Which RACHEL please help?

Hi. So excited to be part of this community and the work we can do with RACHEL in a literacy project I am leading in the Philippines (Iloilo - for those who may know :slight_smile: ) . I have been reading quite a bit on this forum. I want to know how the best way to set up RACHEL as the offline hotspot in rural communities (just one for now, which is a mountain community) in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the more I read the more I see options and now I just do not know where to start. I read about RACHEL-Pi , Plus and then there is Kolibri as well. As the project is looking for scalability as well, do we proceed with the Village Telco approach by going for RACHEL-USB? Please advise.

As I am a researcher, as well, I want to connect with those who are doing research.

Thank you for taking the time to write my first message on this community forum.

Judith

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Hi Judith,

Welcome to the RACHEL community! It’s great to have you here. I’m happy to help you get started with RACHEL and explain how it works as well as the different device options available.

RACHEL devices create a wifi hotspot for users to connect to with their own device. These can be tablets, cell phones, desktop computers, or anything that can connect to wifi. When the student connects to the RACHEL hotspot they have access to the main page of RACHEL which has all of the content that is installed for them to browse and interact with.

RACHEL-Pi - You can turn a Raspberry Pi device into a RACHEL device that creates the hotspot and has the content with a few quick steps. All you need to do is download an image file from this post and then follow the two tutorials in that post to install it on the MicroSD card. You can then install the content and it’s ready to go. I suggest the “32bit - rachel-pi-10_16_2020” image. When you plug the RACHEL-Pi in it turns on and you will see a “RACHEL” hotspot. Connect and browse to “http://rachel.pi” and you will see the RACHEL main page. The Raspberry Pi is not meant for big schools, places without power, places where the power goes out often because it doesn’t have a battery, but a lot of people use it and it works for them.

RACHEL-Plus - You can check out the RACHEL-Plus at this link. This device is the best option for bigger deployments, long term deployments, or when you expect more than ~8-12 users at a time. The RACHEL-Plus comes with a battery, has a power button, and can support up to 50 students connected at once. It also comes with a few more software options that aren’t available on the Raspberry Pi version yet. One of the best things is called Datapost. Datapost lets users send email while offline, then using an android phone, you can have someone download all of the emails to the phone and take them somewhere with an internet connection to send them.

Kolibri is a software provided by Learning Equality. It comes preinstalled on the RACHEL-Plus as well as the RACHEL-Pi. Kolibri lets teachers set up lessons and also has it’s own content called “channels” that you can install. The most popular channel is probably Khan Academy. You won’t have to choose to install this as it comes with both.

RACHEL-USB - This was content from RACHEL that doesn’t require the server/hotspot on a RACHEL device. You place the content directly on a USB stick and plug it into the devices to be accessed. This has not been updated by World Possible for a long time. Village Telco may be maintaining their own version with content available from RACHEL though. If you would like help setting one up I can help you with that.

Please let me know if you have any issues. There are lots of users on here with experience deploying RACHEL so I’m hoping some will comment here with their advice. @SHOMI and @giakonda are two with a lot of experience and knowledge on deployments.

I hope that helps with the technical side of things.

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Hi Judith, we have used all the various Raspberry Pi devices with great success, even the Pi Zero. Currently we are using the Raspberry Pi 4 with 8gig memory on schools in rural Southern Zambia. We only use 8gb because it gives the best performance but the difference is insignificant because there is never more than 10 devices connected at any one time. What I would recommend is an sd card copier, it saves hours with downloading etc.
I’mnot an expert but I am willing to help if I can.
Kind Regards Howard

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Thank you, James! It looks like we have to go for Plus. We are going to create community-based open educational resources based on children’s own stories and experiences in their own local languages. For this, as far as I understand, we can create and add a module to RACHEL? Could I ask if the resources found on oer2go.org are all the OERs available and accessible on Plus? I am excited to find https://www.africanstorybook.org/ - I am hoping we can achieve something similar for the disadvantaged children in the Philippines.

Have a good day and stay well,
Judith

Hi Howard!! I was on your project site yesterday. I will follow your footstep :). I want to do what you do in Nepal and Zambia in the Philippines :slight_smile: So I will be in touch for loads of advice!

Oh and James. I am in Liverpool, UK and will not travel to our project site. My partner organisation in the Philippines will have to set up RACHEL in the community for our project. The basic OER module we want to develop and later on add to RACHEL will be honed in Liverpool. Do let me know what things I should consider from shipment to set up to everything else in between and what must follow, please. Thank you.

Judith

Hi Judith,

This sounds like a fantastic project. The African Storybook project is really great. I’d love to see similar modules available.

