With Hon. Calistus Mwatella and KIE Folks

I never knew I would meet and rub shoulders with such key and high members of the Kenya Education sector so soon. I mean I had just completed my undregrad barely a month ago Infact, I was still 6 months way from graduation? Yet here I was sitted at the KIE (Kenya Education Institute) boardroom, netbok in hand, projector on the table and XO on my Lap. Phew, I was all set to deliver a presentation. Shaking and panicky as usual….

Squeezed in between Assistant Minister for Education, Hon Calistus Mwatella ( 2nd right) and the top bras for KIE.

Squeezed in between Assistant Minister for Education, Hon Calistus Juma ( 2nd right) and the top brass for KIE.

I am trying to compose myself, to be myself, to speak myslef. Am excited. Am so happy. Am over the roof. Well if you think its because am in the presence of the Minister for education, well you are damn wrong. I aa about to make a life changing speech on the role of ICT in out primary schools? And I have all the justification and demo of the XO laptop . And I have my best friend and evangelist, Chris Kakoba, flanked by our supportive and instrumental power lady, Sandra Thaxter. As we start our discussions, highlighting to this top brass of education in Kenya what we have been doing, how and the results, one cant help but see the suprise in them. Not because they are marveled by what we have been doing, but because at how easy we make it seem and how we have managed to do that out of our own pockets and well, we are all amateurs in the education sector in Kenya, young, busy with our schedules and plus we probably have fullt ime jobs? 9Well am jobless at that time ) and Chris is a Full Time Hustler ūüôā

Well, let me cut short this post, we got the attention fo the Education brass, got a followup meeting with the LIE folks with directives from the minister and then we posed for the pics and we all lef very happy, very encouraged and feeling ready to bring the change to our education. We both went to the bus stage and we both took our matatus to our respective hoods. I bid farewell as my bus no. 45 blast with latest Bubble gum riddim as it took me to my hood (then), Mathare.

Watch out for what hapepned next ūüôā

Role of ICT in Primary Education in Kenya

For quite sometime, I have involved myself with lots of ICT oriented programs in education without really having a clear understanding or having a clear metric to measure my success and impact. After helping Found Wikimedia Kenya (www.wikimedia.or.ke), we went ahead to carry out our very first education oriented program which simply involved installing the offline version of Wikipedia for Schools in Kenyan Secondary Schools. It was an interesting and thrilling project most of us. All of us still being in Campus then, felt that we were already doing our bit of Social responsibility through the skills and knowledge we were/had gained in Campus. The feeling was ecstatic to some of us for a few reasons:

  1. We had managed to have the Chair of the Board of Trustees for Wikimedia Foundation then  Mr.Ting Chen grace the official launch of the project
  2. We had managed to secure audience and participation from various high ranking stakeholders like Google Kenya, Kenyatta University,Strathmore University ,The ICT Board and many more

