Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [learningfromeachother] OLPC - Ethiopia Implementation Report - Relevance in Nigeria.

Expand Messages
  • Tobias Eigen
    Hello Pamela - I hope you are keeping well. This is a powerful email you have sent here and I enjoyed reading it. Would you mind posting it to the Kabissa blog
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 8, 2008
      Hello Pamela -

      I hope you are keeping well. This is a powerful email you have sent here and I enjoyed reading it. Would you mind posting it to the Kabissa blog to share with the Kabissa community?

      Let me know if you have any trouble getting into your account on the new Kabissa site launched in February, which you have already as a longstanding Kabissa member.



      On Sun, Jun 22, 2008 at 8:01 AM, Pamela McLean <pam54321@...> wrote:

      Thanks for you reference to the OLPC trials in Ethiopia and
      and the challenge of a rote-learning based culture. Ethiopia
      Implementation Report, September - December 2007
      (I have put some extracts at the end of my email for reference)

      This is a very useful report.  As I read it I found myself thinking - I recognise what they are saying - it could have been written for Nigeria.  

      I have written a few observations to support my statement that the Ethiopian report seems equally applicable in Nigeria, where there is also rote learning, and a very formal hierarchical social structure. (People bow in different ways to different people, all kinds of variations from a nod of the head to lying flat on the ground, depending on the status of the people involved. A young person passing an older one without offering the correct greeting will be called back. It is not a culture where you normally question your elders.)

      One of the things I have learned through Teachers Talking (an introduction to ICT for teachers in rural schools) is that the attitude to questioning in Nigeria is very different to the UK. One of the problems I find myself facing when I present Teachers Talking (TT) is the challenge of getting participants to ask questions. It is even difficult to get them to generate questions for specific purposes - i.e. where there is no suggestion that anyone is showing ignorance. For instance there is one  activity in the "No Computer Computer Course" part of TT where the participants need to generate ten Yes/No questions which are appropriate for the children they teach. When I first started to do this activity I was completely bewildered as to why it seemed so difficult to get sets of age-and-culture-appropriate closed questions.

      I have now started to include TT sessions that specifically relate to asking questions. I also try to make a point of thanking people when they ask a question, and encouraging all participants to notice how the question has added value to the session for all of us. I have started to include a session on questioning and the difference between open and closed questions. I have found adults intrigued to discover the six key "Who? What? Where? Why? When? How?" questions - whicg is something that is done at primary level in the UK. In TT now we even have an "energiser" where we practice closed questions by playing the childhood game of choosing one person to give answers and then all trying to  trick the person into answering "Yes" or "No".

      Another example comes from when I was teaching a group of young people who are, by local standards, computer literate. They are also helpers at a children's computer club, where they tend to do the  kind of rote learning described in the Ethiopian report. John Dada had asked me to help them see other options for their work with the children. I suggested we might get the children to collect information in a structured way, help them to put in into the computers, and then see what they could find out. Initially  I found myself bewildered by the young people's difficulty in taking this idea forward. Then I realised that they had learned to input specific spreadsheets and databases, but they had not really come across any genuine uses. They had learned about "computers" but they had not learned about "information handling".

      It took me several days to realise how my assumptions about their level of computer literacy were too strongly based in my own information-rich culture. I  struggled with the problem, trying to see why the trainees and I were not "connecting" on various issues. Fantsuam Foundation colleagues Kazanka Comfort and Bala Bidi listened to me patiently in the evenings as I tried to analyse what was going wrong.

      Then one evening, as Comfort and I were in the kitchen, and she was crouching by the kerosene stove where our food was cooking, she picked up a plate, pretended to look at it carefully and started talking to me about it. We were both hungry and looking forward to eating, and as she watched over the food, in the light of the hurricane lamp, she described the plate to me  .. that it was called a plate... that she had bought it at the market.. that she was very happy with this plate...she managed to go on and on, earnestly explaining  how it looked - its shape and the pattern of red and green peppers painted on it .. how wonderful it was to have a plate...  

      We were both smiling at how long she could keep sharing all  her knowledge about the plate. She had solved my problem about the trainees and the computers! Of course the plate was useless to us until there was food on it - that was obvious. But it was not so obvious to the trainees that a computer was useless until it had useful information in it.  They had seen computers. (They had even seen computers decorated with examples of spreadsheets and databases.) But they had no experience of people who were hungry for information coming to use computers. To all intents and purposes the computers they knew were "empty computers" - as useless as the plate before the meal was ready!

      Together, Comfort and I had come to understand the culture gap in this instance. I re-thought the way I was presenting the course and the next day I could feel a much better connection with the trainees.

