Visit: July 2014
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. 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.
Arrival – Nelson Mandela Day
Our first day of work was amazingly on Nelson Mandela day.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.