Ventures For Good
Serving the under-served in the US and Africa with education and technology

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Week of June 14thI arrived in the US, safe and sound, none the worse for wear. Looonnnng flights, crowded too! Have been suffering from jet-lag back at work.

I have been in constant contact with Kampala University. Daniel is working on getting the educational minister on board. The Vice Chancellor or his deputy will make arrangements to meet the Minister of Education, Geraldine Namirembe Bitamazire and then will let me know of the outcome.He is also working on getting a primary school principal to deploy our first XO computers. As far as the teachers in the Masaka area, I will get their contact information in August when they return.

We are both looking into grant funding. I have contacted Adam Holt, and he is awaiting my trip updates in order to guide me toward my next steps in the U.S.

Daniel Kakinda, of SchoolNet Uganda, is also interested in collaborating. He, like Kenneth below, works on training teachers and is looking forward to having me provide some initial training for them.

Kenneth, from Silver Shadows Technologies, is going to meet with Daniel Bwanika from Kampala to see how a public-private association can be made. Daniel feels the more the merrier.

Kisubi Brothers University College, under the leadership of Aloysius Bukenya, is eager to begin training with me. I have also corresponded with the educational technologist, David Kakeeto who will be joining the group.

All in all, I am progressing in establishing contacts and developing leads.

We are still trying to locate the correct email address for the Dean at Makerere University.
Things are moving along. My intention is to now communicate directly with those I met, by creating an online "class" where information and updates can be posted. Summaries will go here.

I am also sorting my pictures, videos to create a slide show to present to my college and any one else who is interested!
Posted by Director at 12:37 PM No comments:

FridayWe left Kasiisi at 9:30 Thursday night for an early morning Gorilla tracking tour. It came as quite a surprise that the trip we expected would take 4 hours, took 9! gruelling hours on very, very, very bad dirt roads. Bounced all night long, stopping only to use the woodsy terrain for relief and fearing the jeep would break down in the middle of nowhere. We did laugh a lot though. Larry, our TATS guide, was bleary-eyed from the ridiculously long drive- we could not help him, driving the right side of the car, the left side of the road and using a left-handed stick shift. Poor guy!

We arrived at 6:30 a.m., never slept in the tent provided, gobbled up breakfast, but then enjoyed a wonderful expedition into the forest to track the guerillas. Got within 10 feet of them!
Later that day, we, then, drove to Elizabeth National Park where we spent the next day as well. Elephants charged us just a bit to scare us away, graceful kolbs greeted us, and various birds, storks, crocodiles, hippos and hogs crossed our paths. Beautiful country, beautiful people and beautiful animals.
Posted by Director at 10:52 AM No comments:

ThursdayThursday turned out to be a very hurried day. Because there was a previous holiday, my schedule says I should lecture at Kisubi Brothers University College (which didn't expect me until 2) at 9 a.m., then N...University at 11, then Makerere University at 1, after which we will have a white knucked ride to Fort Portal where Elizabeth Ross' XO project is deployed. They expect us before 6.

Well, some good, some not so good news.

We arrived at 9 and the brothers were so gracious, got together a bunch of administrators lickety-split and was able to deliver my powerpoint and the demo without a hitch. Whew!
That's me showing off my Logo skills above right!
The next university was really moot. We went to Nkumba University from office to office to find the right contact but signals must have crossed, so we decided to bail out in order to make our next appointment at Makerere.
Makerere is the biggest university, most well known but for some reason, they also had some trouble finding us an audience. A conference was going on for the education students. Sounds perfect but these were secondary school teachers. The Dean called ahead to make sure a room was ready for us and our host was told to send in the secondary teachers as they are also qualified in the primary schools. What they didn't account for was ELECTRICITY. Boy, do we take a lot for granted.
There I was with my projector, my XO, my netbook and assorted cables and adapters but no electricity.
As they called in the worker to string extension cords together to reach the generator on the other side of the building, the cleaning lady was wiping the dust from the desks, even where I was setting up on small student desks and squeezing my body in and out of precarious situations. The XO boxes became the projector podium.
But, time was running out because we had to leave for the Kasiisi project, a four hour drive, so I punted and demonstrated from the XO and the netbook on battery power, no projection. I gathered the student email addresses, one or two are particularly interested and I will include them in my collaborative group.
Later, just as we arrived at Kasiisi, five hours of bumpy road later, the dean from Makerere called but I have yet to make contact- couldn't talk then-bad timing. We had a wonderful visit with the eager folks at the Kasiisi Project. They graciously showed us around. They waited until 7 for us and had to leave in the pouring rain. We saw the generator they use to power up the XOs, which takes 20 liters of petrol every 3 weeks. Petrol seemed to cost about $3 a liter! They are hoping that Elizabeth Ross can come up with the funds to connect them to the hydro-electric facility.
We saw a classroom that seats 102 students with one teacher. 2 classes use the XOs but there are 1000 students at this primary school. Some walk 8 miles one way to come to school, with only porridge for lunch! Our US students should see education this way, as a privilege, not a given. The people were so hospitable; I only wish I could have done more for them.
Posted by Director at 2:49 AM No comments:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday















