Urban vs. Village

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I went to Moses Van Der Byl Primary School, located in the Namibian capital city Windhoek. I stayed in my sister’s class (she is a science teacher at the school), where students rotated each class period. The aim was to see if reactions to the iPad at an urban school would differ from the schools I went to in the village.

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Attack of the 1st graders

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While at Moses Van Der Byl Primary School, my brother and I had the chance to go into a 1st grade class to see if there’s any difference in how younger students react to the iPad.
The Process
I debated about changing the approach out of concern that younger students may not be able to have a full conversation about the iPad. Ultimately, I stayed close to the script for consistency sake and out of curiosity. In this class I did not show the students the iPhone as a warm up activity and decided to jump straight to the iPad. This was mainly due to time constraints as the school day was coming to the end.

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Yes minister: a visit to the ministry of Education

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I had an opportunity to meet with Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Education, Dr. David Richard Namwandi. Prior to his current position, he was founder and Vice Chancellor of the International University of Management (IUM), which is the only fully Accredited Private University in Namibia. The University has grown since its founding in 1993 and now has four campuses in the country. I though Having founded a school and now a minister been in charge As an educator, and now a national policy chief and education leader,As the second in command of Namibia’s very complex educational system, he was naturally concerned with the issue of access to technology and how students can use various technologies for learning. Our conversation included the use of mobile devices in education, which gave me an opening to get him to interact with the iPad and explain what I have been doing over the past two months in Namibia.His reaction was consistent with everyone else that I have met, in that he was impressed by the design and excited about the possibilities the device offered. The one thing that the minister seemed to be interested in more than other aspects was the iBook library. Having that many books available at his fingertips and being able to load PDFs as well as other documents on such a portable device seemed to be very appealing.
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iPad art 2

Below are the pictures drawn by students at Shaanika Oshilongo Senior Secondary School using the iPad using the “Draw for iPad” program by Eric Sadun. Each class was divided into three groups where the groups had to agree on an idea of what they would like to draw and designate an artist. Each group had 3 minutes to produce a drawing.

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Petrol for your iPad: a visit to Shaanika Secondary School

Having made arrangements the previous day, on Friday 12 July 2010, I arrived at Shaanika where the principal allowed me into some of the classes to meet with learners.The basic stats:
Shaanika_01.jpgSchool Name: Shaanika Oshilongo Senior Secondary School
Location: Okahao, Onganjera
Number of Students: 650 (students & teachers live at the school in a hostel, this is the norm for secondary schools in Namibia)
Number of Teachers: 26
Number of Computers: One computer lab with approximately 30 computers that have Internet connection
Other technologies: photocopy machine, duplication machine, facsimile & telephone
Grades: 10 – 12

The Process
I used the steps/questions below to guide the class visit:

  • Step 1 – Familiarisation/Creative Exercise (Ask the students to come up with a list of features that they want their ideal phone to have)
  • Step 2 –  “What do you like/dislike about the iPhone (Positives/Negatives of the iPhone)?”
  • Step 3 –  “If you could take the iPad home, what would you use it for?”
  • Step 4 –  “What do you like or dislike about the iPad (Positives/Negatives of the iPad)?”

The Ideal phone:
After introductions and a general conversation about technology, I told the students that they had five hundred million dollars to create a phone of their choice. Although I went to three classes, I combined the ideas for the ideal phone into one list because the thoughts were fairly the same (If you’ve read my previous posts, you may notice a pattern/similarity).

The student wanted their phone to have the following features/capabilities:

  • Internet
  • Bluetooth
  • Camera
  • Mp3 Player
  • FaceBook
  • TV
  • Laptop
  • Touch Screen
  • Games
  • Loudspeakers
  • Memory Card
  • Information about every Country

Physically close yet technologically far apart
Located in the northern part of Namibia, Shaanika is about 1 kilometer away from Nangombe Combined School which I visited two weeks earlier and detailed the experience in an earlier post. The two schools are close in physical proximity; however, the experiences I had while visiting were different.  Some of the differences could be as a result of the age groups (Nangombe goes up to grade 10 and Shaanika begins at grade 10 through 12) and others could perhaps be explained by the technology available at each school.

