Posts tagged ‘zambia’
Brief run down of the sessions I’ve been to today…
Conference was officially opened by the Vice President of Zambia and other opening speeches, including the Anglican Bishop of Gambia talking about the use of Facebook and Twitter – not something I was expecting.
Implementing and Sharing Open Source Repositories
With all the JISC conferences and meetings I’ve been to over the previous few years, I thought (hoped) I’d heard the last
about learning object repositories and metadata, but apparently not. The main question for me that came out of this session was the fact that much of the talk seems to be about how institutions can push out their OER content, but little about how to encourage people to make use of the available content, or evaluating how much this content is really used.
Research Networks on ICT4D
For me this was the most interesting session of the day – possibly because it broke away from the normal series of powerpoint presentations and was more of a discussion forum. Tim Unwin (Royal Holloway Uni, London) had several interesting points to make:
- Most ICT4D project fail as they aren’t based on a real demand or need from Africans themselves, rather they are driven by outside (EU/US) organisations
- Technology providers see Africa as a market to make money from. This is shown by the number of technology vendors present in the exhibition area, looking to sell their solutions
- The quality of journal papers and research from African universities is very poor and this isn’t a technological or funding issue.
On the last point Jophus Anamuah-Mensah (TESSA project, Ghana) talked about the fact that African researchers seem to have lost a lot of the collaborative culture which previously used to exist.
Improving Mobile Learning Environments
At the conference there are many presentations and sessions about mobile learning. Much talk is made of the fact that so many people in Africa have a mobile phone and that they are cheap. Unfortunately this still isn’t the case in Ethiopia, where mobile ownership appears to be noticeably lower than other African countries. Many of the projects presented make big assumptions about the type of devices that students have access to, for example, owning internet & java enabled mobiles. From my very unscientific assessment, I would put student mobile ownership at Mekelle Uni at less that 30% and these tend to be only basic/entry-level voice/SMS enabled phones (I ought to include this as part of our student surveys/questionnaires once I return to Mekelle next week).
I’ve also heard about a couple of project integrating Moodle and SMS, but both of these seem to rely on either a subscription service, or with good cooperation from the telecoms provider, something we’re unlikely to be able to make use of in Mekelle.
- Ethiopia appears to be very under-represented here, so far I’ve only met one other person coming from an Ethiopian organisation. If you are from Ethiopia and you’re here then please get in touch.
- I’ve caught up with many ex-colleagues from the OU (UK) – showing what a small world it is.
- I now have plenty of leads and technologies to follow up on and investigate, plus many ideas for possible projects and/or collaborations.
After 24 hours travel (London – Addis – Harare – Lusaka), yesterday afternoon I arrived in Lusaka, Zambia for the eLearning Africa conference, where I’ll be presenting the Digital Campus project later this week. The conference starts properly tomorrow and today I attended one of the pre-conference workshops, on policies for successful elearning programmes.
My impressions so far have been very good, having Ethiopia as the only other sub-Saharan Africa country that I’ve visited, Lusaka couldn’t be more different to Addis, everything appears much more up together and organised. The roads and traffic seem far less chaotic, lined with advertisements for various mobile operators. We were even given free sim cards when we were waiting for our baggage – such a contrast to Ethiopia when getting a sim card is quite a tedious process and certainly not cheap.
The conference is huge, but show how small the world is when one of the first people I met here is a PhD student at the OU Business School. I’m going to have a tricky job of deciding which presentations to go to, as there are 10 parallel sessions. The contrast with Ethiopia is made even more pronounced talking to some of the other participants from other African countries where they seem to be much further down the road than Ethiopia in terms of elearning implementation and technologies.
Assuming the wireless stays up and running well I hope I’ll be blogging regularly. For anyone reading this who is at the conference, my presentation is on Friday afternoon (track 56A1).
Earlier this week I spent a few days working Cambridge doing some volunteer web development work for Aptivate. They are in the process of developing a new low bandwidth site for CDAC (Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities), this particular site is aimed at the victims of the Haiti earthquake and is to help ensure that aid and relief agencies are able to communicate well with local communities as they rebuild their lives. The site isn’t yet finalised, so can’t put the url up yet, but will do so once it’s ready.
As an aside, OpenLearn now has a course on “Using Voluntary work to get ahead in the job market“.
Much of the past couple of weeks have been spent making sure I’m ready to head off again to Ethiopia to work on the Digital Campus project. En route, I’m going to the eLearning Africa conference in Zambia, where I’m giving a presentation next Friday. Looking forward to getting back to Mekelle to see how everything it going there, seems like quite a lot of progress is still being made. My plan whilst I’m there is to help support the phd students and the ICT team, but also planning how the project can progress into the next academic year.
Hopefully I’ll be back blogging a bit more regularly over the coming few weeks!