Thoughts from Final Report for TWBC ’09

Sharon showing Dan the XO machine on Lake Victoria, Kenya

Sharon showing Dan the XO machine on Lake Victoria, Kenya

Screenshot of eGranary in Mbita Kenya

Originally uploaded by sharonpe

After weeks of reflection, I have finally composed and submitted a final report as team leader for TWBC ’09 (now renamed to Education Beyond Borders) and our trip to Africa.

Below are some of the highlights of the trip.

Schedule:
July 3 – arrival through Johannesburg to Cape Town

July 6-10 – Workshops offered by Teachers Without Borders Canada (now Education Beyond Borders) team partnering with Edunova to 40 E-learning superintendents of the ministry of education in Eastern Cape (cancelled)

Revised:

July 6-10- Workshops offered by TWBC and Edunova to teachers in Philippi Township at Liwa Primary School. Approximately 50 in attendance

July 13 -“Bootcamp” Workshops offered to Townships’ Principals and ICT leaders hosted by Somerset College (independent boarding school) by Edunova; TWBC team members provide background facilitation and a brief panel session at lunch

July 14-17 – Workshops offered by TWBC to Khanya facilitators (50+) and Edunova facilitators (about 10).

July 18-25 – Visits to schools/classes + additional workshops for Edunova facilitators; requests for visits from various schools (John Pama Primary, Siyazhaka Junior Secondary, Mkhanyiseli Primary School, Phakama Secondary School)

July 26- Arrive in Nairobi

July 28- Arrive in Mbita on shores of Lake Victoria – 2 concurrent sets of workshops offered to teachers in the area; partnering with The African Center for Women, Informations and Communications Technology(ACWICT); ICT workshops for about 50 teachers. Participating teachers are hand-picked by the District Education Officer.

August 10 – Arrive in Gilgil at Utumishi Academy for 1 week of workshops for 75 selected teachers in the Naivasha District; partnering with the Kenyan Ministry of Education. Workshops in maths, science, English and ICT will be offered. Participating teachers are hand-picked by the District Education Officer.

We head home on August 17th.

ICT Team Members 2009

Lois McGill-Horn: Background with Microsoft Certified Teachers Program and high school multi-media. (independent school, Winnipeg, MB)

Zac Chase: Secondary English teacher with background in online environments, PD and integrated ICT skills (public school, Philadelphia, PA)

Jody Meacher: Elementary teacher with a large variety of subject areas and strong skills in ICT integration (public school, Granby, QC)

John Schinker: Secondary teacher; IT administrator with a solid background in networking and hardware (public school, Stow, OH)

Ian Vaithilingam: Secondary maths and science teacher with solid background in SB integration (public school, Toronto, ON)

Sharon Peters: ICT integration, Secondary English, co-team leader (independent school, Montreal, QC)

Noble Kelly: co-team leader (president and founder, TWBC)

Preparation
The team began to meet once a week over Skype (VOIP application) beginning in April ’09. At the time, we believed we would be providing elearning workshops for Eastern Cape facilitators during our first week in South Africa. A good deal of time was spent on familiarization with the moodle environment and discussing best approaches for delivering content.

We created a moodle environment and used it to collect and store digital content.

While there was some frustration expressed that our time could have been used in a more efficient manner as we planned, the commitment to the weekly meetings was taken very seriously by the team members and it fostered team-building that served us well once we were in Africa.

When Charles Robert Adjah contacted us in late May with the unfortunate news that we would not be able to go forward with the elearning workshops during the first week in July, we had to change our plans and rebook our tickets to go straight to Cape Town. Noble Kelly, John Thole and I made a perhaps hasty decision to change the timing of the workshops and advance it by a week to July 6-10th. This added additional pressure to Edunova who was only in process of training a new leader whose was responsible for organizing the workshops on the ground in Cape Town.


Week 1 – July 6-10 2009

Our first full day in Cape Town was spent providing background culture and context to the new team members. We spent some time at the primary school hosting the workshops so we could familiarize ourselves with resources and the stability of the school computer lab and Internet access. Two SmartBoards were also in other classrooms.

The logistics of registration and refreshments were handled very well by Edunova.

Workshop content included basic computer skills, ICT strategic planning, effective presentation skills (PowerPoint), Internet search skills, lesson-planning and evaluation of ICT. In general, feedback from the participants was that they desired more time for hands-on practice and thought that one week was too brief. We received many enthusiastic responses from the participants. Since we have returned to Canada, I am very pleased to say that I have heard from a number of those South African teachers. This year is a marked difference from last year when we heard very little from them. The ning site we created for the teachers (http://ictchamps.ning.com/) remains active – this in large part to the efforts of Khanyiso Tose and Quinton Davis from Edunova.

