Tag Archives: technology

Visiting Silicon Savannah

10 Jan

I have just returned from Kenya where I was fortunate enough to spend time with young Kenyans who are undertaking great ventures in and around Nairobi.

Kenya, as an emerging and developing country is jam-packed with social enterprises of all kinds – but especially in the field of technology. Today, it has earned the name “Silicon Savannah” because of the number of innovative tech start-ups that have been developing and flourishing over the past few years.

What really stands out when talking with young Kenyans is their tenacity and motivation. Rather than letting go when a goal is too difficult to realize, they create the circumstances needed to make it happen. Take for example the Nairobi Developer School.

The Nairobi Developer School is run by 19-year-old Martha who wanted to go to the States to learn all about programing. She was accepted by Hacker School in New York but was refused a U.S. tourist visa. Instead of giving up on that dream, she instead devised a project where not only she, but also other women, can come and learn about programming.  The Nairobi Developer School Program lasts three months. It even offers financial support to women who cannot afford it.

There are many infrastructural shortcomings that make connectivity to the web unpredictable in Kenya: unreliable wireless connections, shortage of power, or devices that can’t share connections; however that has not deterred Kenya’s tech savvy. The need for reliable connection in an unreliable environment led to the creation of the BRCK. .  The BRCK was designed by Ushahidi, a non-profit technology company that builds open source software and tools that bring information to people in remote areas and in times of crisis. The team, composed of engineers, developers and technologists from Kenya, wanted to design a tool that would ensure connectivity where connectivity isn’t possible. Watch this video to learn more about the BRCK.

Another noteworthy project that I spent time at is the Montessori Plus Center in Nairobi where the Montessori method is being used to teach students who are blind or visually impaired.

Many people do not know this but Montessori’s ideas for teaching children resulted from her work with a French psychologist names Edouard Seguin who primarily worked with children who were blind. In fact, Anne Sullivan who was Helen Keller’s teacher used the Montessori model of instruction to teach Helen!

I spent some time at the school planning, discussing, and exchanging ideas on how best to prepare the space and the curriculum for the needs of the children. Although I am now in another continent, the school remains close to my heart.

All in all my visit in Kenya was truly inspiring, embodying the very essence of our resilience as human beings.

Mobile Technology for Teaching and Learning

10 Nov

Necessity breeds invention, the old saying goes, and in the case of bringing education to those with limited educational resources, and closing the gaps between those who have access and those who don’t, this necessity is turning people’s attention to mobile technology for creative and innovative ways to learn from one another and the Internet.

In developing countries, poor infrastructure, and the relatively low cost, availability, and mobility of mobile phones have resulted in mobile technology as the way to get online and connect locally and globally. It is why mobile technology is the tool that innovative and concerned citizens are turning to in an effort to connect students and teachers to educational texts and a global community of educators.

Africa is a great example of such a scene where mobile learning is being used to reach marginalized populations.

In Ghana, with the help of e-readers, villages have access to hundreds of books that could never be physically sent to a library.

Despite its limitations – unavailability of local language books in some countries– e-readers have opened up the world to curious learners and can be a very effective and inexpensive way to eradicate illiteracy globally.

Nigeria is another example where UNESCO is piloting a program with English Language teachers who send daily messages on how to teach English to teachers throughout Nigeria. UNESCO has received feedback from participating teachers that the support is changing their teaching style and helping them to improve.  As a result, teachers are part of a global village of educators where they can collaborate and share their concerns, challenges and successes.

Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 8.18.58 AMIn Kenya, Eneza is a group of individuals who wanted to ensure that every child in Kenya has access to information no matter where they live and how poor they were. They decided to put together the information and content that is relevant to the local context on mobile devices and make it available to students everywhere. In addition, they provide tips and tricks for teachers and parents to help their children learn.

Innovation hubs, like the iHub in Kenya, are places where teachers and tech savvy can meet and optimize the use of simple technologies for teaching and learning. Creating more innovative spaces like the iHub in Kenya, providing e-readers with native language textbooks, delivering qualified trained online communities of teachers for remote areas, are some of the low cost effective ways to meet necessity, breed innovation whilst creating global communities of learners and teachers.