Main difference: Technology
Shaanika_02.jpgThe first noticeable difference is that the students at Shaanika are little more exposed to technology. The secondary school has a computer lab with approximately 30 computers, a projector, printer and Internet connectivity. (A week later I would meet with the founder of SchoolNet Namibia who informed me that it was one of the first schools in Northern Namibia to be fitted with computers). Other than computer classes that are taught at the school, students are also able to use computers during the breaks or when the lab is not in use (On the day of my visit, the IT teacher accompanied me to all the classrooms since his classes were being taught by a WorldTeach volunteer – Dana Bays from Oregon. You can read her blog here to get a different perspective on the school and ICT – http://danabays.blogspot.com/).

Secondary Difference: Been there done that…actually, not really
One thing that stood out during my interactions was the hesitancy by students at the school to admit what they didn’t know. At Nangombe, the majority of students seemed excited to participate in conversations about technology, while at Shaanika the students where more reserved and there seemed to be a need by some to appear “cool” by pretending to know more than others. From a student development theory perspective, this was not that surprising. In their high school age through beginning of undergraduate, many students are more concerned with the opinions of their peers.

Shaanika_03.jpgThere were students at the school who had used the iPad in the past because the WorldTeach volunteer has an iPad, which she has used as a reward for well-behaved classes at the end of class periods.  Moreover, since the students have access to the web, they are able to get as much information about latest technology as anyone in the world.  However, further discussion revealed that although some may have heard of or had seen the devices, most had never interacted with them and some seemed tom make claims just to show off to their peers. This was a challenge I did not expect because in every class I had to first deal with the “been there done that students”, and find a way to involve the students who were interested but did not want to seem dumb because the questions they ask or the ideas they gave.

Petrol for your iPad….
Shaanika_04.jpgThe main challenge for any computing technology in parts of Namibia that are far from the main cities, is how to power devices when the battery dies. Some businesses have set up charge centres where the community can pay to for their devices to be charged. Others rely on neighbours who have installed solar power in their houses.

In one of the classes at Shaanika we were discussing the limits of the iPad’s applicability to the environment. Again, the issue of electricity came up with regards to powering the device should a student take it home. We went through a redesign exercise of what could be done differently and although the majority argued for solar power, there was one student who had an innovative solution.

The student proposed that the iPad be powered by Petrol like a car because that is available everywhere in Namibia. The way it would work is that the user would pour petrol in the iPad as in a car and when it runs empty, one could just go to the petrol station to refill. It may seem funny or perhaps silly at first glance, but I was happy to see that the student offering a creative solution and making use of what is available and contextually appropriate in his environment.

Date written: 12 July 2010
Word count: 993

Thanks but no thanks…..

After having a great experience in Northern Namibia with the iPad, I wanted to try the same exercise at schools in the capital city Windhoek to see if there would be any differences in discussions between the students. My suspicion was that the students in the capital would be more aware of technology and would have impressions of the iPad similar to those of students in the US because they have more access to technology. So far, I have not been able to get it done.First attempt:
I went to a school called Ella Du Plessis, which I attended for about a 9 months when I lived in Windhoek. I thought since I had somewhat of a connection to the school, albeit many years ago, that it would serve as a starting point.

When the principal finally agreed to see me, I was invited into his office where I presented my ideas. Half way through the conversation, I noticed that he really wasn’t interested because he started looking around his desk for other things. After I finished telling him the ideas he kindly told me that the students were very busy and that this was a busy time of the year for him and the teachers as they were also beginning to register the students for the next semester.

Being told no was not the issue for me, nor do I have any reason to doubt that the principal was indeed busy. What I found fascinating is that he seemed to have absolutely no interest in anything technology related or even imagine any potential benefit for his students. I was expecting to be kicked out of the office for wasting his time, but luckily that did not happen.

