Many ed-tech startups make assumptions that everyone is going to have fast internet connectivity and the right devices in the classroom, education reformer and engineer Neil D’Souza points out. How do you reach the developing world? How do you reach that last mile?
In a recent TED Talk, D’Souza asks, can we create a 21st century learning environment anywhere in the world? He came up with a clever idea that at least chips away at the problem, allowing a place to use the internet but also not use the internet at the same time. Confused? Let me explain:
Did you know you can use Dropbox while being offline? You can still access your files in the Dropbox folder even if you are not connected. I can turn off this laptop’s wireless, take it aboard an airplane, and still use my files. Of course, if I want to add more files to the folder, they won’t be available on the cloud until I reconnect to the internet.
What D’Souza envisioned is a battery-powered wi-fi Dropbox device called NomadEDU that one fills up periodically with files and learning content. If you need to add more files to the device’s Dropbox, you travel to the nearest internet connection, fill it up with more content, and then take it back to the classroom. Because it uses a battery, it doesn’t require electricity to power the wi-fi to which students connect to access the files. D’Souza pointed out an example of children in Mongolia using 10-year-old computers in conjunction with his device to learn math.
If you’re still confused, please navigate to the 5:34 point in the video below to get the full picture. D’Souza explains it rather well and uses visual aids to help him out.
Of course, D’Souza isn’t going to solve the world’s education problems overnight. Having a clever battery-powered wi-fi device may be incredibly useful to many students fortunate enough to have computers, but what about those who have practically nothing? I’m sure this question is on his mind as well, and he appears to have the dedication to give it serious thought. Who knows what the future will bring?
As the co-founder of “Teach A Class” project, Neil D’Souza initiated several projects working with
orphanages around Asia and now is focused on Mongolia.