Today was Heroes Day, so most schools were closed. Luckily, we were still able to meet with Daniel Bwanika, the Dean of Development at Kampala. He prepared a beautiful lunch and we strategized how to begin the process. We narrowed our focus to one area from which many of his teachers come for training. These teachers would be good advocates for implementing the XO's in their schools. We made a list for each of us to accomplish and will communicate by email. I gave him two XO's: one for his computer science students and one for his teaching students. All had previously received LiveCD yesterday. Quite satisfying, food and thought.

Later, I met with Isaac from Silver Shadows Technology. He had previously contacted OLPC and wanted to become involved. He is already in teacher training and would like to extend his services to the XO project. I demonstrated the XO and gave him LiveCD to boot. The logistics need further refinement so we plan to meet again on Sunday when I return from Fort Portal Kasiisi Project and a safari. We do have fun too!
Posted by Director at 2:29 PM No comments:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TuesdayHi all,
I was in computer hell for a few days but things got better.

First lecture today went really well, so if nothing else is accom plished, I have enough to start the long distance project with Kampala University. It took a bit to set up the classroom for my "lecture". On the way to Kampala, we picked up a projector that we reserved from a local Technology Center. (the stairs and mud to traverse were challenging in heels!). They found a screen and we set up the projector on a podium, while I sat at the desk with my netbook, my powerpoint presentation, and Sugar on a Stick. I restarted when needed. It worked out surprisingly well, as there was no internet connection but thankfully, I could get around that.


In the audience was Daniel Bwanika, the Director of Development, another professor and students from computer science and education majors. They loved the presentation and were eager to participate. My intention is to enroll them in a Blackboard course to guide their learning. They were each given a LiveCD which, I understand they jumped right into after the lecture. I believe an educational approach and a computer science approach work hand in hand to keep the teaching and learning moving.


We also visited with Andreas from Germany who was hired to set up an AV studio. We watched him work and it turns out his wife is a principal of a local primary school who might turn out to be our first deployment. He was very interested in our EdMedia program as one of its goals is to produce educational documentaries.










Kampala has many campuses. One, in particular, is a good target place to begin widespread deployment. It is in Masaka about an hour away. There, they train 700 teachers who are from Uganda and neighboring countries. These "students" are actually teachers furthering their education. By getting to these teachers, each can bring the XOs to their respective schools. That is the plan of the moment.


We made plans to visit with Daniel at his home the next day to strategize. My colleague met with the Nursing School. Other TATS colleaques were involved in HIV/AIDS education and we traveled from center to center to drop people off and chat with the contacts.

Tomorrow is a holiday here but Thursday I will be at 3 universities. Plans move slowly and change constantly. Traffic makes Manhattan look like a walk in the park! Some nice areas but extreme poverty everywhere. We are on flaky electricity, no water at times. That can be scary. Things are connected from one device to another to another, very funny but a bit stressful while I was getting ready. Now I am calmer and can look back and laugh. Stores/restaurants don't take Travelers Checks (20% surcharge) so I am out of money .. Having to wire it from home. Good to know because we tried to get Uganda money in NY but couldn't.

One professor here fell at Kampala University and had to be airlifted to South Africa for surgery and then airlifted home. Pot holes in roads are like craters and people drive on both sides any way they can, motorcyles, cars, pedestrians, it is a free-for -all! I video-taped it ; looks like a movie car chase scene.