Week 2: July 13-17 2009

The participants to this week’s workshops were Edunova and Khanya ICT facilitators from across the province. About 70 facilitators participated representing a large number of schools.

Workshop content included social networking for professional development, moodle training, building ICT vision, modeling ICT integration, emerging technologies, and laptops for teachers. Again, a ning site was created for the Khanya facilitators (http://capefacs.ning.com/).

Week 3: July 20-25 2009
The final week was spent in debriefing meetings with Edunova (Monday) and Khanya (Friday), school visits and additional ICT workshops to the Edunova facilitators (SmartBoard, multimedia and moodle).

The debriefing meetings were valuable times for communication and clarification about frustrations, disappointments, expectations and communication.

School2School Classroom Connections
Each TWBC team member had been encouraged to be on the lookout for potential school2school classroom connection teacher partners. Several teachers were approached and agreed to try to maintain contact after the Canadians returned home. To date, some emails have been exchanged. As well, several video skype meetings have taken place between two teachers in particular, Mncedisi Soga (Siyazhaka Junior High, Cape Town) and Ian Vaithilingam (Toronto). Plans are in the works to maintain contact even after the change of academic year for those in the southern hemisphere. A donated Flip camera was given to Mncedisi, Maxwell Foma (Phakama Secondary School) and Zoleka Mzonyane (John Pama Primary School) in order to support the potential of video and photo exchanges between classes and students. The Edunova facilitators were asked to provide some support to this initiative.

Again, feedback from participants was very positive. Reflections posted throughout the week in the ning forum discussion areas show insight and enthusiasm from the workshop participants.

Mbita Kenya Workshops

A special note of thanks to Dan Otedo, our awesome NGO partner and cultural interpreter!!

Venue:
The Suba Resource Centre is a unique establishment and, for the first year of TWBC’s visit to Kenya, I think it was the most appropriate choice. By having it there, we recognized the accomplishments of those volunteers who had worked so hard to create and maintain it. The choice of venue did not go unnoticed by the DEO who felt a school would be far more appropriate. The success of the workshops in an establishment outside of the reach of the ministry of education underscored to the ministry the need to become more involved in this initiative.


July 28th-July 31st – School Visits

Visits to the following schools were made during a three day period:

Waware Secondary School (George Okeyo – Principal)
Kamasengre Secondary School (Okomo Peter – Principal)
St. Joseph’s Kakrigu Secondary (William Obwaya – Principal)
Nyandenga Primary School (Reuben Ogwang – Principal)
Obalwanda Special School (Reuben Molo – Principal)
M.A. Academy (Charles Okiki – Principal)
Kombe Primary School (Iscar Okombo)
Kibuogi Island Primary
Rembo Island Primary

These visits were absolutely invaluable in providing the team with deep insights into the issues and challenges facing the education system in the Mbita area and in Kenya in general. We were also able to make face-to-face connections with teachers who later came to the week of workshops. Without that personal contact, I am certain those teachers would not have come to the workshops. I think of two teachers in particular – Hellen Odenga and Erick Omondi Ojwala who were persuaded to come to the workshops only as a result of our visits to their schools.

Workshop Content
It was apparent that most teachers had little access to computers and were very beginner users of computer technology. It was also apparent that the teachers faced grave challenges of basic resources and access to professional development opportunities. We therefore thought it best to provide a good deal of methodology and teaching strategies that they could incorporate into their teaching practices with or without ICT tools.

Daily Schedule:

7 – 8:30 – Suba Centre open for Practice

8:30 – 10 – Session 1

10-10:30 – tea (practice)

10:30 – 12 – Session 2

12- 12:45 – Lunch (practice)

12:45- 2:15 – Sesson 3

2:15 – 3:45 – Session 4

3:45 – 4:00 – Reflection

4:00 – tea (practice)

4:30 – Open for Practice

Monday:

Session I – get to know you session – ice-breaker

Session II – Why integrate technology? What is ICT?

Session III – Basic trouble-shooting of a computer –

Session IV – Use Word to model

Tuesday:

8:15- 8:30 Review – Multiple Intelligences quiz

I – Info Literacy – eGranary

II – Info Management in 21st c

III – Using Info Lit – search strategies in lab

IV – Multiple intelligences –

Wednesday:

Skype chat with teachers in North America – very powerful!