Yes you can make your own module and load it into RACHEL. I’ll overview the steps

  • When you have the content you’d like to be on your page ready you’ll need to create a normal website to present it to users as if it were online.

  • When you’re finished developing the website, you copy the entire website you’ve created into a folder.

  • You then add your logo image file named logo.png and another file called “rachel-index.php”. The rachel-index.php file that contains what the users see in RACHEL and has the logo, a link to the website in the folder and the description paragraph about the module.

If you plan to develop the module separately and then send it to the location, they may need some instructions on how to do this while they’re there. Currently they will need the RACHEL-Plus connected to a network and then have to access the device using “SSH”. This tutorial is how it’s currently done for the Raspberry Pi but it is similar for the Plus.

Very soon we will have an easy way to upload modules to the device while offline. If you do make an order, please let me know your order number and I will check for you that it’s added if it’s ready and let you know. You will also want to write in the country as The Philippines so that the right power supply can be provided.

Feel free to ask any questions about development at any time. We do have information on creating modules here that contains the necessary files, but it may be easier once the website portion of your module is ready.

Community based resources are encouraged as local content is known to have more engagement from users. The RACHEL-Plus also has another site on it called “Local Content” which lets a teacher upload content in the field while the device may be offline, create lessons, and share files with students. That may be useful to you, but it is different than the main RACHEL page.

The resources on oer2go are all available and much more as not all content can be hosted live on oer2go.org. You can also request the content you’d like preloaded onto the RACHEL-Plus when you make an order.

I hope that covers your questions but feel free to ask more at any time.

James

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Ok thank you so much.

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jgenriquez,

The one thing I will say from our experience. We had some students and teachers that could not wait to get into the classroom, and we had a few that refused to even look at it. I told the teacher of the class, don’t force it. When they are ready to come in, then help them out. It’s just so new for them and I think they felt afraid or maybe lacking. We have tried to reiterate that this is a tool to help assist them in their daily assignments. It took a couple of the teachers almost 2 years to come around, and now they are all using the RACHEL server after school and excited to have newer updated materials.

I also use EZ Dupe and Star Tech 1:2 USB duplicator since they are relatively cheap and small to transport. I am able to duplicate the SD cards for the PI desktops and the SSD’s for the RACHEL PI server. My desktops use a 32GB microsd and takes about 10 minutes to make 2 copies per duplicator and the server SSD has 96 GB and takes about 60 minutes or so to copy.

On a couple of drives, I do not have Kolibri setup and no other programs that need to write information to the drive, so I have been testing the boot and system overlay out. The overlay will prevent any permanent changes from being made to the system. After a reboot, it all reverts back to your configuration at the time the overlay was applied.

The reason I am looking at the overlay, is due to power issues, people forgetting to shut the systems down properly and it also keeps anyone from accidentally deleting anything and not being able to get it back. The teacher in the class is able to go to the RACHEL Admin page and re-sort the modules or hide ones they do not want kids accessing if they are working on a specific assignment. After a reboot, it will all revert back to the original config.

Forgot to mention, that I am still running the PI 3B+ with the SSD and no microsd.

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Ready to help! I’ll try to lookin mor regularly :slight_smile:

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We made the order - #2334. Colleagues in the Philippines are waiting for RACHEL-PLUS to arrive :slight_smile:

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That’s great! I’ll follow up and make sure the module upload utility is there.

James, RACHEL PLUS is in the Philippines and it’s on its way to the mountain community in Iloilo. I would like to ask if RACHEL PLUS runs on ‘lamp’ (asking as if I know what I am talking about :))? Our developer would like to know. We would like to also ask if we can run an app (sort of like a mini-library system) alongside RACHEL PLUS. Thank you.

Judith

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@jgenriquez yes, the RACHEL plus runs a LAMP stack.

RACHEL - Plus currently runs Ubuntu 16.02 32-bit and root access can be provided. I will say, there is a lot going on under the hood and you should proceed with extreme caution if you are not well versed in what you are doing :slight_smile:

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Thank you, Jeremy. Not me. My colleague is the guru in these things. :slight_smile:

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Hello Judith,

My name is Steve Leininger. I am working with Latter-day Saint Charities (LDSC) here in the PH. We are working with the national office of DepEd, and are assisting them in developing a pilot program to test the success of Rachel Plus servers in rural schools with no internet. This is in the very early stages. LDSC would fund the servers and DepEd would be the implementers and tech support. I would love to know more about your experience so far and what your goals are. You can email me at sleininger@churchofjesuschrist.org. My phone is +63 09985926326.

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