacts are a new exciting concept to schools with no or limited Internet connections.
A new lease of life for old equipment
Schools are using BluPoint to give a new lease of life to equipment they previously had no use for as Internet connection was too costly and slow. Pupils no longer have to miss school to travel to distant libraries, as they can now get the information they need at their school desk.
A pupil’s learning does not stop in class
A pupil’s learning does not stop when class does, as they can use their own devices to access BluPoint for individual learning outside of lesson time. Indeed, Mr Magwaza at Banguni High School told us that pupils from his school were returning to the locked gates – still within BluPoint’s Wi-Fi range – at the weekend to revise for their exams.
Many schools have a strict ban on bringing mobile phones onto the premises, as it is deemed a distraction and can lead to pupils spending their family’s money on airtime credit. Some schools will confiscate a learner’s phone for up to a year to avoid this. Some schools have relaxed this policy in order to allow their learners to access BluPoint during school hours as they are confident, due to the walled garden of content, that the students are focused on the learning materials. However, it is clear that most schools need more equipment, such as projectors, to deliver digital material more effectively in class.
Extending BluPoint beyond the classroom
Most pupils expressed gratitude for the wealth of information available – typically on those subjects that they found most difficult. Aside from mathematics and chemistry, we noted a great appetite for material covering subjects such as life sciences as well as more localised content. BluPoint is working in collaboration with African education authorities to provide more content that is better aligned to national curricula, thereby increasing the impact of the material made available. We are also beginning to deliver life-long learning material, such as health and agriculture, that will extend BluPoint’s reach beyond the classroom and affect the lives of millions.
Read the Installation Case Study.