Saturday, 29 November 2008
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.”
Thursday, 27 November 2008
This year we are widening the invitation list – so if you have any interest in what we have been doing with TT and other Dadamac learning programmes at Fantsuam, and would like to meet some of the people involved, do come and join us. You are welcome even if you have never participated in one of our programmes. It is an informal get-together – just like an ordinary face-to-face celebration. There is no formal agenda – we just want to enjoy being together. If you are new to the chat room, don't worry, I will put joining instructions at the end of this post.
The chat room session is part of a longer celebration at Fantsuam, including refreshments and various other off-line activities. Part of the plan is to chat online and part is to have a video link, between UK and Fantsuam, so we can smile and wave at each other. We cannot do a video link in the chat room. The best we can try this time is to just set up a link between two webcams (between Fantsuam and UK) using skype. Perhaps by next year we will have something with video that can involve everyone.
We will spend most of our online time in the chat room. The people at Fantsuam who are organising the celebration are accustomed to using skype for conferencing, but are not used to entering the chat room. If they have not already seen the instructions here I will meet them on skype, and bring them over to the chat room. (Later I will use the skype link with them for the video).
We will have a good group. We expect the Fantsuam people. Fola plans to join us in the chat room from Ibadan. Rose is hoping to join us from Kenya. There will be two or three of us from the UK. There are others I am not sure about. David Mutua, organiser of TT Kenya sends his apologies and greetings (he has a meeting and is also in the count-down to his wedding – greetings to David and his bride-to-be). Thanks to Andrius for letting us use the chat room. Andrius is busy in Bosnia, putting in time on the day job, and wrote “of course, please do use our chat room http://www.worknets.org/chat/ I will be grading midterms so I probably won't be there, but I'm excited for our work together...”
I need to leave soon after the hour is up (well before one and a half hours is up) because I have to go and earn some money teaching. But of course you can continue in the chat room for as long as you like. I am excited about the celebration and the people who will be there. If you want to join us, you are very welcome.
Using the chat room
- Go to http://www.worknets.org/chat/
- Look for “Choose your language:” It is probably set for English (which is what you will need to choose on Saturday).
- Click on Next.
- Type your name in the box and click on “Start the chat”.
- You will find yourself in the chat room.
- It will “whisper” a welcome greeting to you (whispers are just seen by one person - they are not visible to everyone in the chat room),
- If you want to know what people were saying before you came into the chat room click on the chat archive link. You will see it on the right hand side of the chat screen.
- If you prefer you can check what is going on before you go into the chat room by going ot http://www.worknets.org/archive/ but you will not be able to write any chat of your own until you do go into the chat room properly
- When you leave the chat it is best to do it officially, by clicking the “leave” link on the left had side of the screen. This lets the computer, and everyone in the chat room, know you are not in the chat any more.
- Sometimes there is a problem - perhaps you have a bad connection, or power cut. On a bad day it is possible you have to sign in again and again to rejoin the chat. The computer will not let you re-use your name if it seems that someone with that name is already in the room. I just add a number to my name if it happens to me (Pam, Pam1, Pam2... )
I look forward to meeting whoever chooses to come, friends old and new, at the TT celebration on Saturday.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Fantsuam Foundation is located in Bayan Loco, Kafanchan. The main language spoken there is Hausa, but the really local language is Fantsuam. (I have been told that Kafanchan is the Hausa name for the town of Fantsuam.) I would like to give a flavour of Fantsuam Foundation and its location. Fortunately help is at hand through YouTube and some blogs:
- Introduction to the work of Fantsuam Foundation on YouTube introduced by John Dada, director of Fantsuam Foundation - See the five minute video
- VSO volunteer Cecily blogs on her early impressions of working at Fantsuam
- For some of the problems scroll down this blog to the File Print heading
- Cecily's latest blog entry
- Archive of all Cecily's blogs
"A Ray of Hope" started as a choir . By the time I first met Don (online, in 2003) “A Ray of Hope” had grown enormously. It has many friends – both individuals and organisations. However, despite its many friends “A Ray of Hope” did not have any contacts in Nigeria then, so Don asked me to provide that link.
Don said that my first task would be to organise a children's art competition on the theme of peace. He wanted to see if I really did have good contacts with schools, and he genuinely wanted the pictures. “A Ray of Hope” has a wonderful collection of pictures from children across the world. To help the children decide what to put in their pictures they are encouraged to think of peace as the opposite of conflict – a peaceful happy life. The pictures provide a wonderful insight into the lives of children. Some of the pictures have been framed to hang on the board-room walls of organisations that support “A Ray of Hope”.