I – Cooperative Learning –

II – Basic PPT –

After Lunch – “How are we doing so far?” Check in

III – ICT Vision + Planning

IV – Finding Teacher Resources –

Thursday:

Review

Backwards Design –

Storyboarding and Digital Storytelling Pt 1

Rubrics + Evaluation –

Storyboarding and Digital Storytelling Pt 2

Friday

Storyboarding – Finished Products

The Way Forward – Dan Otedo

A debriefing meeting with the newly installed local DEO, John L. Ololtuaa took place on the final day before the awards ceremony. He appeared to be an enthusiastic supporter, though very new on the job.

Challenges:

Fragile and faulty equipment paired with unanticipated power outages (of which there were fewer than expected!) made the week challenging. The team was very flexible in changing plans, sometimes in the moment, and we would carry on in spite of power interruptions. Fortunately, having the Flip cameras, cell phones and laptops with powered-up batteries helped us to just continue on. By doing so, we also showed the teachers that they did not have to rely on a computer lab in order to use ICT tools for educational purposes. The Kenyan teachers were amazed at how much could be done with such simple tools.
eGranary:

The installation of the eGranary was a highlight of our visit to Mbita. It seems like such a simple concept, yet it is such a powerful resource for people who have so little access to educational resources. My hope is that power can be restored soon to the Suba Centre so the computers can be turned on again and the eGranary be used. An issue to be raised now is how much we should get involved in making certain that this resource be used to its full potential.

In closing, I just want to reiterate the phenomenal outstanding job the team members contributed to this initiative. It was not just that the content and even the delivery of the workshops was, in my opinion, world class, it was their generous spirits and the way they could relate to the Kenyans that made our visit such a success. They were willing to take risks, make sacrifices and form relationships in a demanding situation. We did not experience conflicts or disagreements. Without a doubt, these individuals were outstanding professionals even after we returned “home” every night, hot, dusty, and sometimes overwhelmed by the needs we saw around us. We laughed together quite a lot.

My experiences in July and August stretched me beyond what I had expected. I learned a great deal from my colleagues on my team and quite a bit from South African and Kenyan educators as well. It is not a trip that would be advisable for future team members – two countries, three venues and four sets of workshops meant too many people to meet and keep up with! However, I have no regrets about my decision to do the long haul this time around. It meant being able to witness the return of teachers from last year to report how much TWBC workshops had a lasting impact on them. It was a remarkable and gratifying life moment. It would be a privilege to serve as team leader again in the future – thank you, TWBC for this incredible opportunity!

Images from Kenya (TWBC09)

I am using some of our precious bandwidth to share some of my favourite photos from Kenya so far! More to come when I can.

Tomorrow we begin our workshops for fifty local teachers from about fifteen schools in the Mbita area on the shores of Lake Victoria. This region faces the greatest incidence of HIV-AIDS infection in Eastern Africa with an infection rate of up to 40%. The consequences from this are devastating for every sector in the community.

Chronicling Africa: On to Kenya

Cross-posted on Education Beyond Borders site

Kibuogi Island student receiving soccer ball from TWB team

Kibuogi Island student receiving soccer ball from TWB team

I am writing this while being bumped and jolted along miles of deeply rutted highways on the plains below the Great Rift Valley as we travel to the Maasai Mara for team building. After we landed in Nairobi, We met seven additional members to TWBC/Education Beyond Borders team who will form a second team providing maths, science and English prof dev opportunities to two additional locations in Kenya. Maasai pastoralists, dressed in their traditional brighly coloured blankets, can be seen leading their herds of cattle, sheep and goats.

Yesterday we flew out of Cape Town – and I must admit that it was with a strong sense of sadness to leave behnind strengthened as well as new friendships.

It is difficult to compare my experiences from last year to this year – it was a different team and we were ground-breaking our relationships and approaches. This year we strategized – or attempted to – more carefully where and for whom we provided our workshops and sessions.

At the beginning of our final week in Cape Town we had a healthy post-mortem with Edunova and aired our frustrations and challenges from the previous two weeks – as well as the many months of planning before that. We identified breakdowns of communication and the necessity for transparency of goals and expectations. Just as importantly, we discussed the importance of earlier planning for the following year.

The younger and less experienced Edunova ICT facilitators expressed a better understanding of the need for orientation and communication in planning. Next year we hope to work much more closely with them and much earlier.

For each of the groups we worked with, teachers, principals, and provincial ICT facilitators, we had created a ning space to better facilitate communication, collaboration and sharing of resources. For each of those spaces, core facilitators were assigned to oversee and moderate the online community and foster its growth.

