Friday, 11 January 2008

New Year - LearnByDoing 2008

This New Year blog was written (but not published) at the start of the year - just before the turmoil in Kenya. We have friends there - for more information about them see Cawdnet NL 44 - Kenya Special Edition

chat room mentioned below has been a focus for exchanging news and arranging practical help. The LearnByDoing session on 31st January will now be "Communicating with Kenya". It will look at how Mincui Sodas (an online community) was able to respond to the turmoil in Kenya.

New Year - LearnByDoing 2008
It's the new year - so I have been having a quick look through the 2007 entries to the blog before deciding its direction for 2008. Lorraine Duff and I started the blog last July as one of our LearnByDoing experiments.

I see that we got two comments - which I did not know about at the time. I think Lorraine has investigated blog settings since then so we will know in future if anyone sends a comment - please do - and belated thanks to Andrius and Elfneh for sending their comments.

Who does what
Usually I am the one who generates the words for our blog (often, I confess, in longhand) and the tidy version owes much to Lorraine's intervention. The focus up to now has been fairly narrow, emphasising e-meetings, as you can see from previous entries. This year I think we will take a wider view and include other LearnByDoing activities. The thread connecting them will simply be that Lorraine and I are involved in them all.

Our projects
Lorraine and I have been working together on various unfunded ICT4Ed&D projects for several years. We have only met face-to-face once, so over the years we have explored various strategies for collaborating at a distance. As we don't come under the umbrella of any organisation there has never been any formal training or any IT department to guide us. This means that everything we do is a LearnByDoing experiment (with miscellaneous "help from our friends"). Our links with grassroots projects in Africa came about through personal friendships - and the friendships and subsequent collaborations have relied heavily on communication at a distance. As a result, in our small way, we have developed an unusual expertise related to the realities of ICT4Ed&D (Information and Communication Technologies for Education and Development).

Blogging 2008
At this point I am tempted to try and explain more about what we have been trying to learn and why, but that would take too long. Suffice to say that it all relates to ICT4Ed&D. Anyhow, it is the New Year - time for a fresh start not for looking back. A blog is a blog. It is a diary that other people are free to read and diaries relate to the here and now. (If anyone reads this and wants an explanation of something there is always the comments box.)

Welcome to the WorkNets chat room
So, what next? Thursday January 3rd is the first Thursday of the month. We meet in the WorkNets chat room. Various newcomers would be more likely to turn up if I sent them a reminder. I need an effective system for doing that - I don't know what it should be.

Trainerspod sessions
Thursday January 31st is the new date for our next LearnByDoing (LBD) online session with Trainerspod (previously planned for the third Thursday of the month).

Guest Speaker - John Dada of Fantsuam Foundation
John Dada, director of Fantsuam Foundation (FF) is going to be the guest speaker in January.
(NB -This session now postponed until later in the year to enable January session on "Communicating with Kenya")

Developments at Fantsuam
John will be describing the latest technical developments at Fantsuam. Previously there was a VSAT which served the FF compound - mainly for Cisco training, and also for office use related to FF (including its micro-credit bank), and for a small cyber cafe. That was amazing enough for a rural location in Nigeria - but last time I visited things had moved even further on. Where previously there were turkeys, chickens and goats I saw a tall mast and a beautiful new building (made of compressed earth bricks) to house the server room and other facilities. All this enables ten other sites to access the Internet (three of which will be cyber cafes, if I remember correctly, and other sites include clinics and a hotel). The FF cyber cafe has closed and become another office.

Interests of participants
John will be telling us all about it - with either a technical or social emphasis depending on the interests of people who register for the LBD session. I hope that as John shares the details of FF's pioneering work it will be an eye-opening reality check for people who are interested in ICT4Ed&D, especially those whose experiences are limited to "bandwidth rich" environments. Thanks to Trainerspod we have the facilities of Elluminate so we can show web pages, power point slides, photos and so on - and participants can interact with John using microphones, via typed chat, or in various other on-screen ways. As we learn to make the most of these opportunities the LBD sessions should come ever closer to the value of face-to-face meetings.

I hope to gradually develop the best format for these sessions. I want plenty of participation and exchange of information - but with a clear and well informed focus. My potential guest speakers are practitioners with masses of information to share. They are busy people - and so I want them to be able to participate easily. Last year I tried something which was a bit like a meeting with an agenda and chairman - this year I'm going to try something a bit more like a TV chat show and phone in. Gradually, as we LearnByDoing we will evolve the best way to e-meet through Trainerspod.

Sharing knowledge
We have great people in our network with a tremendous wealth of practical experience. Some of them have already agreed to follow John as guest speakers. Over the coming year I hope to see LBD sessions making positive contributions to sharing knowledge and closing the gap between people who are bandwidth rich and people who are bandwidth challenged. We have a lot of challenges to overcome. 2008 promises to be a rich learning experience.

(written by Pam - published by Lorraine)

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