My contacts in Nigeria organised the art competition in advance of my visit. In fact they organised art competitions at four different locations – Kafanchan in North Central Nigeria, and Okeho, Isseyin and Ago-Are, all in Oyo State in the South West. I simply took the trophies, medals, certificates educational posters that “A Ray of Hope” had provided and helped with some final judging and prize-giving.
British Airways is a friend of “A Ray of Hope” and as a result Don was able to give me free tickets for my trip to Nigeria for the art competition. He told me that as long as I did the art competition I could do anything else that I wanted during the trip, in fact I could do one of my usual “working holidays”. This meant I could run another Teachers Talking course for John Dada at Fantsuam, without needing to find the air fare. Wonderful!
When I came back I was delighted to find that Don was impressed by the work people had done in Nigeria with the art competitions. He was also very positive about the normal “working holiday” work that I had done. In fact he has given me additional tickets since. He has phoned me up and asked if I would like to go to Nigeria again. When I have said “Yes please, what do you want me to do?” his answer has been to simply ask me what I would do when I am there. He must like what he hears for each time he has told me to put it in writing, and I have been given the ticket. As a result I have been able to repeat my “working holidays” with John and the teachers, trainers and children at Kafanchan more frequently that would otherwise have been the case.
Thank you “A Ray of Hope” and British Airways.
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
We may have some ginger farmers at the Teachers Talking Anniversary celebration. This was mentioned during the Dadamac UK-Nigeria weekly meeting on November 19th 2008. When we were discussing likely participants I was told that “Reverend Gizo is attending, plus some ginger farmers.” I am delighted at the possibility, because I think I know how it has come about that Rev Gizo is bringing ginger farmers.
Reverend Gizo has participated in several of the Teacher Talking (TT) courses that I have presented at Fantsuam Foundation. (The first course was in 2004.) There are three elements to a TT course, and as far as the ginger farmers' story goes, the important element is TT-Online.
TT-online introduces TT participants to “my world” - the world of the Internet and communities of interest. We don't spend a lot of time on the technicalities, because in general TT participants are unlikely to see a computer again for a long while once the course is over. In fact the way that TT participants relate to my world of the Internet is similar to the way I relate to their world in rural Fantsuam.
The TT participants know that when I am travel to Fantsuam I need help. When I arrive at Abuja airport I look for John, or one of his people, who I know will welcome and guide me. Compared to when I am in my own country I am like a helpless child. I rely on my friends to bridge the gap between me and local ways of doing things.
It is the same when TT participants come to the Internet. They are “in an unfamiliar place”. For this reason I arrange that, when they first visit the Internet, plenty of help is at hand. We have two kinds of help. We have a “rescue squad” in the computer room to help them recover when they press a wrong key. And we have another kind of help ready “on the other side of the screen”. We go to a chat room or similar where people I know are “on the other side of the screen” to welcome and guide the TT participants – rather like I am welcomed and guided on arrival at the airport. A key idea of TT-online is that the Internet “is a place where you link up with Pam’s friends far away from Fantsuam, who will help you to learn things.”
Although most TT participants live far from any Internet connection that does not stop them sending messages through other people. One year, several months after I had come back to the UK after a TT course, I received a message from one of the TT participants, Veronica. Veronica had sent a message to Florence, who was working at Fantsuam Foundation. (Florence had been the TT course co-ordinator during the course that Veronica and Rev Gizo had attended.)Florence passed the message on to me. (The photo shows Florence and Pam preparing for another element of TT - the "no computer computer course".)
The message told me that Veronica had planted ginger, as an experiment. It would be ready to harvest in August, and she wanted information from the Internet regarding harvesting and marketing her crop. She said that if the crop was successful then she would share the knowledge with others in her community.
I shared the request for information with various online lists that I knew. None of them had anything to do with ginger, but they were interested ICT for Education and Development. I soon had four replies. They were all different, all related to ginger, and were potentially useful starting points to find out more. However they were not written with the needs of a small scale part-time ginger grower in mind. The information needed careful reading and refining before passing on to Victoria. There was no time for that. I could only pass on the replies as they were to Florence, with apologies that the information did not yet properly match her need.
