Today we celebrated the fourth anniversary of Teachers Talking (TT)/the Dadamac Learning Group.
We need to change the name of this celebration to reflect how TT has grown and developed since its early days. When John Dada and I planned the first course at Fantsuam Foundation (FF) in 2004 it was for teachers only, and the yahoo group that I set up to support it was called CawdnetTeachersTalking. Cawdnet is not active any more in its old form. John and I collaborate under the name of Dadamac and I am involved with other FF learning groups, not just teachers. We also connect with teachers/learners in other locations, face-to-face and through the Internet. All these people belong naturally in this annual online celebration. It is not limited to people with direct involvement with TT in Nigeria and in Kenya. TT has given birth to a much more inclusive online learning group than that. Next year we will probably call it the Dadamac Learning Group celebration – not just TT.
Online venues – chat room and Skype
This year our online celebration was held in the Minciu Sodas (MS) worknet chatroom. Previous TT celebrations have been through yahoo. However the chatroom has certain benefits. It is a very welcoming virtual place and I often use it to introduce people to the Internet and online groups. It is also a familiar venue for people in the Learning From Each Other (LFEO) yahoo group that I lead (which is part of Minciu Sodas). Another innovation for this TT celebration was a video link between Fantsuam Foundation and UK, using Skype.
Wondering who might be at Fantsuam Foundation
The main physical location for the celebration was the main compound of Fantsuam Foundation (FF). It is not easy for people to get there on a Saturday. There are always family events, wedding and funerals, on Saturdays. There are other FF activities, like the Children's Computer Club, which demand the attention of some of our group. The staff and volunteers connected with FF are busy through the week. I was aware that the time they get to the weekend they may feel they have seen more than enough of the FF computers!
As for the teachers who have participated in TT back in the early day - well most of them had to travel to Fantsuam to participate, and so there are issues of time and cost and problems of letting them know. The first year we sent written invitations to all the participants. It took a volunteer two days of driving around on a motorcycle to deliver the invitations. There is no reliable postal service – and of course no Internet connection except through Fantsuam Foundation. This year it was more informal, just by word of mouth.
I knew that Mercy and Bala would try to be there and that Kelechi could not..... who else would be at FF to mark our fourth anniversary?
Mercy's Learning Journey Video
I had challenged Mercy Isaac and Kelechi Michaels to prepare a short video clip about a learning journey in readiness for the anniversary celebration. Mercy and Kelechi are leading the Dadamac learners at the FF KRC. Learning Journeys are an important idea amongst Dadamac Self Directed Learners. We have told our Learning Journeys face-to-face but I have also suggested that we should tell the stories of our Learning Journeys by (very short) video. Then we can all learn more about each other, think how we can help each other, and also develop our video skills.
I wanted Mercy and Kelechi to have one ready to share at Fantsuam so others would be encouraged to do their own. They sent Mercy's Learning Journey to me yesterday and Nikki and I enjoyed it together before going to the chat room. I hope it will be shown at Fantsuam too, but I don't know if they had time today. I am encouraging Mercy to post it on YouTube or give me permission to upload it here.
In the chat room
First to arrive in the chat rooom were Nikki and me from the UK, quickly followed by John Dada, director of Fantsuam Foundation (FF). He told us that Nicholas, Monday, Bala, Afiniki, and Cicely were also there with him at the FF Knowledge Resource Centre, and sure enough, gradually their names appeared in the chat room.
It was not just people from FF arriving. Kims (from LFEO/MS) arrived too – from Dar in Tanzania.
Then more people from FF - Patience, Sankwai, Comfort, Yakubu, Success, Kani and Mercy. Most of the FF people joining the celebrations are already connected with Dadamac Self Directed Learners in one way or another, but outsiders were welcome too.
I had not met Success before. She had travelled to Fantsuam Foundation from Ekiti to help with preparations for the launch of the Children's Parliament at Fantsuam next week.
Kani is the charismatic children's drama teacher for Fantsuam Foundation. I admire his work. In fact last September as I was crossing the compound, while he was leading some songs-and-movement warm-up activities, I couldn't resist becoming an unofficial “back row” and joining in.
I knew that Fola was looking forward to joining us in the chatroom from a cyber cafe in Ibadan in South West Nigeria, but he didn't arrive. I hope it was just the usual problems with NEPA and nothing more serious. Fola connects with Teachers Talking through my work with Oke-Ogun Community Development Network and the Information Centre in Ago-Are, and is a member of LFEO. He also joined us at FF for the course I ran in September this year. He teaches in a village in the bush and has to travel out of the bush before he can even make a phone call. Sometimes he used his phone to connect with the Internet. His full introduction deserves a separate blog entry.
David Mutua had sent apologies and greetings from Kenya. He needs a separate blog entry too. We have worked together in Ago-Are, at Fantsuam Foundation, and on Teachers Talking in Kenya.
Krishna Alluri of COL (Commonwealth of Learning) based in Canada, and connected with us through Ago-Are and TT Kenya had also sent greetings. (See his comment after the TT final post about TT arrangements.)
More people arrived in the chat room via FF Knowledge Resource Centre (KRC) - Solomon, Lilian from Praise Divine, and Mr Shinggu.
The skype video link
We had all been chattering away through our keyboards – old friends catching up and new introductions being made - but we had not put faces to names so we turned on the Skype video link between UK and Fantsuam. It was odd to be so near and yet so far from the KRC and all those familiar friendly faces. The sound quality was poor, and the video was clunky, and we lost the connection twice, but the faces were recognisable. It even so it was a real high-spot of the day. People who had worked with Nikki during the GIMP photo-editing course or our weekly Dadamac UK-Nigeria team meetings saw her for the first time. I was sitting by Nikki, pointing at the screen to tell her who was who. We smiled and waved and tried to call to each other by voice (at the same time typing to say we could not hear). Some people were considering logging out of the chat room, to leave more bandwidth for a third attempt at video, but then more people began to arrive in the chat room, so we all wanted to chat there again.
Back in the chat room the new arrivals were Fred (LFEO/MS) from Kampala, Uganda, Marcus (Eco-shelter) from the UK, Dan Otedo (LFEO/MS) from Kenya, Jude and Theophilus from Fantsuam, and Sasha (LFEO/MS) from Serbia. The conversations we had are in the chat room archives.
Some of us decided our geography was a bit shaky and Marcus sent us the link to Google maps.
Bye for now
People had to start leaving.
Nikki and I had thoroughly enjoyed it here in the UK. We hope a good time was had by all. Feedback from Mercy later in the day said “Being in the Chat room today has been so exciting. Those that were absent wished they had come because the stories reached out to them. I took some photos and I'll get them posted to you one of these days.”