Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Up and At 'Em! We had an early morning meeting with the Ministry and all the Members once again to report on our 10 day journey and the various meetings. I had to present a report. There were a few items that I typed in bold print. Diligently, everyone read the report and Mrs. Margaret Nsereko, the Commissioner really zeroed in on the bolded print and asked the members to comment. They disagreed with the finding that there was no ICT in the curriculum. Well, I explained that this item referred to the primary school children curriculum, so that was OK. They researched the teacher's curriculum and discovered that there was indeed some ICT training. I guess I was surprised there was any, but then surprised again when I saw it was only 3 hours. What can you learn about ICT in 3 hours. This just made me once again believe that the Microsoft ICT training was an essential piece to getting teachers up to speed. They were surprised that the Primary Teachers Colleges had no internet, pointing out that this was supposed to be in place because the teachers pay a fee for ICT. They were going to get to the bottom of that. In the end, I understood them all to be in favor of the project. I am now to send a Concept Note to Annet (to edit) with the eventual recipient to be the Permanent Secretary. Success! I must also compose a Memorandum of Understanding for Ronald Ssemyalo who will use it to seek funding for the research element of this pilot project. We were going to visit St. Lawrence University for Eric to give a talk to the students on Web development. He was so prepared, had his presentation on his iphone connected to my portable projector (small and charged) So elegant, really. Anyway, though, protocol set in. When I went to confirm the time, I was told that first, I needed to write to the University, then to the faculty to schedule the time. Now they tell us! Needless to say, we did not go as we were leaving the next day. We went back to the hotel to work on the Web. I now have venturesforgood.org/classes as the Moodle Distance Learning site and facebook.com/venturesforgood as my facebook page and www.venturesforgood.org as my responsive web design site and tons of categorized photos. Eric DiBari, web programmer par excellence, is great!
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Nancy's birthday! Today we left Jinja, but we decided to take a quick trip to the police station to pick up the stolen internet radio. It had been at Spire Road School but the guard was tied up and they stole the internet radio and a monitor, but in their haste, left behind the safes they had stolen elsewhere. So today, we wanted to get the radio back. We needed to take someone from Spire Road school with us, so that was one trip. The guard no longer worked there, so we had to go to another school. He wanted to shower first but Francis just got a note from him to speak to a certain police officer who was familiar with the case. Next we were off to the police station, finally found the right officer and he was going to help us. Unfortunately, he did not have the key, looked all over but the person with the key was “taking tea” so we had to wait for him. Then he came to open this garage with all the stolen merchandise piled up on each other. The radio was under a bicycle and a motorcycle in this really cramped space. Finally we had it and we were on our way. It was a long and bumpy ride back to Kampala. Before we could get to the hotel, we needed to get the XO tablet from Dr. Ssemyalo because I promised it to Annet at the Ministry. That took a while because the traffic was horrific and our driver had to circumvent it. Ronald and I discussed the pilot and how he would conduct the research, introduced me to Christine who will be working on it. He wants a Memorandum of Understanding so that he can use the project and our alliance to raise funds for research. One more stop to meet Kenneth at his workplace to pick up the faulty XOs to bring back to the US for repairs if I cannot fix them. I had picked up a cold so I was soooo happy to reach the Olive Garden Hotel again, where I could rest. Just one more thing on today’s agenda: writing a report to the Ministry on all we have done this week. I have a meeting scheduled for 9 a.m., God and Manisule willing.
This time, the director at Kampala University Jinja Campus encouraged us to hold the training at the Jinja Campus, that internet was available. I needed it to be able to show the teachers the new Distance Learning site, so I could continue with lessons. We arrived on time but we expected to be there two hours earlier to set up properly. Our driver’s clock battery died and he was very late. Anyway, according to protocol, we needed to meet with the director first. Do you believe he greeted me with "So, Joanne, you put on some weight since last year!" I was dumbfounded and couldn't speak, but he indicated that was a compliment. (Not so! but funny!) We chatted while he took a few calls in between, so class started late. The teachers who were there represented a few schools and they were very excited to learn about the XO tablet. I distributed about 12 of them. Some teachers partnered up. After introducing a few activities on the XO tablet which has a Career Dreams interface, I asked the teachers to pick a career choice and investigate one activity from that career choice. Then after an hour, I asked each of them to come up to the projector, plug in and tell the rest about their activity. That worked out so well, because as they explained the activity the others opened it up on their tablets. Then it came time to show the distance learning site, I must say that while the teachers were working, we were trying to get on the internet. The tech woman who was excellent last year tried everything. So did Eric. They called the provider. The director called the provider but it turned out that according to them, thieves cut the fiber optic cable behind the building. So we could not show the website. (Luckily, when we went back to the hotel, I showed Francis a bit of it on the REALLY slow connection there. I don’t think I can stay at the Brisk again until they get a better connection. Each page took a couple of minutes to load, at least and that was only in the lobby where we had to camp out.) At the end of the training, the director who wrote a speech delivered it, hailing Kampala University as the place to go to school. Then the inspector of schools came back and also gave a speech indicating that this innovation was going to bring the African students up so that they will be ready to enter the 21st century marketplace.