I was excited that Veronica had turned to the Internet for help, and disappointed that I had failed to give her the exact information that she needed. Amongst the information was a link to a help-group on ginger production and that would probably have been most useful for her. However, Veronica would not have been able to connect with that group unless Florence could act as an infomediary. I am not sure where Veronica's school was, but I doubt if it was within walking distance of Fantsuam Foundation. We would have needed to take messages between Florence and Veronica. We could probably have found someone to do that, but they would have needed petrol money for transport. Then there was the question of paying for online access at the Fantsuam cyber cafe to enable Florence to continue the discussion with the help group. There were too many other things competing for our time and resources and we did not pursue ginger farming any further.
Although we could not give on-going support to Veronica in her ginger farming, her request for information was an encouraging indictor regarding TT. Her request demonstrated that the TT programme had altered behaviour, on the ground, in a way that could benefit rural development. She was a rural teacher, with no direct access to the Internet, yet, thanks to TT she was looking to the Internet for information. Our theory that if you teach teachers about ICT you also benefit the wider community was being illustrated in practice, spontaneously, by one of our TT participants back home after the course.
We believe that the way to introduce ICT to communities is via the teachers. This is because:
- Teachers are motivated to learn about ICT
- Teachers (unlike health workers etc.) need to know about ICT for its own sake, because they have to teach about it
- Teachers are leaders in their communities
- Teachers are change agents in their communities
- People who are teachers have other roles too (parents, farmers, tailors, barbers etc)
- If you train teachers to use ICT they use that knowledge in their schools (ICT in Education)
- They will also apply their knowledge in their other roles too
- This will benefit the wider community (ICT for Development)
The example of Veronica demonstrates that Teachers Talking (TT) is not just a training programme for teachers, it is a combined approach to ICT in Education and ICT for Development.
When I was told that Rev Gizo wants bring some ginger farmers to the TT anniversary celebrations my mind immediately went to Veronica and I asked after her. I am told that she has moved away from the Fantsuam area now. I hope Rev Gizo will bring his ginger farmers to the TT anniversary UK-Nigeria link-up. I wonder what he wants them to gain from the experience. I look forward to finding out if they do connect in any way with the ginger planting experiment that Veronica began.
Monday, 24 November 2008
On Saturday 15th November I attended "Community and Communications" at Royal Holloway College:
Speakers included Shirin Madon (LSE), Marek Tuszynski (Tactical Tech), Josh Underwood (London Knowledge Lab), Richard Duncombe (IDPM, University of Manchester), Uduak Okon (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Avril McIntyre (LifeLine)
All the sessions were relevant to my interests in ICT for Education and Development - but I will just mention one - Josh Underwood's - because he was talking about Vesel which has the most overlap with our projects.
David Mutua, Marcus Simmons and I first learned about Vesel when we went to the London Knowledge Lab back in July for a workshop related to PCF5 -Pan African Forum 5. We were particularly interested in Vesel because it links UK and Africa, and the part of Africa in links with is David's Kenya.
Vesel involves two sites in Kenya, and one is a school, Silanga school. (The photo shows Josh talking about Silanga school, the display behind him includes photos sent by the school.) The school has its own presence on the web which includes regular news and photo updates.
I met Vinay Gupta on Wednesday 19th November (in the photo Vinay is on the left and Mark Charmer is on the right). I had read some of Vinay's posts in recent months, and various people had pointed out that we had some overlapping interests, so I was very pleased when a visit to Mark's office included a meeting with Vinay.
Vinay had just arrived to start working with with Mark at Akvo. You can read Vinay's blog about his work at Akvo. It was written the day after he arrived and includes a video interview he made with one of the Akvo team, so you get all the background - and an idea of Vinay at work.
Our overlapping areas of interest include practical implementation of eco-ideas, and using the Internet to help people learn from each other and share good practice. Vinay connects closely with Marcin Jakubowski of Openfarm . I have not met Marcin face to face but we have spoken by Skype, to discuss overlaps between his OpenFarm work and John Dada's plans for Attachab Eco-Village.
Vinay has tremendously wide interests so I offer a few links to help you find out who he is:
- Vinay's "About me" page.
- His blog (not just the Akvo bit)
- His view of the future
- An interview with Vinay which begins "At first it’s hard to get a handle on what exactly Vinay Gupta does. Well, even after getting to know him it’s still hard to pinpoint."
- The Unplugged A speculative fiction - giving his ideas for how things could be
- Global swadeshi - because one world is plenty - Open Sustainability Network
- Interviewed by Green Ocean - explaining his work (bringing different threads together, research, practitioners, technology....)