Second attempt:
I went to Jan Jonker School where the only connection I have to it is that it’s located close to our house. The principal was able to see me after one of his meeting and again I pitched my ideas to him. He patiently listen and without giving an indication as to whether or not he would agree to the idea, he asked if he could see the iPad.

I think he was the first adult that I have seen in a long time that excited about the iPad. He was particularly interested in the iBook store because of the many free books that were available especially the classics. He seemed to be looking at the iPad as a device that would save the school cost on printing and purchasing of physical book. The principal then coyly confessed that although he believed in the power of technology, he knew little about computers beyond using the machine for typing. He said that he “used to have a computer right here on my desk but had to pass it onto the secretary because hers went down and she could use mine more than I do.” The school according to the principal has one computer lab for the students to use but his frustration was that there was not enough staff at the school to service the machines and it is too costly to bring someone in.

The principal was very excited about the iPad and about the possibility of spending a day with students talking about technology. He agreed to let me come into his classrooms and requested that I arrive early in the morning so that I could spend the day going from class to class. It was agreed that I would come in at 8am on Friday and that he would spent the rest of Wednesday and Thursday making arrangements with his teachers and sorting out which classes I would go attend.

Friday came, and I went to the school with my two brothers so that the process could faster and that I would have more than 1 iPhone for students to interact with. As we arrived, I was told that the principal was out ill and would probably not been in for the whole day. I asked if I could see one of the head of department (HOD) for assistance (the administrative structure is Principal, HODs and teachers). I quickly discovered that no one at the school was told that I would be coming. The principal had not set up any meetings and the HOD was hearing about my idea for the first time. Having been a teacher, I would have been annoyed if someone was suddenly brought to my class and I had to suspend my planned lesson for the day. So although the HOD was trying to figure out ways to accommodate me, I thanked him for his effort and told him that I would contact the principal to reschedule.

About two hours later, I ran into the principal in the city, who apologised for not being available and confirmed that he was just coming from his doctors as he was not well. He promised that he would phone me once a different date was set…I’m still waiting.

Date written: 2nd July 2010
Word count: 847

iPad art

Below are the pictures drawn by students at Nangombe Combined School using the iPad using the “Draw for iPad” program by Eric Sadun. Each class was divided into three groups where the groups had to agree on an idea of what they would like to draw and designate an artist. Each group had 3 minutes to produce a drawing.

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Visiting Nangombe Combined School

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As per an agreement with the principal from the previous day, I was given access to grades 9, sections A & B, and grade 10, section B. These classes were chosen because their teachers were at a workshop and because the learners had all either taken a class called entrepreneurship or would be taking the class later this year. The textbook used for that class has a section on Information Communication Technology (ICT) in education, and I was therefore asked to speak on the same topic as a way of helping to reinforce some of the concepts in the textbook.The Process
iPad_and_phone.jpgIn each class I started with a conversation about technology, different uses and asking what the students liked about technology in general. After telling them about my background and my interests, I asked how many students had cell phones, and in all three classes, no one had a cell phone of their own but all had a cell phone at home (in the community, I would say that over 90% of the people that have cell phones have never had a landline at home). I informed the classes that I would be sharing with them two pieces of technologies and that I would ask them questions on what they think about the technologies.

I used the steps bellow to guide the rest of the class:
Step 1 – Familiarisation/Creative Exercise:
“As a class we are going to create our ideal cell phone. We’ll make a list of what we want this phone to do and have, so make sure you give your ideas so that they are included. Here’s the question: If you had an unlimited amount of money and you could create your ideal phone, what would it be like, what would it have or be able to do?”

a) In each class I asked for a volunteer to  write down the list in my notebook while I wrote down the list on the chalkboard. In hindsight, I should have allowed the note taker to use my laptop instead of writing on paper as a way to interact with more technology.

b) After we completed the list, I told the students that I had a telephone that could do all or most of what they came up with and went through each bullet point and showed how the iPhone could or with a bit of modification accomplished all they listed. It was interesting that most of the ideas that they had are things that almost any smart phone could do.