This we considered quite an¬†achievement¬†at how we could rub shoulders with such stake¬†shoulders¬†all with the aim of promoting the place and use of ICT in Kenyan¬†education. After a successful launch of the project and¬†official¬†endorsements from the Wikimedia Foundation which gave us a small grant to carry out the pilot, we set out to the challenging task of executing the actual project which we found ¬†more challenging than we actually thought.¬†First¬†of all we had to get an approval letter from the Education Ministry okaying the kind of Content we were to install in the Secondary school’s computers. After numerous¬†unsuccessful¬†visits to to Jogoo House to get audience and explain the nature of our activities to the¬†Permanent¬†Secretary, we decide to carry out the project without the approval but leave our¬†request¬†and proposal with the Ministry.¬†After all, we were helping the schools and students access content that they would not otherwise have access to due to no internet connection. Being the Lead for one of the regions we had agreed on for the Pilot ¬†phase, I did a quick¬†reconnaissance¬†visit to the region to get to¬†understand¬†and collect statistics on the kind of¬†infrastructure¬†the schools had and get¬†their¬†buy in.I was both pleasantly¬†surprised¬†and sad to learn that some schools were really quick to buy into the idea. Exciting and thrilling was the idea of them to have a¬†repository¬†to supplement and¬†complement¬†their teaching resources that are¬†usually¬†obviously¬†strained.¬† Sadly, some teachers ( or is it schools) could hear none of it.There argument being, unless we had a written and official¬†permission¬†from the Ministry of Education to okay the kind of content we were distributing, they would not¬†participate¬†in the project.This was very disturbing to me personally as I could not understand why a school needed¬†approval¬†to¬†provide¬†resources to its Techares and¬†Students?! We had categorically¬†explained¬†to the schools that this was content that the Techares and students would otherwise need an internet¬†connection¬†to access but we were just easing the¬†accessibility¬†and cutting the cost, they¬†would¬†have none of that. We however did carry on with the project to the willing schools in 3 regions Kakamega, Nyeri and Mombasa but this¬†would¬†get me thinking what¬†exactly¬†was the role of ICT in primary education in Kenya?¬†Drawing¬†comparisons¬†from my earlier days in schools,¬†when¬†I would hunger and¬†thirst¬†for resources, books and anything that I could read to increase and broaden my knowledge scope. I wold find myself finding solace in novels, journals, magazines besides the conventional school based textbooks that the school would provide. Not to sound my own¬†trumpet¬†but I strongly credit my presence to the extensive reading¬†habits, not just for school¬†content, but for far and beyond¬†materials to broaden my¬†knowledge¬†discourse, that I would understand and interact with the¬†world. This to me was the best learning¬†experience¬†. Having to learn and discover things, people, places all on my own through all those pages of text. It gave me solace, taught me many customs, exposed me to new¬†horizons¬†and places both in thinking and understanding. This to me ,provided the fertile ground that would¬†allow¬†me to undertand and comprehend and put into¬†perceptive¬†the¬†abstract¬†education¬†concepts¬†that i was taught in class. As a result, I could¬†understand¬†and answer¬†question¬†drawing¬†arguments,¬†conclusions¬†and¬†abstracts¬†from far places and people. This is the kind of¬†fertile¬†ground I¬†believe¬†ICT should play in our Primary education. Everyday and very often,¬†the tem ICT in education has been overly used and abused in education sector in Kenya to¬†connote¬†¬†simply Computers , t o me, I think ICT should be thought of as a tool to help change and enhance the mindset of the¬†learners¬†to new horizons and¬†thoughts. To enable them think ¬†differently. To¬†introduce¬†to them a different world with different terms and aspects. To allow the learners expand their horizons in education. If we think of ICT as the tool to ¬†learning in schools, and not simply as a means to learn, we would churn out the kind of learners that Kenya needs. Learners who are able to think and provide solutions to Kenya problems , with a global perceptive¬†and mindset… With this understanding, I have personally¬†engaged¬† and started a small program that involves the use of XO laptops as leaning tools. I have¬†introduced¬†this to my remote village school and I must say am very¬†satisfied¬†with the progress.

Although I have no numerical and mathematical metric to measure the success of this program, I¬†definitely¬†have the change mindset and learner satisfaction that I have seen in the kids. Last month when I visited the center to do an audit, I had a one on one¬†interview¬†with the¬†learners¬†to¬†measure¬†how much change in mental mindset and¬†ambition¬†had happend in the kids. I was mesmerized when the kids as young as 3 had learnt and were aspring something bigger after the¬†interaction¬†with the XO’s.¬†Particularly¬†interesting¬†was my 7 year old Cousin who¬†pleasantly¬†surprised¬†me with his Art Skills. He had¬†mastered¬†how to draw using the Paint Activity and told me he is contemplating pursuing art in future. My 11 year old sister whom I had tried for many years to introduce modern learning concepts to her in vain, after interacting with the XO, she has¬†surprised¬†very many of us with her mastery of writing and speech. She was able to identify 2¬†possible¬†carees in life: Journalism or Law. This is the kind of learning I want my kids to associate ICT with. Learning by discovery and¬†interaction.

Thumbs Up: To An Interactive Learning Platform through XO’s

Lastly,¬†encouraged¬†by the success model of my small site, hardly 3 months in operation, we have teamed up to put forth our idea of learning to the Dell Social¬†Challenge¬†with a ¬†very simple idea: Maktababadala which means “alternative learning resources”…Find time/effort to support the effort.