- Videos made by Vinay Watching these will give some idea of Vinay's approach and wide ranging interests - including Dadamac and the Eco-shelter collaboration
Sunday, 23 November 2008
Wednesday 19th November I met with Mark Charmer at Akvo's office in Bermondsey. Mark is co-founder and communications director of Akvo
I came across Akvo earlier this year on the Internet and was interested to see that its work is water and sanitation. I am not a "water and sanitation activist" but I am a realist, and I know my priorities. Every time I am going to a new location in Africa I want to know "What do we need to do about water?" and "What's it going to be like to go to the loo when we get there?" I know the way that some people have to "just manage" with no facilities at all, so when someone is doing something to improve water and sanitation I want to know more.
I discovered that Akvo works with partners at various locations in Africa. Hence my contact with Mark, to find out if Akvo might be interested in Attachab Eco-Village. Mark and I first met face to face a few months back, when I was getting ready to travel. We bumped into each other again at OpenEverything. I was recently back from Attachab Eco-Village and so we arranged our catch-up meeting for 19th November.
It happened that Vinay Gupta arrived in the UK to work with Mark on November 19th, so I was able to meet Vinay too. I will write more about him separately.
You can read more about Mark on Akvo's "team" page
My appreciation of Mark increases each time I meet him (not just for who he is, and what he does, but also that he finds the money to do it) so I am ready to follow whatever advice he cares to give me. That is why I am now obediently tweeting on Twitter.
I hope we will find an opportunity to collaborate on a project sometime. Mark and I are in agreement that one of the key issues regarding funding is feedback, so that people can see what is being achieved with their money. Given that John Dada and I have been collaborating for years we do know a thing or two about ICT enabled communication between rural Nigeria and the UK. I am hoping this will help John's Attachab Eco-Village project to be front of the queue next time Akvo is looking for partners.
I flag this up for two reasons:
- It is an interesting site
- To help avoid confusion between the two unconnected sites i.e. - this blog ( http://learnbydoinguk.blogspot.com/ ) and the one I have just found ( http://www.learnbydoing.org/)
Recent entries from LearnByDoing.org are:Top 100 Tools for Learning 200811.13
Social-networking sites viewed by admissions officers9.21
The New Classics of Computer Science9.7
But I Did Everything Right!8.11
20+ Free Web Design Ebooks And Guides6.1
You Play a Game, Computers Get Smarter, AI Starts to Work5.26
Useful Podcasts for Designers and Developers5.26
Want to Remember Everything You’ll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm5.25
“What Do Teachers Really Make? Taylor Mali… - Cellfish.com3.26
It looks like a rich resource, well worth exploring.
Saturday, 22 November 2008
When Emile first started talking about his ideas I had lots of questions about how things would work in practice, but the more he fills in the details the better I like it all. I can see how being part of HowDoYouDo would benefit Dadamac in building up the business side of what we do.
Over the years, working from home, and collaborating with people far away, I have learned how to achieve a considerable amount at a distance. But contact by keyboard does impose some uncomfortably linear disciplines on the sharing of ideas. I know there are mind-mapping tools and interactive whiteboards, but for me, nothing beats face-to-face with pens and paper and evolving diagrams. During our pre-meeting meeting Emile roughed out plenty of diagrams, and I was able to point to bits of them and quiz him about precisely what he meant and how various things would fit together.
I won't try to outline the objectives and structure of HowDoYouDo yet - but once there is more information out on it then likely tags will be SocialImpact SocialIndicators Business Collaboration BusinessStart-ups BusinessServices Network CompetitiveAdvantage Brand. That list gives some idea of its scope and focus. HowDoYouDo will be much easier to explain once there is something in place to show how it works. I am enthusiastic about it and see it as a truely 21st century way to do business.
On Thursday evening, 20th November, I went along to the Royal Commonwealth Institute in Northumberland Avenue for the monthly New Ideas for Africa meeting. New Ideas for Africa is an open-space event where people who have ideas and projects with a positive benefit to Africa meet with people who can help their ideas to grow. I hadn't been to one of these meetings before, but I picked up news about it at OpenEverything earlier this month, when I ran into Femi Longe who leads Africa Plus Plus (also known as Africa++). Even if you can't attend the London meetings you can keep up with them through the Africa++ Ning that Femi has set up. (Femi is in the middle of the photo.)
I first met Femi earlier in the year at another OpenSpace event, which we had both heard about through our links with Chris Macrae (more of Chris in another blog entry).