Step 2 –  “What do you like about the iPhone?”

a) After going through the list that the students came up with, I divided all the students into small groups and went from group to group showing the students the iPhone and having them interact with it.

b) As I finished with each group, I told them to come up with a list of things that they like about the iPhone or things that they wished it could do.

Step 3 –  “If you could take the iPad home, what would you use it for?”

a) After interacting with the iPhone and finishing their lists regarding the iPhone, I introduced the iPad.

b) Again, I split the students into groups and showed the iPad and allowed them to interact with it.

Step 4 –  “What do you like or dislike about the iPad (Positives/Negatives of the iPad)?”

a) After I went to each group and explained what I could about the iPad as well as showing different apps I informed them that we would be having a drawing competition

b) Each group had to agree on an idea of what they would like to draw and using the “Draw for iPad” program by Eric Sadun, I gave each group 3 minutes to produce a drawing.

c) Once all the groups had finished their drawings, we voted for which drawing was the best.

The list below is a list of what the students came up with. I wrote the ideas as the students said them, providing clarification in brackets when necessary :

Grade 9A – Accounting Class

GroupDrawing1.jpgQuestion 1. If you had an unlimited amount of money and you could create your ideal phone, what would it be like, what would it have or be able to do?

  • A phone having a computer and having a television and if I am in a car it can show me the road ahead of me and a phone that can make plans for me when I need it, or maybe a building that I want to build
  • Tell me who is calling
  • Tell me where a person is when they call
  • Can monitor my house for thieves
  • Show upcoming directions when I am driving
  • Should allow me to spy on people
  • A phone that can allow me to easily access Namibian history (maybe a book)
  • A phone that I can talk into and write for me (speech to text conversion)
  • Let say I have two girls that I like and I want to know if one is positive(A phone that can tell me if a person I would like to date is HIV positive or negative)
  • Can allow me to buy a car
  • A phone that can give out money (actual money withdraw as done at an ATM)

Question 2. What do you like about the iPhone

  • It can show all the information
  • It can save voicemails and make it easier to access them
  • It can save history
  • I can save my secrets
  • I can chat on facebook
  • I can watch television

Question 3. If you could take the iPad home, what would you use it for?

  • I’ll use it to watch the world cup in my village with my family
  • I’ll use it to read some news
  • I can charge people to watch TV or sports
  • I can use it to teach my family and others in my community about technology

Question 4. Negatives of the iPad

  • What if I am going where there is no network
  • If it can know who is HIV positive, that is not always good.
Grade 10 B – History Class

GroupDrawing2.jpgQuestion 1.If you had an unlimited amount of money and you could create your ideal phone, what would it be like, what would it have or be able to do?

  • Should have a TV
  • Should have an address book
  • Should have a computer
  • Should have a dictionary
  • Should be able to make video phone calls
  • Should have a camera
  • Should have a calculator
  • Should have a touch screen
  • Should have the internet
  • Should have a call register (call history)
  • Should have two SIM cards
  • Should have a lot of memory
  • Should be able to tell you who is calling
  • Should be able to monitor my house and catch a thief

Question 2. What do you like about the iPhone

  • When someone wants to watch television they can watch it but you can also make others to pay for it

Question 3. If you could take the iPad home, what would you use it for?

  • I would use it to watch TV
  • I would use it to watch the world cup
  • I can charge people to see and use
  • I can use it to sell my products

Question 4. What do you like or dislike about the iPad (Positives/Negatives of the iPad)

  • iPad can show many information, like if you want to understand something like a word, you would go into the dictionary and see all the definition of it
  • With the iPad you can write, draw and make something good

 

Grade 9B – Entrepreneurship Class

GroupDrawing5.jpgQuestion 1. If you had an unlimited amount of money and you could create your ideal phone, what would it be like, what would it have or be able to do?

