Monday, April 13, 2009

Going to Africa - I need your input.

Mbabane, Swaziland
picture by Stephanie Marton

I am going to Swaziland in Africa for three weeks in June. Yippee!! A good friend of mine is a pediatrician in Mbabane, and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to visit her. Her experiences have been amazing, and I am excited to see her life there first hand.

When the idea of taking a trip to Africa became a reality (thanks to frequent flyer miles), I realized that I want to do more than just tour the country. I want to learn about education in Swaziland, connect with African teachers, share my skills and possibly turn this project into an independent study credit to complete a master's degree in instructional technology.

At the Illinois Computing Educators conference in February, I attended Sharon Peter's session "Professional Development Without Borders". Her presentation started the process of thinking about what I can offer teachers in Africa (and what they can offer me). She gave me many great ideas like bringing flash drives full of teacher resources. The schools Sharon worked in had computers, but bandwidth was an issue. She recommended downloading what I can here and bringing it on flash drives. I take my broadband connection for granted knowing I can download what I need when I need it. But, schools in Africa are not so lucky. I hope I can make contact with teachers in Mbabane before I go, so I can learn about challenges they are facing and how I might be able to help.

So, I need your help. Do you have any contacts who can help me? Do you have ideas or advice? I am still in the brainstorming phase and I also want to tailor what I do to match the needs of the area. With that in mind, this is my current to do list. It may change, but I wanted to share it so I can make it better with your input.
  1. Connect with Swazi teachers by searching for blogs. (K-12 and/or university)
  2. Download free teacher resources to put on flash drives.
  3. Download open source software that is useful for teachers and bring on CDs or flash drives. (Open Education Disc)
  4. Start a PayPal account and take donations for flash drives, flip video cameras and inexpensive netbooks (XO or others).
  5. Put together materials for professional development workshops for teachers (focusing on technology integration and/or science/math.)
Please help me solidify my plan. Thanks PLN!