Far Side of the World

Lion: Bead Work at the Cape Town Bazaar

Originally uploaded by sharonpe

Some forty hours after leaving Montreal, I have arrived safely in beautiful Cape Town.

During my one day layover in London, Terry and Elaine Freedman visited with me at the Victoria and Albert Museum. We went to a fascinating exhibit called “Blood on Paper” which was an exploration of how language can be expressed in various multimodalities.

Terry was able to give me some advice on what to include in a principal’s toolkit we are preparing for a principals’ conference on ICT later in July in the townships of Cape Town. He promised to send me some good links (hint, hint, Terry!).

John Ehinger, a teacher from Winnipeg and one of my team members, caught up with me in Montreal and we spent the two flights getting to know each other a bit. Noble Kelly, our fearless team leader, met us in Cape Town. David Dallman, a teacher from Vancouver, flew in later in the morning

We spent the first day stocking supplies for ourselves in the guest house and spending time with each other while we recovered from jet lag. Later we went to the bazaar in the downtown area of Cape Town where I observed the fine art of bartering South African style!

Teacher in Africa asks, “How can ICT make me a better teacher?”

I have been a bit shy about sharing the news about my trip to Africa with Teachers Without Borders, but so many of you have been asking that it is about time that I share more of what we have been planning.

The last few months I have been quietly gathering resources that will be coming with me – somehow squeezing into my luggage allowance of about 100 lbs. Thank goodness I can put a lot of resources either online or on a CD or flash drive!

Below is my itinerary – in a nutshell and from what I know so far:

June 26 – departure for Cape Town, via London UK (meet with Terry and Elaine Freedman for the day, June 27)

June 28- arrival in Cape Town, work for two days with team members David Dallman, John Ehinger and Noble Kelly on workshops

June 30 – meet with ICT Ministry of Ed folks in Cape Town

July 1 – begin workshops for about 35 teachers on implementation of ICT in the curric. – I will be presenting the info lit workshop – Internet search (for beginners)

July 2 – continue with workshops; Konrad Glogowski, our fifth team member, arrives straight from attending NECC in San Antonio; my daughter Meg arrives for a 5 week program with World Learning: Experiment in International Living

July 7 – second week of workshops for a different school

July 14 – class visits at Fezeka High School – we get to meet real students!!

July 19- panel discussion at principals’ conference

We are partnering with NGOs Edunova and Education Without Borders. The people from those organizations have been incredibly wonderful in arranging these opportunities for us. Emails have flown back and forth for a few months now – as well as a few audio and video conferences.

On July 19th, Konrad, Noble and I overnight to Nairobi Kenya and then drive to the Lake Naivasha region. We will catch up with the rest of our team of ten teachers from across Canada who will be delivering workshops to about 120 teachers in that region. Again, we have been partnering with an NGO, Comfort the Children. I have had a chance to videoconference with teachers and a few students from a school already.

Our first few days, we will have the opportunity to do classroom observations as we finalize our workshops for the teachers. We will be providing resources in the area of math, science and English (I will be helping out with the workshops for the English teachers). I am hoping we will also have ample opportunity to meet students.

On July 25th, we will begin the presentation of workshops.

On August 10th, I will fly home a week earlier than the rest of the team so that I can collaboratively present a workshop with my long-time Internet project partner, Reuven Werber (whom I have never met f2f) at CAJE in Vermont on August 14th.

Here is a list of some of the resources I plan to take (some of which I plan to leave behind):

  • 4 XOs – (all generously donated! Two donated by LEARN, two others by indiv)
  • 25 1 GB flash drives with portableapps installed on them
  • 6 manuals on ICT in education (some generously donated by a certain USask prof)
  • 1 lightweight LCD projector + set of laptop speakers
  • 2 webcams
  • 3 digital videocams (including one Flip Camera)
  • Various books and manuals for English
  • CDs and DVDs with more resources and content on them

Konrad and I also have a dream about taking as much video footage as possible of our discussions with teachers and students AS WELL AS putting the cameras in the hands of the students and having them take their own footage which we can then take back to Canada and have students edit.

Three of my own personal goals for the trip:

  • Find teachers willing to enter into a long-term mentoring relationship – North American-Africa – using the tools and environments of the Internet to foster and sustain the relationship
  • Match classrooms for collaborative learning projects – there has been much interest in both South Africa and Kenya for this!
  • Develop relationships between students through the video footage – having students “tell their story” – one group of students taking video footage – the next group editing it –

In August, when I return, I am very delighted to share that I will be returning to the classroom at The Study in Montréal, teaching English and Computer Studies – a great blend for me! They have been very warm in welcoming me on staff and supportive of my trip to Africa.