  • It should tell me who is calling and I should see their picture
  • It should show me if someone is stealing or breaking into my house

Question 2. What do you like about the iPhone

  • I can play games with it or on it
  • It can show all the information
  • I can listen to a lot of music

Question 3. If you could take the iPad home, what would you use it for?

  • I’ll use it to watch the world cup
  • I’ll use it to draw
  • I can charge people to watch TV or sports

Question 4. What do you like or dislike about the iPad (Positives/Negatives of the iPad)?

  • I can take it home and on the way someone may beat me up and take it from me
  • I can put all my books in it and not need to carry many books with me

Discussion:
studentDrawing2.jpgAs evident from the lists above, all classes had very similar expectations and ideas of what they wanted the iPad and iPhone to be able to do. I  however got the impression that most of the ideas that the students where coming up with were a result of our conversations earlier. I think there was a fear of making a stupid suggestion (a normal behaviour for the age group), and maybe as a result no one was willing to offer their wildest of ideas.

With the exception of wanting to use the iPad/iPhone to monitor thieves, and for it to be a functioning ATM, I did not find any interactions with the iPad at Nangombe to be different from those I’ve seen or heard about in other places especially from those in technologically rich areas. The students were basically looking at it as a tool for accessing information and because of the world cup there was a significant interest in accessing information related to football (soccer) and also watching matches.

The one key thing that I did however notice was the excitement and willingness to interact with the devices. The learning curve was almost none existence, which lends credence to Alan’s comment in a previous post about natural design. Although I took time to explain a few things, I think the students would have played around and figured most things out on their own. Unlike the hesitancy and fear that I encountered in other locations, in this context, the students could not wait to get their hands on the technology.

I am convinced that given more time the students at Nangombe, especially in light of the curiosity they displayed, would be able to come up with many different usage and design ideas. They would probably come up with ideas and design challenges that I would have never thought about and better articulate some of the limitations best on their environment. It would be an interesting experience to design an iPad lab where students can go and use the technology for a longer period and see if their interest and excitement wanes overtime.

boys.jpgThis experience was fun for me and I think for the students too. At first I was disappointed because I did not feel that the students were thinking creatively enough about how they can use the technology. I thought about it more and realized how unfair it was for me to expect someone to give me a list of ideas when they’ve only interacted with a product for a few minutes, especially considering that many of the students were interacting with a computer for the very first time. I also got a sense that there was a bit of an overload for some of the students because in one hour they had interacted with more ICT than they had in their whole life. I think the excitement for the newness of the products could have possibly skewed their perception. I know that for me the perceptions that I have of the iPad and iPhones are different today now that the honeymoon period is over. I am now able to see them more as another tool/environment amongst many options available to me.

Things to consider for the next location:
It would have been nice to have someone else help observe or maybe video record the experience because I am sure I missed out on many of the back channel conversations. An additio
nal person, especially with another iPad or laptop would have made for a more effective use of time. I also think that if I had given the students the option of writing up their reactions to the iPad (or on the day with technology) and have them bring their write ups the following day, I probably would have gotten more of a realistic perception as they would have had more time to process/internalize the experience.

I am going to try the same process in the capital city Windhoek, where students have more exposure to different technologies and see if the outcome is different.

A quick plug/appeal:
students.jpgIf anyone reading this has computers  or other technologies that they would like to donate to Nangombe Combined School, please let me know. It would be great to go back to this school a year from now and set up a computer lab that students can use. I know this can be said for any schools and granted I am biased, but I think this is a wonderful school filled with many optimistic and promising learners.