We spent one day working closely with the Edunova facilitators with more indepth training in multimedia ICT integration and moodle training. For two days we visited classes of learners and shadowed a teacher who had come to our workshops two weeks ago. We all agreed it was a highlight of our time in Cape Town – seeing young learners in their classes. We left behind several Flip cameras at three schools in order to kick off school exchanges.

Definitely a high point of my week was being asked to take over the teaching of a class of 50 grade 7 learners. I asked them to divide into groups, pose a set of questions based on their recent study of matter and materials, and use a Flip camera to record their responses.

I was amazed at the how seriously they took their “assignment”. To my astonishment, all seven groups completed a first go, complete with video footage!They should be proud of their efforts. Unfortunately, their school’s computer lab had recently experienced a burglary of the equipment and it looked as though it would be some months before they would have a working lab.

——

We are now in Mbita after another nine hour road trip on the dusty and rocky roads (mostly unpaved). Mbita is a somewhat large fishing community along the shores of Lake Victoria. In two days we have visited seven schools and are currently working at the SUBA community centre examining the status of the 12 standalone computers the centre houses. To our dismay, while the computers are in excellent shape, they are lacking video and audio drivers and updates which may prevent the use of Windows movie Maker and Photostory 3. Today we are also hoping to install the eGranary unit along with a laptop. We also brought with us wireless remotes for some of the desktops so that they can be connected to the eGranary as well.

We thought we would have a house to ourselves here in Mbita, but that did not work out, so the six of us are staying with a couple in the community who are very involved in education at the national level. Jane and Daniel have been rich sources of information about the culture and Kenyan education system. Their generous hospitality has been overwhelming to these wuzungu (white folks).

The pace in Kenya is much slower and, in some ways, a welcome relief to my own hectic North American lifestyle.

Tomorrow we head off to Mfangando Island in Lake Victoria to visit 3 very remote schools.

We are tired teachers who are working late every night on our upcoming workshop sessions and rising every morning and out the door for many visits with teachers and students.

Thanks for your continuing support and encouragement. We would love to hear from you if you are following our travels….

My experiences this year have given me new insights into how Kenya’s journey of Information and Communications Technologies will be considerably different from ours in Canada. I have much to think about as we plan our workshops for next week.

Chronicling Africa: Week 2 in Review

Week 2 in Review

This past week was particularly intense and busy. On Monday, we spent the day at a local private/boarding school which was hosting an ICT bootcamp for principals of one of the townships. The sessions were run by Edunova, our partners, over the two-day bootcamp period. We were asked to provide a session about sustainability of an ICT implementation plan over the long-term. On Tuesday, we began our four days of sessions for ICT facilitators of Khanya and Edunova (a Western Cape province-wide event). These are the facilitators that are assigned multiple schools and provide the ICT training and support for the educators in the schools of the townships. With about 60 or so facilitators present, each with a minimum of four schools, some with 35 schools (!) for whom they are responsible, we were potentially reaching a huge number of teachers. Many facilitators traveled from large distances in order to attend this event.

Throughout the week, we experienced no end of technical difficulties – Internet connections that would inexplicably slow down or die altogether, mysterious power outages, server errors, browsers and java that had not been updated enough to support the web-based tools, and so on. I experienced more tech difficulties this past week than possibly in my lifetime! The frustrating thing was knowing that the hardware itself was certainly robust to support what we were asking, but that it was mostly human error that was responsible in some way (by not updating or by putting too many barriers into a system to provide easy workarounds!).

The TWBC team managed to pull off a world-class set of sessions in these conditions nonetheless – with dignity and grace! Whenever we encountered a technical difficulty (at times merely within minutes of each other), we carried on without batting an eyelash and would either move on to something else or persevere in the existing conditions. One was left with the feeling that these kinds of tech difficulties were part of the everyday fabric of life in this part of the world.

Here is a breakdown of the schedule of sessions we offered:

Tues. AM – 2.5 hours of Emerging Technologies- newest and cutting edge stuff for classrooms (within scope of possibilities) – Made more challenging by computer lab constraints and power outages.

Tues. PM – Social Networking for Continuing Professional Development and classroom learning and Professional Learning Networks – how to create self-driven CPD through online resources and establishing contact with global educators. We set up a ning for the ICT facilitators to use for collaboration and sharing of resources. They loved it! Very positive feedback.