You can imagine how I already have some ideas about global collaborative projects…. 🙂

One of the schools where we will be in Cape Town solicited questions and issues they would like for us to address during our workshops. The questions gave us a good idea at the level of understanding that ICT can play in the overall curricula, but most compelling was this question: “How can ICT make me a better teacher?”

I think I would need more than just even one blog post to tackle that one! It has been on my mind for weeks now and probably a good question all of us in educational technology should be asking ourselves regularly. Behind that question, I think I sense a certain disbelief that ICT really can “make better teachers”. And perhaps that person is right! I realize that I will need to keep focused on “why ICT in education”and be prepared to justify its use in education. I would love to hear your thoughts on that!

My hope is to be regularly updating my blog throughout my trip, although I may be going off the grid when I am in Kenya due to limited access to the Internet. You are welcome to join me on our adventure!

Sir Ken Robinson Video on Creativity in Education

Sir Ken Robinson speaking on the importance of creativity in education.

I was especially inspired by Sir Ken’s thoughts that every person having the capacity to be creative and how educators need to tap into that creativity.

The statistics on how much is spent on education globally is astonishing! One has to wonder why it does not seem to be enough for so many regions in the world…..

Report released: Towards Empowerment, Respect and Accountability

A report commissioned by the Québec English School Boards Association has just been released in my province about a study on the impact of the Internet and related technologies in English public schools in Québec. The results of a survey which went out a few months ago were shared – I, for one, blew a huge sigh of relief. At the time, I felt the survey was designed to stir up fear-mongering and demonization of the Internet and I said so where I was permitted to contribute in the survey.

Fortunately, the results were positively in favour of the benefits of Internet over the negative consequences. However, the digital gap between educators and students was very much apparent. This corroborates other studies I have seen about educators’ use of online tools and environments in this province (and elsewhere).

Some quotes from the report, “Towards Empowerment, Respect and Accountability”

The following statements offer a summary of these findings:
• The majority of all respondent groups do not believe that the Internet
negatively impacts students’ social lives, is causing harm to positive social
development or is the cause of the majority of social problems

• The majority of all respondent groups do not see Internet behavior as
inherently more anti-social or more dangerous than face-to-face
• Only 4% of teachers surveyed report having been a victim of an on-line
incident by students (and only 5% of an incident by parents).
• The majority of all respondent groups do not agree that the Internet and
other technologies are having a negative impact on their school culture.

While the breadth of responses was informative, the Task
Force was most interested in the positive response by the majority as demonstrated
• The majority of all respondent groups believes that the Internet and other
technologies have a positive impact on education
They offered, however, some qualifiers:
• The majority of all respondent groups was unsure or agreed that students
were unsure how to evaluate the quality and/or accuracy of on-line
sources and that students are unsure what constitutes cheating when
cutting and pasting from on-line sources.

• There was a perception gap between teacher responses (majority agreed)
and student and parent responses (minority agreed) when asked if
teachers effectively integrated technology into their teaching practice.

• The minority of all respondent groups felt that teachers, parents and
students use technology to communicate effectively with each other.

the majority of teachers disagree that:
• schools do enough to help teachers integrate technology into their teaching practice

The bold-faced text was my emphasis. While I was delighted with findings of the report in terms of results of perceived positive impact of Internet technologies, I was struck by the apparent digital gap between teachers and students. Another recent study I have seen (yet unpublished) corroborates the fact that teachers in Québec are not anywhere near as Internet-savvy as the students they teach.

This report goes on to make strong recommendations and here are some of my notable picks:

  • Intensify efforts to teach students strategies to search for, evaluate the quality of, and cite correctly on-line material. Implicate to a greater extent schoollibrarians in this key process.
  • Encourage all partners – students, parents, teachers, administrators, library and support staff and commissioners to pursue progressive and responsible learning opportunities about the Internet.
  • Encourage young technology users to work with adults to teach them more about the technologies, and show confidence in their expertise.
  • Re-think curriculum delivery in a digital age by taking advantage of the new pedagogical opportunities that technology offers. Be especially mindful that this involves giving teachers the time, resources and professional support needed to be successful in transforming their teaching practices.
  • Adapt and implement traditionally successful instructional approaches and policies that encourage learning and positive interaction in today’s technologically-evolving environment (i.e. the information tools might have changed; human nature and behavior hasn’t necessarily changed).


  • Incorporate technology as an important component of new and existing policies.
  • Take a leadership role in promoting the integration of technology in the classroom
  • Require pre-service training in information literacy and related issues of technology use; and support on-going in-service school training on these same issues.

Great suggestions! I only hope that those in the right places in making education policy (small-scale and large-scale) will have the ears to hear and the will to do something.

Fundamentally, though, I suspect it is when educators themselves show initiative in becoming digital and information literate that we will see the huge digital gap shrink.

The report can be found online here.