I invited Ben Parkinson to New Ideas for Africa. It was our first face-to-face meeting, although we know each other by email and phone. I e-met Ben through John Dada of Fantsuam Foundation (see the sidebar for more information about John, and our collaboration as Dadamac).
The latest meeting (on Friday 21st November) was with my friend Caroline Ifeka (in the photo) who is director of REIWA . We met at Waterstone's in Picadilly (bookshops are such good places to meet up when you can't be certain of the time - warm, dry, plenty of interest, a chance to take the weight of your feet... ) Down in the basement, away from all interuptions (even beyond the reach of mobile phones) we settled ourselves on a comfortable sofa, with big mugs of hot chocolate, and dipped into the myriad things we have in common.
Caroline and I connect regarding, Nigeria, education, use of IT etc. Unlike me, she comes from an academic background, has spent much of her adult life in Nigeria, and leads a project there. Her project is based in Kaduna, slightly North of Fantsuam (my main location in Africa) but I didn't meet her through Fantsuam Foundation. The link was more distant. Caroline has worked in Australia, and we originally met thanks to an Australian friend of Caroline's, (Valerie) who I linked with through the pattern language list. It was Valerie who suggested, some years back, that Caroline and I should meet in the UK (her country of origin) and we quickly became friends.
There is huge overlap between our interests and projects, but tremendous differences too (partly because she is working with pastoralists and nomadic people) so it is great to chat and share ideas and anecdotes. I have stayed with Caroline in Nigeria and visited her projects, and I have introduced her to my friends at Fantsuam Foundation. It's not easy to keep in contact when she is in Nigeria so we try to meet up (or at least phone) when she in over here.
As usual, our conversation leaped from personal to political, practical to theoretical, comic to tragic, went on for hours, and hardly touched the surface of all we wanted to share with each other. For instance, one of Caroline's interests is adult literacy. So she was telling me about some of her adult literacy students (all women), their desire to learn, and how they feel they have missed out. It is so hard for girls to get a good education. The culture does not favour it. Caroline has also been trying to persuade one of the young men who works with her to let his teenage bride-to-be finish school before burdening her with childbearing. Caroline acknowledges that her pointed conversations with him are unlikely to make any difference, but at least she wants him to realise what he is doing to the girl, and question whether this is a selfish choice, before he decides to do it.
Of course we didn't cover educational opportunities for women and children in such a straight forward way. Even on that narrow theme of we branched off to adult education, UK Open University, Nigerian Open University, NOU experience of one of her staff members, anecdontes about Caroline's work, catch-ups on the staff I know personally, problems with paying people, exchange rates, falling value of the pound against Naira, how and why the dollar is holding up against the Naira, oil, ecology, power politics. Hmm - isn't it lovely to just chat with no set objectives or agenda!
We discussed various issues of education, including the legacy of rote learning, and related cultural issues such as a lack of questioning, and an acceptance of authority and things as they are. We covered "relationships with information" and all kinds of things that our own "information overloaded" culture takes for granted, which are completely outside the experience of many of the men, women and children we know in rural Nigeria. We are particularly interested in the appropriate use of ICT in education (both as a curriculm area and as an enabler) so all the usual issues came up on that. We were discussing the practicalities we are struggling with on the ground - but inevitably we wandered soemtimes into examples of hype and the gap between it and reality.
As I write this I feel a need to justify my interference in anything Nigerian, especially in instances where some kind of culture clash is involved. I think back to how I got involved with Nigeria (when my friend Agnita Sternheim married Peter Adetunji Oyawale - now sadly deceased - and I just did a few things to help Peter with a project back home). Later I came across the term "neo-colonialists" and I was so horrified by the potential label I almost stopped helping with Peter's project. I am still uncomfortable about the fact that I am helping to initiate change in a culture that is not my culture, and there is always the "law of unexpected consequences" to bear in mind. But as I think about the discussion with Caroline I know we were covering things that concerned Peter, and that John Dada has asked me to help him with. Peter was Nigerian and John is Nigerian and he is responding to local needs (especially the under-educated rural poor).
Why do "we" want people to be better educated and able to think for themselves? What does ignorance do to people? What does poor hygiene and health awareness do to people? How easily are ignorant unemployed youths turned into a violent rent-a mob? Why do people who are faced with domestic disasters, disease and death decide that the cause must be witch-craft? Why are young children blamed for natural events, and then abused, beaten and sometimes even killed in an attempt to get rid of the evil forces? We used to do that in the UK too - what stopped us? Does education help people to make better decisions and have a better standard of life? Is it ok if I help John to help the local teachers and trainers to improve local standards of education? Does it matter if I am attracted to this challenge simply because I am interested in how we learn, and how ICT is altering our potential to engage in learning?