Wednes. AM – Building ICT Vision – Whole-school planning; Building an ICT plan with partnership from various community stakeholders (very well received)

Wednes PM – Modeling ICT  integration – solid models/ideas/lesson plans of seamless integration of ICT tools and environments and where to find more (The facilitators marveled at how difficult it was to create lesson and unit plans and think through how to naturally embed ICT tools to support this – many examples were created by them that they could carry away with them to share with their teachers).

Thursday AM – Presentation of Google Apps for Education – Where Sharon discovers that IE6 does not support google docs (!!). Lots of technical difficulties, but we persevered and wowed the facilitators with the possibilities of google docs and other google apps.

Thursday PM – Practical considerations of using ICT with students — Classroom Management in the Computer Lab, basic troubleshooting, and contingency planning. We also offered a session on how laptops for teachers can be used practically in the classroom (1 laptop) to support learning

Friday AM – Choice of a session about SmartBoards (and the Wiimote Board) or training in Moodle

Throughout the week, we took advantage of the ning environment and asked the facilitators to respond to questions in the discussion forums and to blog their reflections on their learning. Very powerful!

Some of the resources we shared in the ning:

Edublogs worth reading:

e4africa
School 2.0 in SA (Maggie Verster)
Zac’s blog
Sharon’s blog
Practical Theory (Chris Lehmann)
Open Thinking (Alec Couros)
Angela Maiers blog

Educational blogging platforms (free!)

21Classes
Edublogs
Class blogmeister

Open Source Blog software (to be put on a server or school server)

WordPress
Buddy Press

Visualizing Tools

Mindmeister (concept mapping)
Wordle
Gap Minder
ManyEyes

Educational Webcasting

Edtech Talk

Ning Communities

Classroom20
Interactive Whiteboard Revolution
Global Collaborative Ning
Smartboard

Open Source Software Alternatives

Of course, all of this makes it sound as if the organization of the week-long event was flawless and well-managed. Not so. I have discovered that three cross-cultural organizations attempting to work in partnership can be fraught with many difficulties. Communication breakdowns, confusion about leadership and ownership, heavy-handed decision-making…. all of these issues were very much apparent throughout the week. Honestly, there were moments when I just wanted to give up on the notion of philanthropic organizations working in developing nations. I have learned the hard way that there will be those who will not appreciate the sacrifices made by TWBC team members and will ask for more, more, more. A certain part of me has had to become hard-edged. Learning who and when to trust has become an issue that I have had to wrestle with quite a lot in the past week. Some of my core beliefs about aid in a developing nation have been challenged – some even shattered. It is difficult to balance these struggles with a reminder of the successes of the past two weeks and the overall goals of our organization – to work shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers in challenging situations for the goal of mutual empowerment.

Four more weeks to go….

Chronicling Africa: Week One (TWB-C 09)


After months of workshop preparation, logistical arrangements and no shortage of communication mixups with our partnering organizations, we completed our first week of workshops for teachers in the Cape Town township area of Philippi. The teachers were an enthusiastic crowd representing half a dozen or more of the local primary and high schools in the area. They were invited to the workshops through the Edunova facilitators who work with them in their schools. By mid-week the teachers expressed a desire to spend more time working with the software or interactive whiteboards, so we adjusted our schedule to suit their wishes.

One of the goals of TWB-C is to demonstrate the importance of networked and collaborative professional development that goes beyond one’s own school walls. To facilitate this ability for this group of teachers, we created a ning – ICT Champs – where the teachers may go online to share, post, collaborate and find resources that address their needs as a South African teacher. The teachers were excited to discover such a potentially empowering tool.

By the end of the week, many teachers were able to create their first detailed Word doc, PowerPoint, forum response and blog post as well as touch and manipulate the interactive white board and video camera. They were also asked to create a lesson and unit that would use an ICT tool or approach. And of course, they now have their own online space to continue the relationships and conversations.

Throughout the week my own sets of beliefs about educational technology were challenged again and again. As much as I knew about the South African culture, I questioned time and again our approaches and delivery. One short week of handling technology tools and software is hardly enough to transform an educator’s practice and paradigm of teaching and learning (with ICT as a support to learning). Addressing the difficulties of the South African system is not within our power or scope. These teachers are frustrated chiefly by lack of access due to economic barriers brought on by larger issues. Theft of computers and computer lab equipment is rampant.

A few of our workshops did present the need to address barriers and work together as a community to overcome them. It was pointed out to them that the power to change and be pro-active rather than reactive had to come from within themselves – and through active partnerships with organizations such as Edunova and Khanya who exist to support the needs of educators to use ICT.

