Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ICT in Cambodia: Open source and Localisation

Today I went to the Ministry of Education and Youth and met mister Sok Tha, head office of the ICT office. After spending one month in the country and teaching children how to use computers I was curious to see what is the governmental strategy in terms of new technologies in Education.

After discussing about different ICT scenarios in Peru, France and Spain I was very happy to see the ICT "Master Plan" put in place in 2009 in Cambodia and discover that the team already translated a version of Open Suse in Khmer and is empowering the use of open source technologies in schools and training centers.

While discussing with the young ICT team I saw at what point the localisation is important as they told me that in the beginning they tried to make the Open Office training in English but the teachers were afraid to open a computer that "was talking to them" in a language that they didn't understood. When they start using Khmer OS and software the difference was notable.

I was also happy to notice how much they focus on teacher instruction and that they are actually paying attendants to present what they learned in their own schools. While aiming in this way for an exponential process they also try to create training centers in rural areas and support community members to acquire income-generating skills through video tutorials.

My take-aways after having this discussion and reading the strategy document:
  • The government should focus on providing clear and transparent guidelines for possible computer donations.
  • A first "systemic technology implementation" training should be carried out with the government ICT team.
  • The ministry resources and documents should be organized in a first standardized repository and all existent resources should be identified and re-used. (example translate the Open Educational Platform of Unesco in Khmer and encourage the ICT active teachers to use it).
  • I believe a feasibility should be carried out as soon as possible in order to determine when and how to establish a first National Open University
  • Mobile learning strategies should be considered as part of the ICT strategy as Cambodian young people are more likely mobile internet users. 
  • The quality evaluation is essential so the team should measure on regular basis the impact and identify relevant indicators
  • Example of  good practice as the "m-learning vans" (mobile learning units for isolated areas) should be promoted as part of the communication plan. 

With all this being said I am having high hopes on the future of ICT in Cambodia and I hope contribute to it at least with by helping my one hundred children.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Exciting news

Things are advancing in our centre! After sending an email solicitating for English books and old computers donnations to the Cambodia Parent network group we received three offers of books donations, an old laptop for parts and an invitation to apply for the Women’s International Group of Cambodia funding program. Florian also send us an OLPC which should arrive in maximum two weeks. 

I also met Emmanuel, French photographer who is giving photography workshops for children and agreed to visit our centre one weekend and David from Wave media who is working also on Radio production and might help us to know more about that. As I would really like to teach the children as much as I can about media literacy I will try to take them through all the medias and train their critical thinking along the way.

Meanhwhile my students are starting to love jazz and had a great laugh seeing for the first time Luis Armstrong first recording of  What a Wonderful world. They also did their first CVs in English and First Power Point presentations. (see Phera's example bellow) 

Yesterday we also visited a Buddhist centre two hours away from Phnom Penh where they were happy to show the monks how good they became in English.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Our first "how to use a computer" workshop

This week we finally got into the computers room. After managing to get three working computers + my laptop and cleaning the room with the children I installed also a projector and we had our first "IT" workshop. There were twelve children attending (boys and girls) all super excited an curious.

First we tried to see what is a computer and why do we need it? After showing them the Eniac emblematique picture and going through the components and the peripherals, we saw the different types of existent computers and applications.

Because the levels were so different and we have so little computers I had to split them in two groups: "Dragon Blue" and "Bora". The two groups will have to create different documents (Word documents, Power point presentations, a blog) and by the end of the workshop we will choose a winning team. It is funny to see how the children got very exited by the competition and their not missing any class now.

It was also very interesting to notice the learning curve during the first week. While some of the boys already knew how to type quite fast and how to use basic programs the girls didn't even know how to use the mouse or to open a folder. After a week of practicing and playing with Typing Master and other typing games I got them to use independently the computers. As for the boys they went crazy with power point and they created some great presentation by learning how to use the program and how express themselves in English at the same time.

Because we don't have internet in the lab I installed locally Wikipedia with Kiwix and I also showed them some Khan academy videos and some BBC documentaries. The result was amazing in terms of Computer and English use improvement. I have to say that I am more than amazed with the progress of  the children after one week and I will do my best to get them some proper computers and a wireless connection by the end of my staying.

Resources:  "What is a computer"- presentation, ITEC 1011, York University.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dancing with my basic needs in Phnom Penh

The third day I arrived to Phnom Penh I got really really sick. Because I was in the KKEV village I had to wait for one day to come to the capital and see a doctor. I was having 39 degrees temperature, couldn´t walk anymore and had a terrible headache. This lasted for more than a week when they finally dicovered I had salmonela and gave me the correct treatment. Because I couldn´t read or watch TV, I was physically and emotianally exhausted, on my last day in the Guesthouse I grabed a tissue and wrote a spoken word with all the ideas that popped in my head. I thought I should publish it here and rember how ¨ I survided in Cambodia¨ (they actually have T-shirts with this).
so here it goes:
Dancing with my basic needs
So what is more important?
To eat or to have a place to live
To be able to walk
Or to be able to talk
To be able to sleep
Or to be able to think
These question might sound 
But I´ve been dancing with my basic needs
For the last eternity
Also quantified in modern
As ten magic ireversable
And this was by far the most challenging
As you dance it