OLPC XO Resource’s: How Chris Saved the Day

As I prepare to get my 1st XO site up and running at this remote and tiny location ¬†Village where I grew up and schooled Partially. The pressure is mounting and I fel¬†overwhelmed¬†yet¬†embarrassed¬†at the same time. The 1st batch of the 6XO’s I was awarded of 4 XO;s hav been lying idle in my house. After¬†configuring¬†and adding some few more¬†Activities¬†(Read Apps ūüôā ). I have finally¬†managed¬†to Convince a cousin of mine to volunteer to this noble¬†course. She has agreed to be a volunteer Teacher for my Site.¬†After all, she always wanted to study and teach computers ¬†and she getting started at the University.

I am however worried if she will get¬†acquainted¬†with the XO environment and teaching. So I draft a few emails and do a few Google Serachs fr any useful¬†Teaching¬†Aid’s for XO’s. I Cant find any with¬†local¬†relevance. I am getting frustrated, frustrated as I know that I will have to do all the Training manual again. arrrgggg, this sucks….

However, in the midst of my Frustrations, my Good friend Chris calls and he tells me he has some nice Manual he developed. I am excited. I am happy. Knowing Chris for the brilliant young man he is, It is welcome relief as I am pretty sure the kind of Materials he developed are quality work. i know my site ill get started now. I am relieved even more when he agrees for me to share some of it. I Particularly find this one very useful. So anyone looking for an XO teaching aid, especially for XO in Kenya, here are the links:

1. Guide to OPLC and XO in Kenya

Coming Soon: Geo_Learning Project in Kenya Schools

Map of Africa, from the Geo-Quiz Activity
                                                                                                       Map of Africa, from the Geo-Quiz Activity

So the Good folks at OLPC Foundation just¬†approved¬†my Geo-Learning Projact, This Project aims to find use in XO’s (the child and learner friendly laptops ) in impacting knowledge and teaching pupils how they can be Local¬†Cartographers¬†and at the same time providing local solutions to local problems.The approval was made at the March 23rd Meetup for 5 XO’s to commence the project. See the Meeting Notes¬†HERE.

Among the Objectives of the Project include:

  1. To develop a curricula for teaching pupils mapping as both part of the education learning and as a community tool for creating locally relevant maps
  2. Use the various XO Activities and tools as a learning tools for developing their own creativity, intuitions and intellect
  3. Use the XO to improve and introduce ¬†ICT literacy among the pupils and teachers….
See the Complete Proposal HERE.

Fun Learning Moments

  1. Fun Learning Moments

Taking Map Activity to amazing Eshibinga Pupils

Am seated on a pikipiki enjoying the ride from Khumusalaba to Eshibinga .Its the C39 road and I have mixed emotions on the ride. I am excited to be on way way to teach kids about maps, excited that I am ridding on this road that I worked on as an intern three years ago but am saddened and disillusioned just like the local as I suspect about the state of the road. Hardly a year after it was commissioned, the road is already in a sorry state. Am not shocked because as an intern, i witnessed first hand blatant impunity and unethical practices. it saddens me and i chuck out my Ideos phone to tweet about it…tweeting, riding..

As we alight at Peter Amunga, I relish in the he fresh air and I quickly throw myself on the lush grass  as I wait for Sandra. apparently our host strictly instructed the pikipki guy not to0 over-speed. I wish he only new how she is a need for speed lady :-). Soon she arrives and we are in no time unpacking and packing our XOs, GPS units and off we cross the road to Eshibinga Primary School. We are met by an eager audience of both teachers and learners. I am more taken with the learners who had been briefed of our Map Activity the previous day. The pupils here are simply amazing: they all have some sketches of their community maps. I have a feeling these kids are going to impress me.

I

True to my expectation, as i take to the chalk board, am not disappointed. As I take the pupils through the Map elements, the¬† (x,y) staff, the l(at,long), the Greenwhich Meridian, the equator and finally the GPS, the pupils were all but amazing. In fact they took charge of the lesson and I felt bad having to go to JKUAT for a whole half a decade to study GeoInformatics yet here are this pupils who know at at such a tender age. Their attention amazes me and I am so happy to take them a little too far by explaining to them what GPS means, how it works all the satellite staff in a mild way. I have a strong feeling that this pupils are going to be great Geographers some day, I tell them that and with that I have nothing much but to tell them ” go yee and make maps!”