However, many of my own questions arise from what I would call philosophical questions about when and how to introduce ICT practices in cultures of developing nations. Where is the balance to be struck between ICT pedagogy and handling the tools (software, hardware)? When does it become information overload? What emerging technologies should be brought to their attention? What technology tools are already being used in the culture that could be exploited for educational uses (i.e. mobile technologies). What homegrown best practices exist to show them as exemplars?

Tomorrow, we are guests at a Principals’ ICT Bootcamp where we will make a presentation about ICT Leadership and School Vision. Beginning Tuesday, we are offering workshops for the ICT facilitators of Edunova and Khanya for the rest of the week. These are the people who will continue to work with the teachers in the schools, so their professional development and growth are important to the sustainability of ICT support. Well over 100 such facilitators are expected to cycle through our workshops – each representing at least one or more school where they work. Potentially many teachers will affected by these workshops. Because they are ICT facilitators, I have fewer reservations about demanding a good deal of understanding and growth!

I want to thank all of you who have expressed their support for us in the last few weeks – my friends at NECC, my colleagues in Montreal, and many of you through twitter, Facebook, plurk and email. It keeps me going in those down times. Please keep it up!

Chronicling Africa: Day 3 – Workshop Day 2 in Liwa Primary School, Philippi

The weather is continuing to hold up here in Cape Town and my team members are starting to doubt the credibility of my stories of cold CT winter days from last year.  About eight or so  Edunova facilitators are shadowing our workshops and providing mentoring support when we are in the computer labs. These facilitators work in the schools and know many of the educators who are here this week in the workshops. They were surprised yesterday at the number of educators who have actually accepted the invitation for the workshops during the holidays and more astounded today when even more educators turned up. I gather a few phone calls went out last night from the participants. One facilitator pointed out to me that it was frustrating that “imported guest educators” were somehow considered more credible than local resources, but I assured him that this was a universal phenomenon and we experienced the same back in our own home contexts!

Today we discussed the “homework” from last night, a reading of Terry Freedman’s Thirteen Reasons blog post (printed out), then we showcased a few ICT student projects and products that we had brought along with us. Later we observed that we should have spent some time deconstructing the projects as a large group first, rather than dividing the participants into small groups and asking them to note the potential positive and negative qualities of the project. Unfortunately, many of them seemed to focus on the content produced rather than the processes of the students.

Later we spent a good deal of time in the computer lab discussing and practicing information literacy and Internet search skills. Last week, while I was at NECC in Washington DC, I had chatted with google guy Daniel Russell and he had passed along to me a copy of a “Google Cheat Sheet” which we printed out for our workshop participants.

We also had a session outside of the computer lab (roughly half of our workshops are not in the computer lab due to practical as well as pedagogical considerations) where we discussed implementation of ICT at the macro and micro level of the school system.

To wrap up our day, we examined the pedagogical uses of a presentation software such as PowerPoint and looked at a few examples of particularly effective presentations.

If it sounds as if it were an exhausting day – yes, it was! We returned to our residence in the evening after the sun had set and some of us (including me) had to crash for a while.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) we will discuss backward design of unit plans and how ICT fits in to support teaching units. We are hoping that by the end of the week the educators can each produce at least one solid unit plan integrating ICT into their teaching practices.

Chronicling Africa: Part 2 – First Day of Workshops

“Live-blogging” in Townships Workshops – Day 1

No, not really! :-)

Noble is beginning our workshops by sending SMS messages through skype to the mobile phones of the workshop sessions as a kickoff to the week of workshops.

Today, we start low-tech for our first session by using sticky notes to first identify why we are here, what learning gaps exist in the system, how ICT can be used promote learning, and what barriers exist to using ICT in the system. We are hoping to kick off some lively group discussions as we share our impressions and experiences.

The first session went well and we collected the ideas in order to build a wordle which we will later show them at the end of the day.

Zac Chase was a terrific host and leader of the first session using humour and anecdotes effectively as we warmed up to the educators who were with us.

The next session will have the participants divided into two groups, One group will be in the computer lab and asked to take a technology skills audit (a survey on an excel spreadsheet). They are also given a 2 GB flash drive (generously donated by P from ISTE’s NECC last week!) where we have placed OSS formatted by LiberKey.

We go through basic file management skills with the educators as we model how to use a computer lab effectively

The other group is examining the shift in pedagogy from traditional to digital practices for using ICT and discussing how this fits in to their current practices.

In the afternoon, we broke into two groups and used a second venue with a computer lab so all the participants could have hands-on access to computers. First we had educators create a table using Word (a new skill for most of them) so that they could use it to create a lesson plan. Then we showed them how to create a gmail account – which failed mostly because gmail refused to permit so many new accounts from teh same IP address.

