Moodle e-Learning Course at Mekelle University
Mekelle University has been hosting Moodle e-learning this week for its own lecturers and those from other universities in Ethiopia. The training has been delivered together by Computer Aid with its training partner the Worcester College of Technology. I flew up on Friday morning to see how the training had been going, to sit in on the last few sessions, and to thank and congratulate the 56 participants.
For those unacquainted with Moodle, it supports the lecturer to set up e-Learning courses, using a blend of web and non-web properties, such as presentations, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds and Facebook sites, mixed with the lecturer’s own notes or content. It’s open source, so no high software and maintenance fees, but it’s widely applied, so there is a community of users and supporters to maintain it. We take students through a week’s training, sufficient to allow them to develop, during the course exercises, their own e-Learning packages and courses.
This week, Computer Aid International’s new Chief Executive, Tom Davis visits Nairobi to meet with our Africa Programmes team and some of Computer Aid’s partners
Mukuru Kwa Njena in Embakasi is one of Nairobi’s slums, and contains within it Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School, where Computer Aid International supplies its refurbished computers through its partners Computers for Schools Kenya (CFSK). When we went to the computer lab, about 50 children were engrossed in a PowerPoint exercise – we tiptoed in and walked around the aisles looking at the presentations that they were building.
We were on a visit with CFSK to one of the schools to which they provide computers as part of their programmes delivering information and communications technology (ICT) to educational institutions in Kenya without a lot of either. Although school was out this week, a class of 8th form students was studying for their exams, and CFSK arranged this as part of my induction as the new Chief Executive of Computer Aid, this week visiting the Kenyan part of the Computer Aid team. We made our way here in a 4X4, which just about managed to negotiate deeply rutted dirt paths, dodge crowds of pedestrians, and deftly navigate carts full of chopped wood, roadside displays of bags of charcoal and neatly stacked chevrons of toilet paper. Sometimes this was only possible by slowing to a halt, backing up, driving forward, backing up again, twisting the vehicle like a rubber band around all the obstacles, meanwhile bouncing up and down deep crevices in the earth that passed for a road. Our expert driver navigated perfectly, except for taking the wrong left and leading us to a market and a seeming dead end. Then we turned around, and we were lucky to meet someone he knew who put us on the right path, and we jounced and jerked and juddered towards the school. Driving down a side road off the main path, we came to some gates, and once we drove through, left the external chaos behind. The compound we found was neatly arranged in rows of low one storey buildings and we were escorted to the middle of a row of buildings and into the computer lab. While we walked around, I stopped to speak to Frances (not her real name).
As Computer Aid’s marketing officer, my day to day role is UK-based, however I was fortunate enough to accompany Ben Makai, our East Africa Programme Manager, on a visit to Zambia in December last year to meet some of our new and existing partners.
Zambia is an absolutely beautiful country. As I travelled in and around its capital, Lusaka, I was surprised by the sheer amount of building work and the number of shopping centres popping up around the city (I counted 6) – apparently a result of what seems to be fairly extensive Chinese investment.
There is a huge demand for computers as well as a significant need for an improved ICT infrastructure across the country.
The organisations we visited that already have access to IT were clearly putting the technology to good use. Both teachers and pupils at all the schools we went to, spoke about the importance of learning IT and the difference PCs had made to their lessons.
At St Michael’s Early Learning Centre, Miss Pascalina Chabu, a teacher at the school, told me that “We know that in the modern world, everyone needs IT skills. All jobs expect their employees to have them so our computers are very beneficial for all the children.”
Miss Chabu had taught all the teachers at the school how to use PCs and said that “With books you can only learn so much and you are limited to the information within them. With the internet, the learning opportunities are so much greater. It’s also great for the teachers too because now that we have PCs and the internet, planning lessons is much easier. I can find information that I need for my classes and it has improved all my lessons.”
Our Trusts Partnerships Officer, Sion Jones, has recently returned from Papua New Guinea where he visited a number of projects to report on how IT was being used in schools. Having recently written up a project overview, we thought we’d share some of his insights on ICT use within the country and the schools he visited…
Recently I was able to visit a project that was started a year ago in the Western Highlands province of Papua New Guinea. Deploying 100 refurbished PCs to a primary and secondary school, the project faced a number of challenges in order to establish strong examples of the role IT can play in children’s education.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is roughly double the size of the UK, but has a population of only 7 million. Mountainous terrain and a lack of infrastructure means travelling between the main towns is largely done by air. The country is incredibly culturally diverse, with over 850 native languages – a fact that almost every Papua New Guinean is proud of and mentions at every opportunity. Around 80% of the population live in rural areas, with subsistence farming their primary activity. Social relationships are built through the ‘wantok’ system whereby individuals build strong social bonds based on family relationship, community ties or perhaps a common language, establishing an obligation to help your fellow ‘wantok’ when in need.
In achieving not just universal but high-quality primary education it has become self-evident that ICT has a role to play in teacher training and in the social inclusion in education and employment of people living with disabilities and otherwise marginalised groups.
Aside from the explicit recognition of the importance of education to development articulated in the aims of MDG Two, education in a broader sense, conceived of as human capacity building, is a pivotal ingredient in achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals. Without sustained investment in the training and education of in-service healthcare professionals, for example, progress towards MDGs Four, Five, and Six would stall. Seen in through this prism, ‘Making available the benefits of the new information and communication technologies’ as targeted in MDG-8, has a central part to play in the training and development needed to achieve all of the MDGs.