      If OLPC is to be relevant in rural Africa, it cannot just be about getting computers to places (beyond the interest of the elites) that have virtually no education budget, precious few books and certainly no computers, electricity or Internet connection. It needs to be about helping poorly resourced teachers who are struggling against the odds to do the best they can with large classes and a blackboard. Many are trying hard to do the best they can, in the only way they know, usually in a language that is not their first language (English) and using a system imposed by the colonialists. Given the constraints they face it is very understandable why they use rote learning.

      However the system is not appropriate for the Information Age. One of the great ironies of the present educational system, as I see it, is that it was modeled on a system developed in the UK largely to serve the commercial needs of the industrial revolution (all those book-keepers and clerks with wonderful copperplate writing). But the colonialists didn't bring an industrial revolution with them. No wonder there is unemployment amongst literate Nigerians and the civil service is ludicrously overstaffed. What do you do with people who can read and write when there is little commerce for them to serve? As my friend Mr Timothy says  (on the farms) "we labour like animals", and once people are numerate and literate they expect better opportunities than "labouring like animals" - but most people in Nigeria will have to create those opportunities for themselves. That is the educational challenge. As the excellent Ethiopian report points out, if OLPC is to help, it will need to continue to consider cultural context as well as technology.

      It is refreshing to see OLPC starting to address cultural issues more seriously now, as well as technical ones. If the designers are considering those aspects, then it does makes the whole project seem more potentially relevant to education in the rural areas that I know, and others like them.


      Extracts below from Ethiopia Implementation Report, September - December 2007

      The    aim    of    the    study    was    to    assess    both    the    educational     
      and    technical    effectiveness    of    the    Eduvision    software     
      when    used    on    the    XO    laptops    in    Ethiopian    classrooms.
      The     dominant     mode     of     education     in     Ethiopia     can     
      best    be    understood    against    the    background    of    a    long     
      established     model     of     teaching,     influenced     by     both     
      cultural    and    religious    traditions    (Lasonen    et    al    2005).     
      Such    traditional    models    still    play    a    significant    formative     
      role    for    the    educated    population,    with    most    current     
      teachers     and     related     professionals     having     received     
      their    schooling    within    this    context.    Unsurprisingly,    the     
      experience     of     learning     in     this     environment     has     had     
      significant    influence    on    the    strategies    employed    in    the     
      teaching    and    learning    process    of    today.    From    primary     
      through     to     tertiary     education,     those     responsible     for     
      education    are,    on    the    whole,    teaching    in    the    way    they     
      themselves    have    been    taught    and    perpetuating    a    rote-
      based    approach    to    learning    (Smith    and    Ngoma-Maema     
      2003;    Negash,    2006).
      Attempts    to    simply    deposit    a    constructivist    model    of     
      education    into    an    Ethiopian    educational    system    which     
      is     firmly    rooted     in     rote     learning     will     face     significant     
      challenges.    The    conceptual    pedagogical    shift    required     
      is    too    radical    to    be    implemented    effectively    without     
      time     and     attention     given     to     gradual     transition     and     

      2008/6/22 Edward Cherlin <echerlin@...>:
      On Sat, Jun 21, 2008 at 8:22 AM, christopher macrae
      <chris.macrae@...> wrote:

      > Back in 1984, we wrote :by 2000 the discrepancy in incomes and expectations
      > will be seen as man's biggest risk; to go globally and sustainably, systemic
      > poverty must be ended, give or take a few years this will require that by
      > 2010 a nobel prize winning economist to popularise to over 1 billion tv
      > watchers the new sport of searching for 30000 community-rising and openly
      > replicable projects http://www.normanmacrae.com/netfuture.html

      Oh, not that many. The great thing about replicable projects is that
      you can replicate them as often as needed. My short list of projects
      to replicate is

      * Microfinance: From Grameen to 10,000+ microfinance institutions
      worldwide so far. Also microinsurance for health care. Something like
      100,000 institutions will finish the job
      * Partners in Health, including health as a basic human right: started
      in Haiti, now in Latin America, Africa, Russia. A long way to go
      * Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement: Integrated development in half of the
      villages of Sri Lanka. Beginning to move out to other countries. A
      very long way to go.
      * One Laptop Per Child: Promoting collaborative discovery, independent
      thought, and wider sharing in dozens of countries; breaking down
      authoritarian school cultures. A long way to go still, but well under
      way, like the others.