We again went to St. Gonzaga. Today was about Problem Solving, but I wanted to finish Literacy first. We did an ART to Word exercise. We used the picture “The Sleeping Gypsy”. I asked them to probe what they saw, what it could represent, indicated that there are many literacies: art, reading, oralcy, content area, etc. Into the problem solving mode, we used the XO to do the memorize activity. They created new games. Some had never touched a computer or a mouse so there was help needed. One person, an ICT person from the Iganga Teachers Center, was advanced so he found the Gnome desktop. The next exercise was Tux Math, then GCompris (which Francis led), then we did a Scratch activity, making and animating sprites. Peter actually drew his own sprite. He will be good at the PTC center.
First day of training. It really took us awhile to find a place to conduct the training. Even though they knew I was coming months ahead, the director was putting Francis off. So it came down to the very day. When we went to Kampala University Jinja campus, the director was not there. Apparently he was in Kampala discussing the government alliances with the private universities. So, quickly, we used our back-up plan and went to St. Gonzaga, where Betty the head mistress, greeted us warmly. That school is the site of XO installations. We found the XOs in good shape, all chargers were working. They were secure in a locked closet, and we spoke to a student who said he loves working on them Betty rotates the use of them. Training still started late however, because Betty had to go with the driver to get the car battery recharged. Teachers came in whenever. We should have had from 2-5 with them. They came from many schools, some with and some without computers. The inspector of schools came in to interrupt and spoke about the damage the teacher strike is causing to the students. She insisted that they had to at least had to sign in at their home school before they came to training. Ironically, those from St. Gonzaga left to sign in but did not return. Politics! The training began with a presentation on Literacy in the 21st century, and we proceeded through Reading and Writing exercises. On the XO, I showed them how to access an e-book, Grimm’s Fairy Tales that I had pre-loaded. We read Hans in Luck and then I led a discussion on the meaning of the story. One of the teachers was studying philosophies of education and asked about Socrates. So I used some Socratic questioning to probe deeper into the meaning of the story. Next we talked about Writing, and I gave a presentation on all kinds of writing exercises: informational, creative writing and we used the Labyrinth activity to map out a story about Francis, my head teacher. I distributed some handouts and one of the teachers asked how I would relate the story according to the guidelines in the handout. I presented the background, the characters, the action, the climax and conclusion. The story was about Francis, his family and friends, and how he is the chairman of the Sports Competition, which just happened to win 2 gold medals. Very impressive, made a nice story too.They really liked that. We went back to the hotel. Eric is so helpful. He takes lots of pictures, keeps the good ones and uploads them to the facebook page that he created. Facebook.com/venturesforgood.
Today we went to church at 10. Nice church, nice Mass but it wasn’t in English as we anticipate. Then Kenneth, Francis’ wife and children, Eric and I, along with our buddy, Manasule, went off to the Source of the Nile. We saw the exact spot where Lake Victoria meets the Nile River, where the spring bubbles up. Lots of pictures. Very nice boatride. Kenneth was scared, funny because he is big, in great shape and CAN swim, unlike myself. I guess I have been on more boats though. Following that trek, we took off for Itanga Falls, which Manasule said was only 30 minutes away. HA! Time stands still here. A couple of hours later, we got there over bumpy roads. Beautiful falls, really rapids, rushing, clean water over drops and rocks. Lots of pictures. Cool, refreshing and a really nice site to see. It only took an hour to return but we were very tired. We ate at a pork skewer local place in Jinja, delicious roasted pork served with avocados, casaba, tomato/onion salad. Manasule ate elsewhere because he is Muslim. We didn’t realize he wouldn’t stay.
We drove to Mbale, a 3 hr. ride, to visit coffee plantations. We enjoyed a nice education, saw the coffee seeds growing on trees. We went to the “Experimental” Plantation, where they study growing conditions, diseases, etc. We waited for a gentleman to give us the information. He told us that the seeds grown there are sent all over Uganda; they are the source. The seeds are fermented and crushed there removing the pulp and then sent to the factory to be roasted and exported. They also grow the seedling plants, a variety of them to distribute to farmers who want to grow coffee. Then we traveled to town to see if we could buy some coffee. Funny thing! They do not brew coffee, they serve Nescafe! Was an adventure to a new town, a little bigger than Jinja, a little more on the dusty road side. We ate at a Chinese restaurant but everyone ordered local food, which they claimed to be more filling. I guess it was because I couldn’t eat much of it. Pasho, Matuka and Rice are staples here. Long ride home in the dark on highways crowded with trucks and people! Good driver, Manasule!