Date written: 11th June 2010
Word count: 2148

My alma mater…sort of

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Located in the northern part of Namibia, Nangombe Combined School is a school that I attended when I was in standard five (currently grade 6 – after Namibia became a free country in 1990, we stopped using standards an changed to grades) before moving to Windhoek, the capital city.Basic stats for the school:
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  • School Name: Nangombe Combined School
  • Location: Okahao, Onganjera (Northern Namibia)
  • Number of Students: 561
  • Number of Teachers: 23
  • Number of Computers: 1 (an old machine used only by the secretary and sometimes teachers)
  • Other technologies: 1 photocopy machine & 1 duplication machine – both are broken
  • Grades: 6 – 10

When I was an undergraduate my father took me back to visit the school and without my knowledge arranged with the principal to have me go into a classroom to talk to students. I agreed (not that it was optional) and ended up having a great time talking to students about everything from doing well in school, to life at the university, music, careers, etc. Although my father passed away a few years ago, I still try to go back to the school when I come home and because it’s still the same principal, it makes the process easier.

On 09 June, I stopped by the school and spoke to the principal about the possibility of going into some of the classes to talk to students and see what they would think of the iPad. The principal agreed, especially because some of the teachers would be attending workshops the following day. Instead of canceling some class periods or finding the students something else to do, it was a greed that I would take over the class periods for the day.

The next post details my experience. It is a bit long, so readers may have to come back to it.

Date written: 9th June 2010

Word count: 311

What’s an iPad without the Internet?

ipadPic.jpgI stopped by an electronics store in the mall recently, where the store clerk told me that they had to send the 3G iPads back because the 3G devices that they required were not compatible with what Namibia uses. I don’t know how true that statement is because USB slots are fairly standard these days and I am able to use my devices with no problem. Nonetheless, the gentleman informed me that only Wi-Fi iPads are currently available in Namibia (The iPad that I am using has 16GB of memory with Wi-Fi capability) and so far I have not found any indication that what he said was false.Accessing the Internet in Namibia is done in the same manner as in the US. One can get a home set up or purchase a 3G USB device that allows for mobility.  I purchased my first 3G devices to use for my laptop hoping that through a Bluetooth connection and Internet tethering, I could share connectivity between the iPad and my laptop. This did not work because I don’t believe Apple allows for it. Also the first device that I purchased at N$650 (with 1100MB worth of access) would connect to the Internet only for short periods of time and intermittently drop. Consequently I had to drop another N$699 to purchase a second device (with 500MB of access), which has thus far been very reliable.

The issue is not simply my annoyance at spending money (even with the exchange rate it’s still money). The issue is that Computer Internet remains relatively expensive (especially for students) and to a large extent a luxury. Additionally, even when one is able to afford the cost, Wi-Fi signals are mainly available in the city centre, and not in the suburbs, townships or rural areas. Hence to access the Internet on the iPad, one has to either be in the city or in the house that has wireless access.

Design implications:
From a design aspect, more Apps need to be created that do not require access to the Internet post download. I realize that this may utilize a lot of memory, but it may be the most effective method. The iBook App is perhaps the best example of this. Once a book is purchased, the reader no longer needs to have access to the Internet unless she or he wants to download additional content. Students especially should be able to download programs that can be saved directly on the device, and can store information locally, to be uploaded (or interact with) to the server when the signal is re-acquired. I realize there are programs that do this already, but currently, a lot of what is available requires network connectivity that when the signal is not available, some programs do not function fully.

Contextual implications:
For the iPad to be more useful in the Namibian context, and perhaps for much of the developing world, the Internet connectivity issue needs to be addressed. Governments, NGOs or Businesses must invest in making Wi-Fi readily available in more locations, especially rural area and not just in the business centres. Alternatively, mobile 3G devices can be made widely available that can broadcast a wireless signal without the need to physically connect to the device through a USB slot. In Namibia, the easiest thing would be to allow the iPad to use a mobile phone signal through Bluetooth to access the Internet (if this is already done, I have not heard of it).

A thought:
What if the Internet and access to it was a human right? Perhaps enshrined in the UN human rights charter as other rights are? What effect would this have?

Date written: 8th June 2010
Word count: 617