I remember discussing with Peter the potential negative results of the project he was trying to do. He challenged me by pointing out the negative results of failing to do it - and he spoke from the heart. He was in his own words the son of "an ignorant peasant". Ironically it was in fact the local belief in witch-craft which enabled him to escape from a lifetime of ignorance and of toiling on the land. It was because his parents believed that a "witch-craft spell" had been put on him that Peter was sent away from his home village, and as a result of that move he managed to find and take opportunities for education.
On reflection, I think it is okay if I experiment with the use of ICT and the development of new educational systems with John at Fantsuam, even if I do get labelled a "neo colonialist" and even if there are some unexpected negative consequences.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Weekly Dadamac UK-Nigeria meeting
The Dadamac team (in UK and Nigeria) meets online for approximately one hour each Wednesday morning. Although these meetings rely on typing, not speech, we manage to get through a good deal of work. These notes about today's meeting give a flavour of what we cover. They are not minutes, just my jottings for the blog. We don't need minutes as we always have the chat archives for reference.
Fantsuam Children's Parliament
The Fantsuam Children's Parliament will be inaugurated on December 6th. Children are getting trained on rudiments of parliamentary procedure and issues they want to raise. They want the roads fixed, electricity, school fees etc.
Teachers Talking (TT) 4th anniversary
We are planning for the Teachers Talking 4th anniversary celebration on November 29th . This will include participants from any Dadamac Learning Groups, not just TT.
- The celebration is to include a UK – Nigeria link up. (Time 10:00 - 11:00 GMT, 11:00 - 12:00 Nigeria time, 13:00 - 14:00 East Africa time.)
- The inclusion of Dadamac Kenya teachers and teacher-trainers as well is a possibility, but depends on their current connectivity.
- One of the original TT participants may be bringing along some ginger farmers.
- Newcomers to Dadamac team asked for more information about the connection with ginger farmers. Ginger farming is something we have touched on with a previous Dadamac Learning Group - I will blog on that separately.
Information was shared on:
- Current skill levels
- Recent videos from Nigeria
- How soon UK will see these videos
- Sending videos to UK just as they are now or waiting until they are edited
Progress reports from Attachab Eco-village on fish ponds, irrigation, vegetable growing , and a new compressed earth block building which is to be used for storage and security.
Marcus Simmons of co-Shelter is introducing new contacts to the project, following the visit we arranged for him last September. He has mentioned two specialists (one in architecture and the other in permaculture).
The Dadamac Learning Group (photography) participants have been out at Attachab Eco-Village recording details of developments.
Dadamac Learning Group
The Dadamac Learning Group at the Knowledge Resource Centre is gradually growing and so are its interests. We have a new mini learning group (of two learners and a learning leader) tackling English and maths.
There were details of various new volunteers, visitors and contacts - more about them in future blogs as their work develops.
Looking back on it - a good one hour meeting.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
~ Email backlog
I am trying a new approach to help me cope with too many emails. I don't manage to read all my emails any more, and I certainly can't keep up with replying to them. My apologies to everyone who has been expecting a response from me. If I fail to reply within the next month or so it may be best if you contact me again - just resend the original email. (Contact me sooner if it is urgent).
This is what I am thinking about the emails and my blog. I recognise that when I do write emails (and attachments) I am often duplicating my effort, because what I write is scattered around in so many places. This means that I can't easily refer to what I have written elsewhere, so I often have to explain it all over again. I am currently trying to overcome this by making more use of a blog. If this approach works I should be better able to keep up with emails in future, and who knows, I might even be able to catch up with some of the ones I have missed out on.
I will show you what I mean with two examples:
1 - Open everything
A couple of weeks ago Franz sent me information about OpenEverything, following a discussion in the One Village group. I went to the London meeting and the feeback about it is in a blog entry I wrote on Friday November 14th. I have not shared it before because I wanted to add some links, and I have only got around to doing that today. OpenEverything is about the fourth item that I wrote. I now realise I should have written each item separately for easier reference. (Maybe I will be able to alter it later - hmm - and then perhaps this link won't work any more.)
2 - TT anniversary
I want to let the Kenyan Teachers Talking (TT) people (past and potential) know about the TT anniversary on November 29th. There are other people who need to know about it too, so I have put a bit of info on the blog . The link up will probably be around 10:00-11:00 GMT, 11:00-12:00 Nigerian time, which I think is 13:00-14:00 Kenyan time. I will update the blog entry as details are firmed up.
