After spending almost 17 years teaching in several different countries, Christophe Rhein now works for teachers’ network Canopé in Corrèze in south-west France as an instructor and consultant for deploying digital tools. After regularly encountering problem with Wi-Fi at schools where tablets were used, he came up with the idea of rolling out Bibliobox, a little device whereby students can access digital files without needing an Internet connection.
THE MAIN OBSTACLE TO USING tablets IN SCHOOLS? Wi-fi!
Whist more and more schools are supplying teachers and students with digital tools, the lack of reliable infrastructure – in particular a Wi-Fi connection – is still a major stumbling block.
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This is what Christophe Rhein has found in the course of his job with the Canopé network, for which he regularly talks to teachers about the various digital-related problems they come across. In an interview with LudoMag, Rhein explained:
“The big problem with mass tablet deployments is Wi-Fi. Even in schools where there’s fibre optic broadband, when you’ve got 400 tablets used at the same time, the infrastructure sometimes struggles to cope.”
So he started looking into alternative solutions, and found Bibliobox. A variant of PirateBox, developed by a network of librarians, it’s a small electronic device that can be configured as a local server. The teacher chooses the teaching resources and shares them with students via a Wi-Fi router, without the need for an Internet connection – all for just €35.
FORGET paper: STUDENTS WORK ON tabletS – EVEN OFFLINE
Christophe Rhein gave the example of a class of students studying for a freight driver diploma. As they often have to revise their highway code whilst on the move – i.e. driving around, the students up to now worked with paper exercise books which the teacher then marked.
With the Bibliobox, they can now log on, via a tablet, to a bank of questions to help them revise. For the project, Christophe Rhein also provided a Raspberry_Pi, a nano-computer, and installed an online learning platform (Moodle) on it whereby the teacher can access students’ homework.
FREE E-BOOKS accessible ANYWHERE
A similar problem was experienced by the Institut français of Nigeria in Abuja. This centre, which promotes France’s linguistic and cultural activity in Nigeria, planned to build up its digital library and train its teachers in digital skills – but they had a very poor Internet connection. So Christophe Rhein came up with the idea of compiling a library of over 3,000 works in the public domain – i.e. free in digital format – and making them available to the users. To do this, he used Calibre, an open-source eBook management program, to export the entire library and then turned it into a shared website on the Bibliobox. Although it took over forty hours to wipe the metadata from the various books, the hardware costs are practically non-existent, and the 3,000 books can now be read on a smartphone.
Christophe Rhein’s story is further proof that teachers can also be true digital makers: aware of the advantages of digital for learning, they are instruments of their school’s transformation and, as such, are promoting our Digital for All, NOW movement.