Darakht-e Danesh Library Brings Knowledge to Afghan Women
The Darakht-e Danesh (‘knowledge tree’) Library for Educators in Afghanistan (DD Library) is the first OER effort in Afghanistan and Afghanistan's first comprehensive digital educational resource collection, established to enhance teacher subject-area knowledge, access and use of learning materials, and to foster more diverse teaching methodologies in order to improve learning outcomes in Afghan classrooms.
It was conceptualized in 2009 by the NGO "Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan" established in 1996. Work started in 2010, and the tool finally launched in 2014 at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul.
The DD Library, which is participating in the ROER4D project as an impact studies grantee, uses an innovative interactive, multilingual custom-designed web platform, and currently (August 2015) houses approximately 2,000 resources in 15 subject categories, for both primary and secondary teachers in Afghanistan. The partly CC licensed resources are published in the three languages taught in the Afghan public school system: Dari, Pashto and English.
After registering, users can search the database by subject, resource type, language and level, or just browse the collection. For instance, a grade 10 biology teacher can search out water evaporation experiments, a teacher working with students with disabilities can find guidebooks with practical classroom strategies, or a geography teacher can download images of maps to print out for her classroom walls.
A unique and cost-effective feature of the library is that the content creation is powered by volunteers. Tapping into Afghanistan’s large diaspora community, the library relies on bilingual Afghans with specific areas of expertise – such as health and medicine, or language and literature – to translate OERs into Dari and Pashto, all on a volunteer basis. All translations are vetted by a professional editor in the relevant language who provides feedback and edits to the volunteer, before final publication.
Teachers view the resources online, print them, or download the documents. Sometimes teachers adapt resources and share these re-purposed materials to be re-added to the library. Any user can submit a new resource to the library, making the collection crowd-sourced. Users have submitted materials as diverse as a Dari translation of John Dewey’s “Democracy and Education” to ancient Persian poetry, to a simple health guide for rural villages.
Teachers are using the library materials to plan lessons, improve their subject knowledge, or deliver new activities in their classroom, and teacher trainers use it in teachers colleges. For example, a teacher in Nimruz province, who also trains teachers at the provincial pedagogy institute, wrote to us to say, "the resources in the library help us a lot and we fully use them in our teaching in remote provinces such as Nimruz. I also use the library materials to solve other teachers’ problems when they come to me for help."
The DD Library is the first technology-powered collection of educational materials for teachers, that is tailor-made for Afghanistan, addressing the distinctive challenges the country’s education sector faces. As the content diversifies and expands at the hands of the community of users, the library may very well move beyond an audience of educators, to a rich collection of knowledge resources for and by Afghans.