I hope that if this blog approach works then my use of emails will become manageable and useful again and I will manage to reply to everyone in future. (If you want the whole blog see)
Things have moved on a lot since then:
- Each time I have presented a course, I have further developed the content and the delivery methods,
- We have used various different tools - especially yahoo groups, emails, blogs, photo-sharing, video, CDs, audiograhic conferencing, wikis, Moodle, VOIP, instant messaging, text conferencing and chat rooms.
- John Dada (director of FF) and I now work together much more closely, under the name of Dadamac.
- John has extended my training work at Fanstuam Foundation (FF) to include staff and volunteers working at FF.
- The Dadamac Learning Group at Fantsuam has a "home" in the FF Knowledge Resource Centre - the KRC. (TT met at various locations, out in the open, in a school, and in some of the FF classrooms)
- Roles are emerging within the Dadamac Learning Group - such as learners, learning leaders, know-its, newbies.
- Our skills and strategies for sharing information at a distance have developed.
- We are learning together, as a team, sometimes face-to-face, sometimes at a distance.
- We are learning more about how we learn - and exploring the various stumbling blocks that we have to work around as we are learning together.
- The list could go on.....
We are still deciding what is best for this year. We will probably do a skype link-up (as skype seems more stable than yahoo at present ) and we might experiment with the video link as well, so we can smile, and wave, and laugh together - and generally greet more warmly even though we can't touch. On the other hand it would be great to include people from the TT course in Kenya, and they might well have to use a cyber cafe that only offers yahoo. We still have a week and a bit to decide. It will depending on who might be able to attend.
Sunday, 16 November 2008
If I get in the habit of telling other people what I'm doing as I go along, then I'll be able to check back for myself later. I like the idea of that, but I'd want a bit more detail than Tweets allow for. Ideally I'd have a full Knowledge Management System (KMS) which would help me zoom in to any bit of information I needed to retrieve. However, I think I'd need a team of techies to sort out my ideal KMS, plus some (as yet uninvented) easy, speedy way to input all the information I'd want to find there. Maybe jotting things down as they happen could be a useful compromise.
I think I'll experiment with using this blog as the kind of maxi-twitter for a bit and see if I finish up feeling more in control of my information.
Thanks for continuing to try to move things forward ref web design training and arranging for people to learn more from Yakubu..
You are right that it would be good to show appreciation to Yakubu. He is being generous in sharing what he knows about web design with the Fantsuam Learning Group. I am glad you are looking at how he might be given some payment by local students later on.
I have been thinking about the way the SDL group is becoming "knowledge richer" thanks to Yakubu sharing what he knows with the blog "newbies" and web-design "newbies". How can we help Yakubu to become "knowledge richer" too?
What knowledge/skills does Yakubu want? How can we help him to get these skills? For instance, I think he was wondering about making money from his camera skills. Perhaps we should be helping him to see if and how this could be done. Perhaps there is some other knowledge that would be more useful to him. John Dada has asked me to think about providing some training opportunites in maths and English language sometime. Perhaps one of those subjects would be of interest to Yakubu. If so we could start with the one he would prefer.
One of the good things about sharing knowledge is that we do not loose it when we share it. In fact we do usually become "knowledge richer" in one way or another - soemtimes by learning it better, soemtimes by learning soemthign new. For example, I have never been given any money for sharing my knowledge with people at Fantsuam (this is why I can only come to Fantsuam as my "holiday" - not in my working time). However I always learn a lot when I am at Fantsuam. I have become "knowledge richer" over the years of coming to Nigeria - each time I visit I move further in my learning journey. This is useful to me in my personal and professional development. How can we help Yakubu in a similar way?
Mercy - you are also helping the learning group to become knowledge richer in may ways. You must let us know what knowledge/skills you are seeking so we can find ways to help you as well.
Yakubu - if you read this please let me know your thoughts.
Please greet everyone for me, and give my apologies where I still owe people emails, but I felt this was a priority one.
Friday, 14 November 2008
Yesterday I was learning more about pattern language. Pattern language is one of those things I come across from time to time, and think I would like to know more, but then other things get in the way. However earlier this week I was having a catch-up Skype chat with Helmut Leitner (who I know through Minciu Sodas) and pattern language was mentioned again. I said (or, to be more precise, I typed) that I was interested in learning more. Helmut said it was “not a three minute thing” - hence the arrangement for a half hour introductory session yesterday (another Skype typed chat).