      I'm proposing organizations to research and deploy village-scale
      renewable power sources and Internet connections using microfinance in
      order to bring all of these and many others together. When we have
      powerful education tools with the electricity and communications to
      make full use of them, I am predicting a considerable increase in
      economic growth, fulfillment of the other UN Millennium Development
      Goals (health, clean water, and so on), and far more general
      cooperation in the younger generation, plus their parents and teachers
      to a lesser degree.

      I can provide documentation on the merits of each of these. For
      example, we just got a report on OLPC XOs in Ethiopia. Ethiopia
      mplementation Report, September - December 2007

      My comments:

      There are a few paragraphs of advertising, claiming that their
      software is better suited than the Sugar Activities for Ethiopian
      teaching methods. The reported test results mostly concerned
      Eduvision's Melopo activities, rather than Sugar Activities. Since
      Melopo is also somewhat collaborative, the results should transfer.

      The most important observation is that teaching with the laptops, even
      under the constraints of the prevailing system, changed teacher
      behavior toward more effective methods. Instead of reciting
      instructions without a chance to try them out, students began to be
      encouraged to work on the computers, following instructions as they
      are given.

      Teachers began to use structured group activities and competitions,
      and to ask students to present material to the class. The structured
      techniques that the teachers put into their XO lesson plans then
      spilled over into their non-computer classes. Where before any
      question from a student was seen as an insult to the teacher, teachers
      began to offer individual instruction while other students were
      occupied on the computers. Students were encouraged to work in small
      groups, and began to help each other. After a time, teachers began to
      allow questions generally, and to set aside time for them.

      Student motivation was observed to be higher because they could mark
      up their electronic texts with notes and highlighting. This is a
      critical software function. Document readers alone are not sufficient.
      Eduvision recommends adding hyperlinks and some software functions to
      electronic texts. (I recommend adding way more software functions.)

      The trial was quite successful in spite of many obstacles, such as XOs
      getting stuck in customs and delays in localizing texts to Amharic,
      and the somewhat unrealistic setting, with lots of professional help
      for teachers every day, and classes half the usual size. Eduvision
      sees how several components of teacher training can be automated, and
      recommends providing sample lesson plans. A larger trial with 5000 XOs
      was planned for April 2008. (I don't know what is actually happening
      with that.)

      We are not talking about a complete changeover to Constructionism on
      the part of teachers, but the basic premise of the program is
      verified: Opportunity to do things better because of appropriate
      technology leads naturally to doing things better, in spite of
      seemingly intractable cultural obstacles. We can get through to the
      teachers, to the great advantage of students. There is more to come,
      but let us be grateful that the XO is accepted as an agent of change
      in addition to its more obvious benefits to schools.

      > However apart from  backing Muhammad Yunus as the only person who would dare
      > say that good humoredly to a billion people- premiering on Brazil's
      > nationwide tv earlier this month for I hope a big audience to cheer! - what
      > culturally is community-scale is not something for microeconomics (or
      > Gandhian microentrepreneurs) not to be precise about
      > Schumacher preceded my father by forecasting globalization would need to
      > network around 2 million villages: I am not clear if he was expecting a
      > village to be 35000 which is what 7 billion beings divided by 2 million
      > comes to.

      Villages are up to a few thousand. Most of the rest of the world's
      population is in larger towns and cities. I don't know whether 2
      million is right, but it can't be more than 4 million.

      > Equally my father and I would beg you to always think of at least
      > 2 ways to define communities classifications worldwide - for example if the
      > internet to innovate any value whatosever the virtual village of 35000
      > independent thinkers may be just as vital to your economy or the world

      One of the points about Constructionist education is to greatly
      increase the proportion of independent thinkers in the population.

      > economy as any geographical partition of 35000 people. If you can always be
      > cosy with 2 opposite classifications in mind handling 3 or more aint that
      > difficult. Choice of 2 truths is so much harder to debate in mass media's
      > soundbiting era than one.
      > PRACTICAL CASES (please help improve their write ups if you will)
      > Consider 2 Examples of How Community Economics seems to work in Bangladesh
      > and possibly why community has never worked its transparency in Africa
      > 1 Bangladesh
      > This most brilliantly human place on earth lets us look at what sort of
      > community banking sustains communities and enough independence at a global
      > scale; here I absolutely need to read through a lot more literature to
      > understand the Bangladesh model (in fact we are forming at least 2 different
      > book clubs that I expect will take a year to correct these first parses)
      > but roughly Bangladesh as a nation = at least 100,000 dedicated community
      > servants (at Grameen, ASA, BRAC etc) empower over 25 million female
      > microentrepreneurs- according to Bill Clinton that superscaling up is enough
      > to drive the whole economy even if the top politicians are all in jail -
      > currently 7% sustainbale compound growth
      > again with just over 10,000 Bangladeshi branches a bank like Grameen has 8
      > million owners or 800 per branch (though I want to treble check that
      > arithmetic and again does a community of 800 owners sound like what you
      > would expect as village size -particularly as we only have one owner in each
      > household and these may be 5 per household -oddly bringing us not far from
      > 35000 again )...in fact I feel that a grameen bank actually serves whatever
      > villages are within say 10 miles radius of each other (ie multiple villages)