People are wonderful, very grateful, students crave education, most can't go beyond primary school. The children are beautiful. The school children each have colorful uniforms and they move in groups when they leave school, walking along the sides of roads. This project is sorely needed. So far, everyone is interested!

Posted by Director at 11:55 AM No comments:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Welcome to UgandaMy first week overseas was spent in Syria, with friends. A blog for another time! The only significant piece to report is DON'T eat the greens. Still trying to recuperate a week later.

We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda after a full tour of Cairo's pyramids and sphinx including the old city. Really nice, really tiring day. (We had only slept 3 hours the night before.) We boarded our flight at 10:30 p.m. and arrived at 3:3o a.m. and at our guest house in Kampala at 5:30 after filling out forms and finding luggage. I had to check a bag I hadn't intended to check but it was too large (they said) for carry-on. Somewhere in that long long day, my iphone disappeared, still hoping I left it in the tour bus but....

Anyway, we tried to sleep for a few hours only to be woken by a very loud rooster and our hosts anxious to talk. I am staying at a "teach and tour" very nice guest house (image on left) with 3 other professors, each teaching throughout the colleges. The hosts are wonderful! They arrange for your meeting with the appropriate people. They are young and enthusiastic, have some connections with government officials, colleges, administrators and work very hard to set up visiting professors. We were guarded all night but felt very safe anyway. They drove us everywhere. I don't know how I could have done it without them in terms of getting around in that traffic and finding the appropriate people. The only thing I did not anticipate was that the colleges followed the same schedule as my college and most college students were off for the summer. So for this trip, I had appointments with administrators and some students. Will pick another time of year next time.



On the left, this is the building next door to the guest house. At first, I thought we were staying in a broken down area, especially since the dirt road was riddled with potholes and the police station nearby had their laundry hanging outside the station. I asked Larry, my host and guide, and he informed me that this building is on the way UP, not DOWN. Who knew! Apparently, the building is first scaffolded with sticks, yes sticks, and as they get more money, they start the bricking process. So, as it turns out, all over Uganda, you will see piles of bricks in front of stick buildings, waiting for labor and money to complete. They have time.

I thought I would practice my lectures. First, my colleague blew out the electricity. Turned out only to be an adapter, so we bought another- a big sturdy one (which added to my already full electronics case as I came with everything from power strips to routers, cables and adapters). Then came the fun. Internet is sketchy so you don't know if problems you experience are from your computer, the Internet, the electricity which goes up and down, etc. One of my computers suffered damage in the transport so a tech came to help. After a few hours of problem-solving, I plan to only use that for plan B. I wanted to show that PC using VNC to display the screen of the XO. We got it to work! But... and there is always a but, the lamp on the projector finally gave out, so plan B needs to rent a projector! I lugged that thing across 3 countries, 4 planes, paid extra charges only to have it blow when I needed it!

Plan A is to use my alternate computer, the netbook, to jump between my powerpoints, the web, and SOAS for the XO. For now that is working.

It is now Monday morning, awakened by the roosters and typing by the very dim light so that I can't see my keyboard. Remember what I said about electricity. My colleague plugged in the coffee pot to boil water for INSTANT coffee and blew out the second outlet. Yes, that was the very same colleague who blew out the first one. She must have electrical energy running through her veins! Welcome to Monday in Uganda!
Today, Monday,we are getting oriented to the area. Apparently, each college visitor is taken to the site of the future Teach and Tour Museum. Right now, it is about an hour's ride to Nansu (sic?) up a really rocky road, not for those with back problems. We passed very rudementary housing where there is no electricity. People waved and children shouted Muzamgu, meaning white person, also angel- a good term for them. They waved and cheered. I felt like I was in a pageant. Our purpose was to plant our "flag".
We first had gone to a local sign maker shop to create signs that represented our college. Mine- Dominican, my colleague's Touro. It took about an hour in the blazing heat, sharing their ONE brush, and only two paint colors. Rude awakening.
See pictures-forget my hair ( remember, the hair dryer blew out).


We took these signs up the mountain, the last part was a climb over craggy rocks with lots of children in tow. There, we found the "flags" of other colleges such as Cornell, Fordham, Alvernia, etc. It is the intention of the museum to provide information about colleges who visit to help and to build a hut for each one. The setting is gorgeous overlooking Lake Victoria. See more pictures.


