Khaya Centre Mount Olive 2014: visit+

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Other things we achieved during the visit…

Codecademy.com

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 We managed to get www.codecademy.com working (after installing gnash) which was really exciting.

Loom Bands

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Yes, loom bands have made it to Lehae! Nyah taught one girl how to do a loom band bracelet and by the last day, it had gone viral. And one of the trustees was very happy when she got her turn to learn too. She also saw the educational benefit of loom bands for the Khaya Centre: to strengthen hand and arm muscles for learning to write and hand eye coordination (we’re glad someone has found a benefit to loom bands).

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Rainbow FM

Yes we did – we got on the radio in Jo’burg to talk about Urban Shift’s painting project and Project Pi.

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Tim Greenwood

Tim currently works for Living Systems. His background is in psychology, and he has been working as a psychologist within education and the community for the last ten years. He recently gained a Masters of Arts in Management, Learning, and Leadership from Lancaster Business school focusing on the use of Action Research to promote curious and evolving ways of working with individuals, groups and organisations.

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Khaya Centre Mount Olive 2014: Visit

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Visit: July 2014

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Even with Tyson’s meticulous planning (yes Tyson is the master planner when it comes to details) , we just had to hope we had done enough. There were just so many unknowns. Who would I be working with in Lehae? What was the electricity like? Would there be Wifi? Would there be an electrical store near by if I needed any extra supplies?

Getting on the plane was exciting, I just had to stop thinking about it all and relax.IMG_20140715_135919.jpg Well that was until our flight was delayed and we had to spend 24 hours in Amsterdam. This was in some ways a mixed blessing – we got chance to get to know each other as a team which we had not had much chance to do before setting off.

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Arrival – Nelson Mandela Day

Our first day of work was amazingly on Nelson Mandela day.

nelson-mandela-day.jpg We had the opportunity to help with volunteers from businesses in Johannesburg who had come to help paint houses and plant little mini vegetable gardens for some of the families accessing the Khaya Centre.

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Setting Up

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Mandla, project lead South Africa side, set straight to setting up the Pi’s. I just took the pictures. And as we talked, I found out he has a background in business management and was taking time out of his studies to support the good work of the Khaya Centre.

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Once the hardware was all good. I set on checking the Pi each had a working operating system, Libre Office installed and setting up Wifi (via a wireless router which connects to the internet via 3G).

Training

The first step was to figure out what people already knew about Linux and computing in general, and how confident they felt learning about what they didn’t know (and how much time they could give to this from their other duties). We also looked at what we knew about Libre Office, Scratch and Minecraft (which for Nyah, aged 10, was a lot more than the rest of us put together). We then looked at spending some time on what I called ‘deep emersion’ or in other words – having a play with a Pi for a while.

 

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We decided to start the project with four groups. Two groups from the primary aged children and two groups of ‘seniors’. We planned out a basic introductory lesson, based upon some teaching from the front but also using Nyah (aged 10) to do a bit demonstrating, as well as time for unstructured exploration with some adult facilitation as needed. A big inspiration for the project and the style of delivery, was to try and get away from more formal modes fo instruction, and encourage the children and young people to learn by doing, and showing each other as they learnt. A key influence here was Sugata Mitra’s work.

 

Running the first sessions

The first impressions seemed to be unbeleif, then followed by excitement. This was the first time some of the younger children had used a computer, so coordinating the mouse and keyboard took a bit of time. But even within the first session we were seeing children teech each other how to move around in Minecraft and create sprites in Scratch (seniors).

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Governance

I was shmoosing at a lunch one evening, kindly put on by one of the Khaya Centre trustees. I got talking with a retured high school principal. We were talking about Project Piu and the benefits. He seemed to see the educational benefits and we soon got talking about managing such a project and ensuring long term impact and quality. OFSTED came up, and I aksed him if he wouldn’t mind playing a kind of OFSTED role for the project. Perhaps with less fo the inspection feel and more of the supportive and guidance/leadership vibe. Within half an hour we had set a date for him to visit the project (the last day of the trip) and meet with Mandla (project lead). The meeting was very productive and we agreed a plan for the next 6 months.

UPDATE: I have spoken with Valencia who tells me that Mandla has also been introduced to an ICT teacher who works at a nearby school.

 

Tim Greenwood

Tim currently works for Living Systems. His background is in psychology, and he has been working as a psychologist within education and the community for the last ten years. He recently gained a Masters of Arts in Management, Learning, and Leadership from Lancaster Business school focusing on the use of Action Research to promote curious and evolving ways of working with individuals, groups and organisations.

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Khaya Centre Mount Olive 2014: Planning

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Planning

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So who knew having a good ideas is just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to pulling off a quality project? Luckily for Project Pi – I had teamed up with Moira and Esther (from Urban Shift) who were already planning to take out a group from Bolton to the Khaya Centre, in July 14. They were taking four teenagers and one adult – to help with a project to help improve the quality of living for 15 households in Lehae project. They had been out before as part of the building of the centre and wanted to follow up with some targeted outreach to families accessing the Khaya Centre. It made a lot of sense to partner up with this venture and go out as a group. We arranged with Valencia to sleep within the centre and she agreed to coordinate and organise our overnight security, transport and daily food and refreshments which was fantastic.

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Architecture

Tyson used his background in cloud architecture to design the Raspberry Pi set ups. This included deciding specifically what to buy, from the Raspberry Pi all the way down to the SD cards, mice, cables and monitors. Each had to be sourced, checked for availability, priced up and  checked for suitability. For example, the power supplies for the Raspberry Pi had to supply enough current for the Pi’s which were overclocked and running with USB WiFi adaptors – we found out early on that the Pi would just cut out and restart if they did not have enough current available. Tyson was meticulous with side of the project preparation, aiming to keep the number of surprises in South Africa to a minimum. We didn’t know how easy it would be to source things like SD cards, cables or monitors when in Lehae so we decided to take it all out with us.

