USAID Cordless Projectors Offer New Opportunities to Low-Resource Learning Environments

The Idea:
Video and projectors are commonplace in the educational landscape of the developed world. However, barriers in cost, equipment size, and access to electricity have left these tools underutilized in mEducation environments in developing and low-resource environments. Recent, disruptive innovations in LED light engines and battery power allow organizations to use SD-cards and mini projectors to take their message to more areas and reach more people, while maintaining control over the end message. Since 2010, One Media Player Per Teacher(OMPT) has trained the staff of organizations to locally produce simple videos for improved learning outcomes, behavior change and sharing knowledge. OMPT found that organizations can be quickly taught to harness the advent of locally produced video and cordless projectors in as little as four days, just as organizations learned to embrace mobile phones, computers, and the internet. With improvements in solar technology, having projectors permanently dedicated to low-resource areas and classrooms is a viable option.

Why It Matters:

Global education indicators are improving. However, many low-resource areas still lack effective learning environments or highly skilled teachers. A recent UNICEF assessment also forecasts that another 5.2 million teachers will be needed by 2015. How can the mEducation Alliance community help bridge these gaps? Advancing the use of locally appropriate content is a clear avenue to improve teacher training and learning outcomes. Educational and training oriented videos made at the local level, shown on cordless projectors are allowing organizations to fill these spaces, harness an efficient content distribution network, and embrace local languages, landscapes and dress.

What we Know:

Cordless projectors offer a unique and inexpensive way to transport learning materials and educational media. SD cards with new materials fit in the pocket of a facilitator and can be mailed or physically carried with or without the projector to a dedicated learning environment. Research of locally produced video and cordless projection is underway in a number of sectors and is showing great improvements in outcomes when compared to traditional extension methods. Videos can be mediated by non-expert facilitators, paused for discussion, or rewound to review content. The projectors can also display learning materials in classrooms that cannot distribute 1:1 handouts or books.

OMPT’s Executive Director, Matt York, and his team leverage 27 years in the consumer electronics industry, the Videomakers Without Borders network, and more than 1,500 local video trainers in 55 countries. Through Video Education Workshops and their packaged equipment kits, they help organizations integrate locally produced video into a variety of learning settings. Depending on the goals of the project, OMPT coaches partner organizations on production methodologies including didactic teaching, testimonials, and behavior modeling. They have worked with partners such as Save the Children and Global Communities across disciplines such as basic education, financial literacy, and civic engagement.

Digital Study Hall, a project supporting primary schools in India, received training and equipment from OMPT. They use video lessons taught by teachers in their normal classroom environment, mediated by an educator in one of the supported schools. The most notable change was the improvement in teacher competency. Educators using the videos modeled new behaviors to what they saw in the videos. Learning outcomes for students also show promise.

Another organization, Digital Green, which uses locally produced video to train rural farmers, received training and about 2,000 projectors from OMPT. They have reached more than 150,000 farming households in India and report seeing a $294 annual income gain. Digital Green notes that about 44% of farmers who watch the videos adopt at least one practice they see compared to 11% of farmers reached through traditional methods.

For this mEducation Alliance brown bag, Mr. York brought examples of OMPT’s technology packages to demonstrate for the audience. The camera kit ($220) includes a flip camera or Android phone, and accessories like a basic microphone and tripod. The camera kit can support dozens or even hundreds of the projector kits ($445) which include a battery powered speaker and remote control. The recharging solution ($120) includes solar panels as well as multiple automotive/motorcycle solutions.

Using cordless projectors in low-resource areas requires unique features that aren’t found on many models on the open market. Some of the most important include an internal operating system, long battery life, and the ability to read a variety of file types. Other things to consider when purchasing:

  • Removable batteries allow continuous operation while depleted batteries are charging.
  • A hand-held remote control gives the facilitator flexibility to pause, ask questions, rewind, and review content.
  • The higher the lumens count (brightness), the higher the quality of the image; it also lessens the need to compete with environmental light.

Each successive generation of LED projectors has dramatic increases in brightness and/or battery life as well as performance. OMPT is working towards an agreement with manufacturers to house the cordless projectors in more durable enclosures, and employ a simpler user interface with large tactile buttons. Currently, the most useful cordless projectors range from $250 – $500/unit.

Patrice York