I could not have asked for a better teacher. It turns out that Helmut has written a book that introduces pattern language. However his book is in German, so he is kindly explaining it to me in English in small chunks. Pattern language seems to tie in with systems thinking, and I enjoyed doing systems courses when I did my Open University degree (a long time ago so I don't remember much detail). I appreciated my introductory first lesson on pattern language and we have agreed to do a second one.
I hope that what I learn from Helmut will give me a structure for thinking through some of the things I am exploring regarding teaching and learning opportunities related to the Internet. This is another example of Learning By Doing in that respect. Certainly it is only thanks to the Internet that I e-know Helmut, and that I can have have these half-hour distance lessons with him. I am in the UK. I don't know where he was yesterday when he was teaching me. I think he lives in Austria.
Yesterday also gave me cause for reflection on what we have been Learning By Doing regarding collaborative work and the Internet. I've been involved in two Dadamac UK-Nigeria e-conferences meetings this week. One was with the Fantsuam team and the other involved people in Lagos. The contrast demonstrated how much we have learned through our regular online meetings. The Fantsuam meeting went smoothly, both technically and with regard to the various people joining in. We all knew what to do and what to expect, not just technically, but regarding how we would interact and progress through the meeting.
The Lagos meeting was for a new group. It was like time travelling, reminding me of how we used to be in our early Fantsuam meetings before we got in the swing of things. There were six people at four or five locations and there were problems with them all logging on together and finding their way into the right conference. There were phone calls and SMS messages before we could get started properly. There was some switching between Skype and yahoo, some dropped connections, lots of glitches, but also success and gradual progress. Now there is the satisfaction of one e-meeting achieved. Soon there will be a better feeling in the group for "how these meetings work", what it best done by email, and what is best done "in real time" at an e-meeting.
Twitter and Delicious
What else have I learned this week? Well, I am never first in the queue for trying anything techie (especially if I will have to learn by using on-screen instructions instead of learning with friendly humans) but I have finally started using Twitter and Delicious. NB for anyone “behind me in the queue” for trying Twitter and Delicious:
- Twitter is like mini emails or texts, sent to whoever chooses to follow them.
- Delicious is a way to share interesting web pages with other people and to find them again more easily yourself.
On Thursday of last week, 6th November, I was at OpenEverything:
- Programme for OpenEverything with links to speakers.
- Review of OpenEverything
- Open sustainability network and wiki
- Glyn Moody's blog
I met interesting new people and, to my surprise, three familiar faces - Graham Knight ofbio-design, Femi Longe of Africa++ and Mark Charmer of Akvo (It was Mark who persuaded me to start Tweeting on Twitter). We split into small groups in the afternoon, and fortunately all four of us chose the same group topic, so that made for easy introductions.
New Ideas for Africa
Femi also told us about a New Ideas for Africa meeting next Thursday (November 20th) at the Royal Commonwealth Society, 6.30pm, £5.00
Community and Communications
Another meeting I hope to attend is about Community and Communications. It is tomorrow, Saturday November 15th, organised by Professor Tim Unwin's ICT4D group (Information and Communication Technology for Education) at Royal Holloway College. One of the presenters will be Josh Underwood, from the London Knowledge Centre. I first met him in July when David Mutua and I attended a meeting about a schools project in Kenya that Josh has been working on.
I am gradually discovering where there is overlap between what I am doing and the interests of other people over here. For years all my research in the UK was on the Internet, and I only worked on my projects Face to Face (F2F) when I was in Africa, so I am really appreciating more opportunities to connect with Education and Development researchers and practitioners F2F in the UK.
Monday, 10 November 2008
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
The photo on the left was taken in the Knowledge Resource Centre at Fantsuam (the people are Emmanual, one of the participants in my Self Directed Learners group, and me).
There are more photos (on Picasa) from when Marcus and I were at Fantsuam. They include photos of a nursery school with some computers. The school belongs to Mr Perry - another member of the Self Directed Learners (SDL) group. As well as joining my group Mr Perry spent time with Marcus doing some hands-on learning about constructing eco-domes, and is now hoping to build one himself.
By the way - on a Learn By Doing note - this is the first time I have added a photo to a blog. It's one of those "simple when you know how" things (but earlier today when I didn't know how and I was trying to find out and was having difficulty... well then it didn't seem simple). I wanted to find out about photos because my SDL group have learned how to do blogs, and they have already started to add photos. Now I'm catching up.