Beyond Borders: Lessons Learned from African Schools

Updated February 4, 2010 to include the presentation, update the conference tag, and change some of the wording. A few weeks ago, a colleague asked me if I still think about Africa a lot. “Every day,” I replied. “Every day for the past year — six months before I went, and six months after coming home.” The experience certainly had a profound effect on me. While you wouldn’t necessarily see it in my day-to-day work, there’s been an attitude shift. Maybe it’s a change in perspective. Maybe it’s a broadening of horizons. Maybe it’s just an acknowledgment that the whole … Continue reading Beyond Borders: Lessons Learned from African Schools

Not Everyone

“I have said it before and will say it again….not every one in every district has a cell phone… All these ideas are cool, but technology is not 100% pervasive, despite what we as tech people want to think.” — A Technology Coordinator on the Ohio Techcoords Listserv Not everyone has a cell phone. Not everyone has Internet access. Not everyone can afford a graphing calculator. Not everyone has a television. Not everyone gets the newspaper. Not everyone can read at grade level. Not everyone can sit still for 50 minutes at a time. Not everyone can just read something … Continue reading Not Everyone

Why Integrate?

We knew it would be difficult long before we got there. We were told that Mfangano Island, near Mbita, Kenya, was “the furthest you can go and still be on Earth.” Even in Mbita, a comparative metropolis, conditions were pretty rough in the schools. The Teachers Without Borders – Canada team visited ten schools the first week we were there. None of them had electricity. Two had generators, but no resources to buy fuel for them. One had a computer lab, but without electricity it was useless. Most of the schools were very basic. Typically, the classrooms had student desks, … Continue reading Why Integrate?


Here’s a quiz. Look at these five pictures. Which one was not taken at a school? The first time we visited a school in South Africa, we couldn’t help but notice the security in place. The school was surrounded by an eight-foot fence topped by razor wire. We drove through the gate and pulled up to the school and parked. When we got out, we went thorough another gate. This one was steel bars, only about six feet high, with barbed wire at the top. That got us into the courtyard. All of the classrooms opened directly onto the courtyard. … Continue reading Security

The Best Photos

Admittedly, this post has little (if anything) to do with education or technology. But many people have asked to see some (not all, please!) of my photos from the trip to Africa this summer. My darling bride has collected these as her favorites. They make up about 5% of the total, most of which will eventually end up on Flickr. Apologies for not telling the stories here. That’s coming, along with some pretty cool video. Stay tuned… Continue reading The Best Photos

First Five Lessons

What did you learn this summer? I’m going to be reflecting on this for quite a while. But here’s my first attempt at documenting the things I’ve learned (or re-learned) in my Teachers Without Borders – Canada experience this summer. We’re working on common problems. When asked what the major challenges are facing effective technology integration and use in schools, teachers in both South Africa and Kenya put access to technology, professional development, and time at the top of the list. If I asked my teachers in Ohio the same question, they’d come up with the same list. We don’t … Continue reading First Five Lessons

The Question

I’ve been trying to think of a good way to answer The Question for the last week or so. As I get closer to home, I know that I have to come up with an answer soon. The question, of course, is this: “How was your trip?” How much time do you have? I’m not sure I can boil six weeks into a couple sentences. Or even a single conversation. I tried unpacking my adjectives. Wonderful. Enlightening. Surreal. Frustrating. Inspiring. Exhausting. Enriching. They fall flat. I thought about using superlatives. “The best experience of my life.” I’m not sure I’d … Continue reading The Question

Mama Sarah

On our way from Mbita to Gilgil yesterday, we took a little detour to Kogelo for a little visit with Mama Sarah. We didn’t know what to expect. We thought we were just going to visit the town, maybe take a few photos of signs saying “this is the place, blah blah blah.” It wasn’t like that at all. We drove up to the homestead and got out of the van. We walked through the gate, and there were two army tents right inside. The gate and the fence surrounding the homestead were new. They had a table set up, … Continue reading Mama Sarah

A Drop in the Ocean

For the first week in Mbita, I kept asking myself (and others), “what are we doing here?” We’re supposed to be teaching technology integration — helping teachers use technology effectively to complete projects and improve learning in other curricular areas. But as we made our school visits, it became increasingly clear that they’re not ready for that. Of the ten schools we visited, none had electricity. One had computers in a lab, but no reliable way to power them. Many of the schools had dirt floors. It was rare to see anything but the most basic of teaching materials. Student … Continue reading A Drop in the Ocean