Posted by Director at 8:50 PM No comments:
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

So Many Details!So many things converge as I am trying to get ready to go to Uganda. I have been in close contact with my host and things are proceeding somewhat. I wanted to contact the universities directly, so that I could hone my lecture to their needs but the 3 email addresses bounced back. My contact is going to hand deliver my questions. Phionah, my contact, says it is because the internet is down as it often is. Yikes, I guess I am going to have to screen shot lots of URLS.

My plan is to give these six universities, in particular, the Teacher Ed Departments, a three part session
1-an overview of technology integration as we do it here...constructivism, lessons such as webquests, web 2.0 tools.

2-an overview of the XO, with examples.

3-Finally, I want to give "my audience" a way to collaborate with me upon my return. I haven't decided if I will use Blackboard or Ning. I am so familiar with blackboard and I know everything will be saved, so I lean in that direction.

I bought a netbook as back-up and think I will buy a projector as well--just in case.
Packing? no time!
Posted by Director at 9:27 AM No comments:
Laptops are in UgandaGood news!
Got word from my contact in Kampala. The laptops have arrived safe and sound and are awaiting my arrival.

More good news!
I was able to successfully get the SOAS to work! Took me a couple (well, more than a couple of tries) but finally, it is AOK! Then I attacked the VNC server/client idea so that I could project from the XO through my laptop. Again, I am sooo happy to report it worked! Instant! Yippee! Things are moving along. Started the typhoid pills....planning my lessons....packing my bags...
Posted by Director at 7:15 AM No comments:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Something to Think About.I have been thinking about something that was said on our OLPC conference call. I was asked if my project would be perceived as "another white woman trying to tell black people what to do." That is a good point and I am really glad it came up, but it did catch me off-guard. At the time, I was sitting in a room with my daughter-in-law and my grand-daughter who are both African-American. After teaching for so long in NY, and having the family for which I am eternally grateful and of which I am enormously proud, I have become blind to color. Yes, prejudice and fear do exist, but if we are, as Ghandi said, to "be the change we want to see in the world", we have to ACT as if it doesn't. I know I will, as I work with colleagues and friends on my trip to Africa. To be asked to present to universities and high schools in another part of the world is indeed an honor and the implied trust fuels my resolve.
Posted by Director at 2:45 PM No comments:
Friday, April 16, 2010

Whew!I just entered my first OLPC IRC Chat Room (the wrong one initially) and eagerly read the postings from those reviewing my project proposal. I am looking forward to a conference call on Sunday, when, hopefully, I will receive more guidance on how to get my project off the ground. There are so many things to plan aside from the pedagogy! I guess I am glad that this Uganda visit will only be 10 days long, so that I can take more time to prepare for a "deeper" visit next time. I guess I am of the school, "I have to see it to believe it." sort of a dream world. I know that when I get to Uganda, I will understand better what can and cannot be done with the technology I find. Having lived in the US all my life has made me think all things are possible but unfortunately, so much of what I have experienced has been a privilege, not a given. This will be an eye-opening experience for me, my family, my students. I am going for it!

I have been reading, researching how I will project my XO to a wall. Calling manufacturers, etc. The tech here, Martiny, will help. A grad student, Jaimiee, and I tried a quick and dirty fix of just pointing my camera at the XO and using a VGA projector. I guess that could be a fall-back plan if all else fails (and I don't get my camera and projector confiscated).
Posted by Director at 2:45 PM No comments:

Monday, April 12, 2010

New BeginningsCharting a new course! I am planning my trip to Uganda. It is an exciting time in my life as I approach new arenas with abandon. Today, I received my second group of shots: yellow fever, polio and Hepatitis A. A month ago, I had the menangitis and DPT shots. I honestly thought it would be an issue but it was a piece of cake. Let's hope it all goes so well!

My plan is to join my husband and friends on a vacation in Damascus. Then I will leave Syria for Cairo where I will meet my colleague for the weekend. Then, we will leave for Kampala, where I will work with colleges and highschools for a week.

As an instructional technologist, a Director of Academic Technology and a college professor, I would hope to set up a collaborative effort with my counterparts in Uganda. I will also try to visit Gulu to see an OLPC project in action, in the hopes of spreading the phenomenal work done there to another area. Big hopes, too little time, but you have to start somewhere!
Posted by Director at 5:42 PM No comments: