Worldreader is a U.S. and European non-profit whose mission is to make digital books available to children in the developing world. It has undertaken projects in several African nations using e-readers. As of June 2012, the organization’s projects have distributed more than 220,000 digital books to 1,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldreader works with sponsoring organizations to close the gap between the cost of e-readers and books and the prices local communities can pay. The organization also develops and digitizes local and international books, as well as managing logistics and support operations. It works in partnership with local governments, school systems, and related businesses. Further, Worldreader provides technical and pedagogical training for project managers and local teachers, as well as helping local businesses repair e-readers. 199
In 2011, Worldreader and The Kilgoris Project 200 partnered to launch the first classroom e-reader project in East Africa. 201 The project was conducted at Ntimigom School in Kilgoris, the capital of the Trans Mara region of Kenya. It provided a total of 3,150 books, as well as capacity-building training, using Amazon Kindle e-readers. Ntimgom School’s four nursery-level teachers and three primary-level teachers serve more than 200 students in the Trans Mara region. The school is a sponsored public school, with funding coming from Kenya’s Ministry of Education and The Kilgoris Project.
This project was intended to provide a foundation for future efforts with schools and organizations all over the world. The two organizations shared two primary goals for the Ntimigom project:
1. Access to books: To increase the quality of education available to the Ntimigom students by providing access to a world of books. The organizations felt that increased access to books would broaden the way students thought and help to develop their creativity.
2. Capacity building: To use e-readers and teacher training as tools for teacher motivation, including for personal development, keeping abreast of educational research, or as resources for lesson planning.
The project began with a feasibility study conducted by Worldreader in January 2011. Worldreader sought to assess the school’s environment and content needs, as well as meeting with representatives from The Kilgoris Project, the school and the community. That study led to a formal cooperation agreement between Worldreader and The Kilgoris Project.
A detailed implementation plan was developed for project execution. The plan included the following phases:
- Device set-up and transportation – This included shipping, labeling, and configuration of the e-readers, as well as inserting them into cases. Device set-up was carried out by representatives of Worldreader, The Kilgoris Project and Ntimigom School in space provided by a local start-up incubator.
- Content selection and distribution – Worldreader signed partnership agreements with two Kenyan publishers, allowing the organization to digitize selected books and make them available to students at no cost. The project also was able to add content from Ghanaian publishing partners, international publishing partners, and the public domain. Each of the 51 student devices was initially provisioned with 42 e-book titles, and each of the 14 teacher devices was provisioned with 72 titles. Plans were laid for future content provisioning, and training was conducted for teachers, the project coordinator, and students. The training was conducted as follows:
- Teacher training – Eight three-hour modules, conducted over two weeks, addressed basic and advanced technical skills by utilizing leisure reading, mock sessions with actual students, book reports and reading incentives, lesson plans and e-reader keywords.
- Project coordinator training – The Ntimigom School principal was trained as the project coordinator, with skills such as how to delete and retrieve a book from the archive, inventory management, registration and deregistration.
- Student training – Teachers (with coaching support) provided training to students on basic technical skills related to the e-readers.
- Reading assessment – Worldreader and The Ntimigom School agreed upon a methodology for conducting student reading assessments and carried out the assessments.
- Community launch event – On 24 June 2011, several hundred teachers, students, parents, community leaders, local representatives of the Ministry of Education, local church leaders, school board members, local chiefs, councilors and government officials attended a launch event. Organizers described the value and uniqueness of the project, and the parents and community leaders were encouraged to use and care for the e-reader devices.
- Inventory management – The “classroom set” model, in which the set of e-readers is circulated from classroom to classroom, was adopted. If a device malfunctions, The Kilgoris Project is responsible for transporting it to Worldreader’s country representative, who will handle the remaining logistics.
In the October 2011 project report, Worldreader provided information on its monitoring and evaluation efforts. Given the scale of the project, it was deemed impractical and unnecessary to employ a randomized sample and a control group. The project was reported as having met its primary goals, including delivery of 3,150 e-book titles to Ntimigom classrooms and preparation of an additional 13 digitized titles from a Kenyan publisher. There were also “an abundance of capacity building activities,” consisting of the various training efforts. The project report also highlighted next steps for the project, including (1) scheduling periodic calls between Worldreader and the project coordinator to evaluate progress, and (2) planning for the next academic year (including content, assessment of the need for additional devices, and improving Internet connectivity at the school in order to facilitate content downloads).
In terms of project cost, The Kilgoris Project paid USD 19,000 for the package of 3G-enabled e-readers, which included the devices, content, shipping costs and technical support. 202
In March 2012, Worldreader provided an update on the status of the project at Ntimigom School: 203
- Since the initial launch of this project, the school had grown to 400 students and hired two new teachers.
- Worldreader had more than tripled its selection of available free or highly discounted book titles available to students and teachers.
- Although the mobile-enabled Kindles were unable to reliably obtain a network connection at project launch, they were now increasingly able to connect via EDGE and sometimes 3G.
- The Kilgoris Project was working to raise funds for an additional 100 e-readers and 5,000 digital books.
199 Worldreader, “What We Do,” available at http://www.worldreader.org/what-we-do/.
200 The Kilgoris Project is a U.S. not-for-profit organization founded to support the development of the Kilgoris community.
201 Information from this case study is primarily drawn from the Worldreader report “Starting an E-Reader Program at Ntimigom School with The Kilgoris Project,” (October 2011), available at www.worldreader.org/uploads/Worldreader Kilgoris Report Oct-2011.pdf .
202 Information supplied by Worldreader.
203 Worldreader, “An Update from Ntimigom School,” (March 26, 2012), available at http://www.worldreader.org/blog/2012/03/26/an-update-from-ntimigom-school/ .