      > -before the English invented trains (and unless you boatd) that was the
      > average distance a human being explored in a lifetime - remeber that when
      > you first intall mobile telegram connections because te economic
      > multipliers of you can hear me now are big!
      > 2 AFRICA
      > I am taking a wild guess (so no worries on my side how much you can help me
      > learn) but I suggest that Africa suffers from a virulent problem that I am
      > not aware any 20th C nation has solved
      > what happens when 0.1% of your land is oil/gold etc and 99.9% sand
      > ie how is wealth and health shared across all the geography of an Africa
      > nation rather than creating 2 asset-rideen apartheids: those who live in and
      > own the oil well/gold mine and those who don't. I am aware that the
      > communities who own the gold are variously called corporations, state
      > government, some hybrid but in all cases I am not aware (though future
      > hopeful of middle east models) of a "poor" nation that shares the natural
      > wealth equitably across its peoples as intergenrational time goes by.  And
      > Africa's bad luck is to be endowed with more natural commodity wealth than
      > any continent but never to have progressed equitably beyond the mess that
      > European Empiredom historically mined
      > even as at a detail level I have made lots of errors, I hope you will never
      > forget to relentlessly debate how  community is everywhere in the jigsaw
      > puzzle pieces wherever future crisis of human sustainability is compounding
      > up or down

      Bangladesh was also part of the British Empire, and was remorselessly
      pillaged for centuries.

      One of the better correlates with growth in the last fifty years is
      the prior commitment to education in the culture, including the idea
      (if not always the practice) that the purpose of government is the
      well-being of the entire nation, for various definitions of

      >  Can we research the original truth of ENTREPRENEUR
      > http://www.ned.com/group/community-general/news/240/
      > there can be a lot more in the economics debate at this ned thread which
      > could hugely benefit from you swarming there – though I will try to
      > summarise learnings at http://journalistsforhumanity.com

      I hear that free markets work well. We should try it sometime.

      > which leaves how do we the people debate- I am sorry but I believe the worst
      > in the world for community sustainability is the American democracy every 4
      > years system  fanned by 15 minutes of ads per 60 minutes of tv viewing. I
      > say this as a mathematician of media not someone who understands politics of
      > left or right anywhere at national levels.  I agree that is extremely
      > ignorant of me.

      There is definitely something to be said for a simple vote of No
      Confidence rather than a legalistic impeachment process that the
      legislature dare not invoke.

      > If I could wish: Dr Yunus on tv every might linked into google.org
      > communities searching for 30000 open community projects
      > If world citizen nets cannot weave that wish,  we also like:
      > Oxford union debates http://oxbridge.tv/_wsn/page3.html
      > Open Space 1000 person gatherings the HO way http://futuresunited.com/
      > 31000 person Gandhi-Montessori schools in one city and thus their parent
      > etacher networks

      The Montessori movement has become utterly hidebound. Instead of
      continuing to recognize even more ways that children invent for
      themselves to learn, they have become rigid orthodoxies each assuring
      themselves that the others have got it all wrong. (The experience that
      did it for me was when my daughter decided to do a jigsaw puzzle
      upside down as an additional challenge, and the Montessori school
      teacher wouldn't let her.)

      One Laptop Per Child has inherited the Montessori mantle by promoting
      collaborative discovery, encouraging students to find new ways of
      using the tools provided, and even to create new tools.

      > We also know ways of turning any global brand into such a Q&A debate but
      > that needs closing down the brand's ad agency for a year while the people
      > debate how to return communications of image and reality to the same means
      > and the same ends
      > You might have guessed the bottom line. As a lover of true community, I
      > would love to hear of other communications methods that celebrate the
      > humanity or flow with the hi-trust entrepreneur.

      We're working on it.

      > chris macrae
      > worldcitizen.tv, wholeplanet.tv  washington dc bureau 301 881 1655

      Edward Cherlin
      End Poverty at a Profit by teaching children business
      "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."--Alan Kay

      Tobias Eigen

      Senior Steward - IT
      Global Action Networks-Net (GAN-Net)

      Executive Director
      Kabissa - Space for Change in Africa
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.