Some lessons from the Maseno workshop

There are a number of lessons to be learned from the Maseno workshop around the tutor-web and Smileycoin.
First, it seems clear that the suitcase concept can be used in the Kenyan context. Using the laptop as a server completely changes the access speed and appropriate tablets can be found for about $65 in Kenya. This setup could be used directly in a location such as Maseno. Even for the extremely large classes it would be possible to give WiFi access to a single laptop server a central location. The WiFi access point actually tested during this trip had a limit of 15 simultaneous users. But allowing 15 people to download simultaneously would also be more than enough since the download of a set of questions takes less than a minute. One implementation for a class of 600-800 students could therefore be to provide a support room, with access to the laptop server, where students could come to log in and download the material.
In a particularly constructive session the workshop participants also demonstrated many alternate possibilities and solutions to issues such as the prohibitive costs and logistics of providing laptops to very many Kenyan high schools as well as the problems associated with low-income high school students who will not be able to purchase tablet computers.
Completing the most recent tutor-web developments has led to not only the concept of the laptop+tablets setup but also made the tutor-web software more mobile. In fact to ensure mobility a browser (usually Google Chrome) downloads a drill set which stays in the tablet’s memory and maintaining functionality even when losing the WiFi signal. This is not a function of running on a tablet or  Android but a result of functionality provided by the JavaScript language used in the tutor-web development.
One interesting aspect of Kenyan life is the common ownership of a mobile phone. Most families will have access to at least one such device even if they can not afford a tablet. Of course some students may own a laptop or mobile phone also.
The group in the workshop had a number of devices typical of Kenyans, ranging from laptops to phones running Android or Windows. All of these devices could connect to the tutor-web and work in the appropriate manner.
When using a smart phone, these connection can be either to a laptop server as used in the workshop or to the regular tutor-web server. In either case, once a link is established and drill questions are downloaded a student could continue to work on the drills even when offline. Quitting the browser or turning off the device is not a problem since the data are persistent in memory and reappear when restarting the browser.
Now, smartphones are not allowed inside Kenyan high schools. But all-in-all, having the tutor-web running on a $65 tablet as well as on already existing mobile phones and laptops should give very many students access to educational material and methods which they have been sorely lacking, even without the laptop server. It may not be possible for all students to use this inside the classroom without the laptop server, but most should be able to access it as a part of a homework assignment.
The most important task of the day may therefore be simply to assist instructors and demonstrate how they can assign tutor-web homework.
A final suggestion during the workshop was to make the Kenyan national exams available as drills in the tutor-web system. This could be done also for primary school material and would make a very useful addition to the existing material.