The Armenia School Connectivity Program (ASCP) grant was awarded to Project Harmony Armenia Filial in November 2002. Being a program of US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the ASCP has a commitment of investing modern technologies into the educational process of Armenia. The primary objective of the ASCP is to establish 330 Internet Computer Centers (ICC) in Armenian schools. Currently, the ASCP network includes 330 equipped Internet Computer Centers and the organization is recruiting to achieve. The centers are technically administered by selected site monitors who all have been trained in Basic Computer, Network Administration and Web Design Trainings and other ICT-related themes. All of the schools and the above-mentioned site staff were recruited through open, merit-based application and evaluation process. Also, the Armenia School Connectivity Program features a Mobile Internet Computer Lab (to learn more about the current status of this initiative, please visit www.hf.am) which serves remote communities of a certain region of Armenia, again selected through recruitment process.
In addition to this primary set-up and staff development activities, the ASCP provides different seminars, conferences, and trainings for school representatives and community members on the integration of technology into education, the sustainability of centers, and the creation of Armenian-language Internet resources.
One of the ASCP’s main endeavors is the creation of diversity within the program. Thus, a large list of special needs schools and specialized schools are currently involved in the ASCP network, the students and teachers of which express strong interest and participate in various online activities implemented in the framework of the program. ASCP also has particularly recruited and involved in its network schools which represent refugee and ethnic minority community members, engaging them in different projects focusing on areas of interest for these groups.
Since the onset of the ASCP, Project Harmony has actively worked to strengthen its regional representation and support. Since the establishment of the program Regional Field Coordinator (RFC) team was formed, that included a Regional Education Coordinator, a Regional Technical Coordinator, and a Regional Community Developer supporting each region. Now together with decreased program needs the number and the roles of RFCs were reduced, which resulted in developing of a new RFC team called Regional Program Coordinators (see the current regional staffing). The in-service professional experience which the Regional Field Coordinators have achieved throughout years of assisting connected centers directly in the Program Field ensures existence of capable and invaluable human resources. It is envisioned that this group, once Project Harmony transitions out of the program implementer role, will serve as the core of the nationwide capacity to sustain the Armenia School Connectivity Program as well as for a far-reaching all-Armenia school connectivity action plan.
Since 2003 the US government and Project Harmony have been in negotiations with the Government of Armenia to transfer the Armenia School Connectivity Program from US-Government funding and implementation to local support, funding and administration. Dictated by the conditions instituted during the negotiations a few terms of ASCP collaboration with schools was necessarily adapted. Consistent involvement of officials from the Ministry of Education and Science and regional Departments of Education in the transition process are steps to ensure eventual ownership of the program by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia.
The program main areas, highlighted below with their brief summary, are also n greater detail presented in appropriate sections in the website:
Program Network Technical Set-up, Maintenance and Administration
Project Harmony is the only organization in Armenia that owns the unique network of 330 schools within the Armenia School Connectivity Program. This huge and unique technical infrastructure has been built and is currently maintained by the “Harmony” Information Technologies and Education Development Foundation, registered in Armenia since July 2005, formed from former ASCP Technical Department. This organization, in its status of co-implementer for the ASCP, is now providing the support for all technical aspects of the program.
Project Harmony has been partnering with multiple, both capital-based as well as regional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to ensure a country-wide connectivity scheme for the ASCP. Regional technical issues and the ISPs’ capabilities for the concrete node connection determine ISP selection. The overall AC2K/ASCP network is connected to the ArmenTel exchange point by a fiber optic line. Project Harmony is the first organization to use E1 fiber optic channels in the regions of Armenia. PH uses the fiber optic E1 G.703 (2Mbit/s) channel to create the backbone connecting schools throughout Armenia. To date, the E1 backbone starts in Yerevan and connects to seven regional towns.
The intra-Armenia network bandwidth is 2048 kb/s for upload and download. The ASCP network is built on a 512kb/s upload and 1024 kb/s download high quality Internet channel. Average external traffic for the network is approximately 80 GB a month and the internal traffic is around 90GB month.
General Content Based Activities
Ongoing content development is multi-faceted and teachers across Armenia are growing more skillful and confident in developing online Armenian-language educational resources. A huge library of educational resources, covering diverse topics from Literature to History, is available on ASCP website. Open lessons are conducted in all regions to raise awareness of the existence of these resources and share guidance in their effective use in the classroom. Additionally, all schools are to create school websites that promote their schools and communities.
In the framework of ASCP Project Harmony conducts US-Armenian collaborative projects which bring together teachers and students from across both countries online, using tailored curricula and plans. In addition to ongoing virtual exchange opportunities, the program incorporated physical exchange components with strong follow up activities that provide forums for professional exchange among Armenian and American educators, as well as organize and conduct diverse online and offline projects.
Partnership projects between schools from Armenia and the United States give exciting opportunities for informational exchange, innovative educational activities, technical skills building, and more! Trainings are being held for the lead teachers in these programs to be able to design and facilitate online collaborative projects.
The use of online resources found its utilization in organizing online chats, during which Armenian students could communicate with their peers within and outside of their country.
For the successful implementation of all the above mentioned activities, Project Harmony regularly organizes different development sessions, such as trainings on online facilitation, grant writing skills, career building, etc.
Sustainability Focus – Community Based Activities
Community is one of the integral and essential parts of the ASCP. Targeting their needs and by integrating the ICCs into the daily life of local communities, the ASCP envisages increasing the self-sustainability of the Internet Centers. For this reason sustainability trainings were organized for all the ASCP network schools. By conducting open doors days and organizing different community-engaging events, the ICC site monitors try to create an environment, where a visitor could professionally be accommodated to his/her technical needs and requests.
The diversity in ASCP is also achieved through the collaboration with different population clusters, such as ethnic minorities, refugees, the disabled, journalists, NGO members, doctors and others. Cooperating with the ICCs and PH Armenia office they receive a unique opportunity to be widely recognized by creating Internet websites, booklets, flyers and finding collaboration ties with other organizations.
A series of community support projects in Armenia gathered Armenian youth all over Armenia about a common idea. During a year more than 20 community service projects were implemented throughout Armenia. During one month of program promotion more than 50 events were organized in all regions of Armenia.
In addition to all specific community-oriented projects and initiatives, outreach and promotion strategies towards a larger and more diverse community are regularly reinforced. This enables the program to be publicized throughout Armenia and abroad, as well as establish strong cooperation ties with local and international organizations working in Armenia and Diaspora. Such publicity resources as the Newsletters, press releases, booklets and other types of promotion materials allow the program to be always on the top news both on TV and local newspapers.