Software

During the planning phase we tested out a number of free software packages, most of which now come as standard with Noobs (New Out Of the Box Software), a handy bundle of operating system software supplied by the Raspberry Pi foundation. These were Scratch (a visual programming language designed for kids), Minecraft Pi and Python (Minecraft Pi comes with an API that allows kids to write Python code that can interact with the Minecraft world).

We also decided to install Libre Office, Chromeum and gnash. Libre Office is a free office suite which Valencia thought would be very useful for teaching basic word processing and spreadsheet skills as well as writing CVs. Chromeum with gnash (an open source version of Flash) was also installed to allow access to Codecademy.com, an excellent website for learning to code Python (and many more languages).

Teaching and Learning

Right from the start, I had been really keen for this project to be more than just an ICT suite. I wanted the way kids were taught and encouraged to interact with the Pi to be ‘child led’. I had been really impacted by a number of key people:

  • Seymour Papert – I had experienced first hand as a child the thrill of making a Logo turtle/robot move by typing in simple lines of code. Having to persevere and iterate to make it move in the way we had imagined.
  • Sugata Mitra – and his experiments with putting high speed internet into rural villages in India, leaving children to explore and find for themselves answers to their questions, spontaneously teaching peer to peer.

As well as the materials developed by Craig Richardson (http://arghbox.wordpress.com/) – a curriculum for learning Python using Minecraft Pi.

Tim Greenwood

Tim currently works for Living Systems. His background is in psychology, and he has been working as a psychologist within education and the community for the last ten years. He recently gained a Masters of Arts in Management, Learning, and Leadership from Lancaster Business school focusing on the use of Action Research to promote curious and evolving ways of working with individuals, groups and organisations.

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Khaya Centre Mount Olive 2014: Background

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Background to trip

IMG_20140725_070703.jpg I first met Valencia in September 2013. Valencia leads a vibrant and growing project in Johannesburg, South Africa – called The Khaya Centre Mount Olive. The project is located in Lehae, amidst an expansive housing project built to accommodate beneficiaries of Eikenhof and Thembelihle settlements (see here for more on the Khaya Centre). At the time, I was with a group called Urban Shift who had first met Valencia, whilst helping to build the Khaya Centre in 2012. As we got talking, I was struck by the passion Valencia had for her project, and the vision she had for its future.  (Hear Valencia talking about her project here)

There was a moment, where the conversation seemed to really come alive , Valencia was speaking about the limited access to IT her centre beneficiaries and members of the local community have, and I suddenly thought about Raspberry Pi. What if these small, relatively cheap and easy to maintain little computers might be suitable for her projects needs? I myself was experimenting with three of them with my three kids at home with interesting results.

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The next day, I excitedly took a Raspberry Pi along to a charity Valencia was visiting (HAFWAY). We managed to get the Raspberry Pi hooked up to a TV and some WiFi – and after a bit of surfing the internet, playing with minecraft and looking at scratch, it seemed that she liked what she saw. We tentatively agreed to pursue the prospect of bringing a number of Raspberry Pi out to the Khaya Centre. I had no idea how many, or how we would fund this. But there seemed to be a match with some of her projects needs and the what she saw the Pi could deliver.

20131102_114016.jpg I had originally been put on to Raspberry Pi by an IT savvy friend, Tyson, who worked for an innovative IT company in Manchester, UKFast. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind spending some time with me exploring the possibilities of the Pi and in particular, if we could set up the Raspberry Pi for use in an internet cafe. At this stage I was wondering if it might be helpful for the Khaya Centre to have the ability to use the Pi to create a small revenue, adding a certain degree of ‘sustainability’ to the project. I wondered – would it be possible for members of the local community to pay a small amount to use the internet or write and email CVs? I liked the idea of the project having the ability to pay for itself over time, to have a small business enterprise feel to it – not just an ICT project. Not just setting up an IT suite. I liked the idea of involving the community and as I recalled – this had also been something Valencia had specifically mentioned during her visit to the UK. Valencia had also spoken about other projects of this kind at the centre. A sewing project that enabled local women to sell what they made and a similar project involving growing garden vegetables.

Tyson and I had set up a google+ community group where we could share ideas in between meeting up. Tyson had also added some other friends who had experience in networking and linux (the operating system used on the Raspberry Pi). This had been a good place to let the project evolve. But come March, I noticed things had somewhat stalled. I remember that went to sleep one night wondering if the project would ever come to anything. The diea seemed good, people had shown interest. There was a fit between the technology and the Khaya Centre’s needs. But one question remained. How would we fund the project?

But then I got an email. It was Tyson, letting me know that his employer, UKFast had agreed to fund 10 Raspberry Pi and all the extras (see press release here).

It was April 2014 and all of a sudden – this was it – Project Pi was on.

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Tim Greenwood

Tim currently works for Living Systems. His background is in psychology, and he has been working as a psychologist within education and the community for the last ten years. He recently gained a Masters of Arts in Management, Learning, and Leadership from Lancaster Business school focusing on the use of Action Research to promote curious and evolving ways of working with individuals, groups and organisations.

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Valencia talking about the Khaya Centre

 

Tim Greenwood

Tim currently works for Living Systems. His background is in psychology, and he has been working as a psychologist within education and the community for the last ten years. He recently gained a Masters of Arts in Management, Learning, and Leadership from Lancaster Business school focusing on the use of Action Research to promote curious and evolving ways of working with individuals, groups and organisations.

More Posts - Website