Now tonight, a LONG planning meeting for more to come tomorrow. Boy, will I be tired tomorrow as I attempt to lead two workshops about information literacy, Internet search skills and how to use PowerPoint effectively for teaching and learning.

Chronicling Africa Part 1: Education Beyond Borders 2009

Cape Town Sunset - Our first night in CT

Cape Town Sunset - Our first night in CT

I have been on the road now for nearly a week now after finishing a crazy academic year of much travel and one of the best teaching years I can remember. The last few weeks have been a flurry of submitting reports, packing for a conference in DC and Africa, saying goodbye to staff and students at one school and meetings and introductions to a new school. When I return from Africa in late August, I will officially begin my new job of directing the technology program and direction at Hebrew Academy in Montreal.

Two days ago, I boarded a plane with four other teacher team members of Teachers Without Borders (Canada) in New York City and after many hours of travel and interesting incidents, we arrived yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa. For Jody Meacher (Quebec), Zac Chase (Philadelphia), John Schinker (Ohio) and Ian Vaithailingam (Toronto), this will be their first visit to Africa. This will be my second year in Africa and even with such limited experience, I will do my best to be a team leader along with Noble Kelly (TWB-C president, Vancouver).

It is now early morning and I am the first of the team to rise, offering me a rare opportunity to finally sit back and reflect on the last year and what is ahead in the next few weeks. The National Education Computing Conference in Washington D.C. had left me exhausted (not surprising!), but I am feeling my energy return. Many thanks to those of you whom I met at NECC! I learned a lot from our conversations! However, it is now time to turn my focus on our tasks in Africa.

After a bit of relaxing last night, we hit the ground running today. We will first visit the primary school in Gugulethu Township where we will be offering workshops this week to about 50 teachers. We will sort out the computer lab connections and print out our materials for the week while we check out the venue. For our new team members, it will be their first experience of the stark realities of Township culture and setting. Later this afternoon, we will have a guided tour of Langa Township – the first Township created during the era of apartheid. I vividly recall our tour last year; this will give our team members an excellent opportunity to be exposed to the history and issues of Township living. I expect it will be an exhausting day for them.

Ian and Zac with a new friend in Langa Township

Ian and Zac with a new friend in Langa Township

We are working with facilitators from Edunova, a non-profit organization that provides ICT training and hardware to schools in the Townships. We are also partnering with Khanya, the ICT arm of the ministry of education in Western Cape. Both organizations have offered phenomenal support in logistics and provision of long-term sustainability and capacity-building. I am very much looking forward to our reunion with some of the facilitators whom we met and worked with last year. They impressed me very much and I have thought of them often in the last year.

John Schinker with young new friend in Langa Township

John Schinker with young new friend in Langa Township

Between Monday and Friday, we will offer ICT integration workshops to teachers who are relatively new to using technology to support learning. Many do not have email accounts, so we expect they will be very new to using computers. Internet connectivity in this part of the world is not entirely reliable and can be quite expensive. Our workshops offer a blend of technical procedures (file management and navigation) and pedagogical theory and practices of integrating ICT into education. We will try to offer primary and secondary/ subject-specific approaches as well as general topics – quite a challenge!

Hopefully throughout the next few weeks, I will be able chronicle our experiences and offer glimpses of the some of the very special teachers and situations we encounter along the way. Stay tuned!

Award-Winning Darfur Video Project: How to turn a teenager into a global citizen

Six years and many global projects later has brought quite a few special people and learning opportunities my way and for that I have been blessed and very grateful. The Darfur Video Project, supported by Take2 Videos for Students, was extra special.

Imagine what happens when a National Geographic photojournalist embeds herself in areas of global conflict for weeks at a time in order to provide high definition video footage to North American students so that they can create their own products. Karin Muller has made this commitment and has now produced two sets of footage and supporting materials from Chad/Sudan and Cuba. She has also made herself available to skype and email the participants of the project.

Imagine managing a group of exceptionally dedicated and engaged students who push themselves to producing the very best documentary for an audience of peers. These students sifted through nearly 38 hours of footage to select themes and topics which examine issues such access to health care and education as well as issues relating to the environment and gender discrimination in the refugee camps of Darfur and Chad. Their documentaries effectively blend image, text, music and even humour to depict the stories of the people in these difficult circumstances.

Imagine that an online social networking site has been created to support the students through collaboration, communication and showcasing their work. Students can upload podcasts of news events of the areas of global conflict, critique “rough cuts” of each other’s work and share reflections and resources.

