Update from Cape Town – Week 2

Kids at Langa

Originally uploaded by sharonpe

First of all, thanks to so many of you who have emailed, twittered or messaged me in the last two weeks – your support and kind wishes have been appreciated! I am also touched by the great interest that has been shown in this initiative by Teachers Without Borders in Cape Town and Kenya.

Although it has not always been easy, so far this has been one of the most immensely rewarding experiences that I have had.

For much better coverage of our experiences in Cape Town, check out Konrad Glogowski’s blog posts and flickr stream.

Here are some of the experiences and perhaps disconnected thoughts:

I have never been so conscious about bandwidth. It is very expensive here and coming from North America where it has been so relatively cheap for so long, it puts a certain amount of perspective on the use of web-based apps and environments.

Building relationships through conversation is the key to successful partnerships and collaboration. I have had a number of low key one-on-one conversations with teachers over the past two weeks which has really helped with openness and receptivity of new ideas. I have learned a great deal about the culture and history of Cape Town and South Africa through the conversations I have had. The people of this country have made great strides in so many areas in such a short time. Education is greatly valued and I have been very impressed with some of the initiatives and supports that have been put into place in order to further the educational opportunities.

Our first set of workshops was very well received. We were surprised that we could take them so far in such a short time – from file management to wikis, blogs and moodle! Many of the teachers were eager to learn how to create their own web sites.

Accessibility to computer equipment and the labs is very difficult. The teachers last week were so encouraged by the news that the cost of equipment is quickly dropping when I showed them the XOs and the Flip camera. Personal home computers are not the norm here in the townships.

Cell phones are used by just about everyone. We had a number of interesting discussions about how to use cell phones as educational tools. Often the best ideas came from the teachers themselves as they were already thinking outside the box about innovative educational practices.

The teachers who have attended the workshops are passionate and articulate about teaching, learning and education. I am in awe of the conditions in which they teach – unheated classrooms in the winter, class sizes of 40-50, students with peer pressure from gangsters, little access to technology tools. In spite of that, I have heard few complaints – except about accessibility to the technology.

My fellow team members are awesome – while we have had heated discussions at times late into the night about best approaches for the workshops the following day, we have shared good laughs and have supported each other. Our skill sets complement the others – we have a wide range of skills and we have tapped into all of them.

I will have to post more later as it is now time to get ready for our third day of workshops for the teachers.

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