Put all these ingredients together and you have the first place award-winning (ISTE’s SigTEL Online Learning) Darfur Video Project. With great pleasure, I traveled to Washington DC to accept the award on behalf of all those who made this such a terrific and noteworthy project. My students told me that their involvement in this project made a significant impact on their appreciation and understanding of the issues surrounding Darfur. Some of their reflections of what they learned along the way actually made me cry!

The project was displayed at last week’s National Educational Computing Conference in Washington DC; many teachers expressed interest in participation in next year’s project. The footage and materials from Cuba will be made available in late August. If you are interested, please contact Karin Muller and Take2 Student Videos. She is a very special lady with great vision and passion for her work!

The videos of the students speak for themselves:

Ada Lovelace and celebrating women in technology

Today has been designated Ada Lovelace Day – an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. I thank Cindy Seibel for drawing my attention to this important event a few months ago!

I knew immediately I wanted to blog about the accomplishments of Susan Einhorn, whom I have met only recently, but who has become a woman I admire deeply because of her lifelong commitment to enhancing learning through the use of technology. For me, it was a jolt to meet her because she had been living here in Montreal under my nose while I had been using web 2 tools to network for so long with those who lived beyond my own city and province. Sometimes you can get the feeling that you are the only one in your community using emerging technologies and who cares passionately about innovation in educational technology.

Many of you are aware I began teaching at a new school in September. Imagine my surprise to meet Susan (you will see her bio below) as one of the parents of not only my student, her daughter,  but also my advisee! We met for coffee shortly after our initial meeting and later went off to experience Educon ’09 together in Philadelphia!

I asked Susan to provide a bio of her education and experience:

I’ve been involved in educational technology for over twenty-five years and, since 2007, I’ve been the Executive Director of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation (AALF). AALF is an international non-profit organization focused on ensuring that all children have access to unlimited opportunities to learn anytime and anywhere and that they have the tools that make this possible. To achieve this, AALF helps schools develop visionary leadership and knowledgeable, innovative educators. AALF provides educators with news, resources, and research on 1-to-1 laptop learning and runs a variety of programs for school leadership, including summits, institutes, and academies focused on learning in technology-rich and 1-to-1 laptop environments. In my role, I do whatever needs to get done – from editing newsletters to speaking at conferences, from handling event logistics to building an online community website- in order to support schools as they not only implement 1-to-1 programs, which ensure equitable access to technology for all students, but also as they begin to re-imagine what learning is in a technology-rich culture and the role of schools in this learning process.

Prior to joining AALF, I worked at Logo Computer Systems Inc (LCSI), the company that designs and develops Logo-based constructivist software. I was introduced to the Logo computer language while studying for a Masters degree in Educational Technology at Concordia University in Montreal, QC. There, I read the book Mindstorms by educational technology pioneer Seymour Papert. I was completely enthralled by both Dr. Papert’s ideas about learning and by how empowering it was to create my own program in Logo on the computer. Although this wasn’t my first introduction to programming – I had taken a course in Fortran at the University of Michigan in 1968 while studying for my B.A. (Psychology) – Logo was far more accessible. More than a language, Logo embodies a pedagogical belief that people (male/female, child/adult) learned best when actively engaged in creating personally meaningful projects and technology – personal computers – provided opportunities to create at previously unimaginable levels.

In 1984, I joined LCSI, Dr. Papert’s company. Although rather unqualified for the available job – Quality Assurance programmer – my interest in Logo convinced management to hire me. After a year, I became a member of the Product Design team and an author/editor, developing project-based learning materials for students and teachers for products such as the award-winning LogoWriter, LEGO/Logo and MicroWorlds, and culturalized into more than 15 languages for use around the world. During my 23 years at LCSI, I held a number of positions before becoming President of the company in 2005. During these years, I had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Papert and other leading members of the MIT Logo-community to continue to develop new Logo-based educational initiatives and products. In the many projects we observed, we noted that girls as much as boys were actively involved in being programmers and problem-solvers, immersing themselves in the mathematical thinking that programming and debugging require.

The most striking part of all this work has been my ongoing need to always be learning – whether about new technologies (from Fortran to Facebook), how people learn, systemic change, or the three “C’s” – collaboration, communication, community-building.

It is women like Susan who have been trailblazers in the area of educational technology in the last 20 years – years where it has been difficult to find women in such positions of leadership.

Thank you, Susan, for dedicating your career to promoting excellence in innovative education. You have provided a model for those of us who are only just starting – we benefit from your wisdom and experience!