How You Can Help

I’ve been surprised by the number of people who have shown genuine interest in my trip to Africa this summer. For those who don’t know, I’m going to be providing technology training to teachers, school administrators and educational leaders in South Africa and Kenya as part of a Teachers Without Borders – Canada team. I’ve had a lot of people approach me, wanting to hear more about the trip, when I’m going, how long I’m going to be gone, and what I’ll be doing.

Photo by Noble Kelly, TWB-CDuring the six-week trip in July and August, we will be helping teachers learn to use technology to enhance their teaching. Workshops will focus on the use of technology to prepare and deliver instruction as well as to connect students and teachers with others around the world.

The workshops themselves are starting to take shape, and run the gamut from very basic computer use to the design of electronic instructional resources, to the use of online interactive and collaborative tools. The range of available technology is staggering. At one extreme, the schools have a computer lab with reasonably up-to-date computers and Internet access. At the other end, one of our workshop sites doesn’t have any computers at all (but we’ve been promised that they’ll have electricity). There are also a lot of schools between these extremes.

I’m personally looking forward to developing some partnerships between African teachers and North American teachers. In many places, the teachers are very isolated. We hope to use internet technologies to connect them to professional networks of other educators working toward common goals. Ideally, these networks will include teachers in their own countries and across the globe. One of the great things about education is that it’s essentially a collaborative enterprise. We’re not really competing against one another. When we work together, everyone wins.

I’m not a fund raiser. I don’t like asking people for money. I am especially sensitive to making people feel obligated to support some cause I think is important. My philosophy is that people will support the things that are important to them, and it’s not up to me to tell them what those things should be. But in talking to some people about this project, I’m getting the impression that this thing that is important to me is already important to them. And they want to help. It’s not up to me to stand in their way.

So, if you want to get involved with this project, here are some ways you can help:

Monetary Donations
As unpleasant as it is, sending a team to Africa is expensive. While costs vary for each team member depending on flight arrangements and how long they’ll be in Africa, my trip will cost about US $200-250 per day. I’ll be there for 41 days, so that adds up pretty quickly. Some of that cost is my responsibility, and some of it comes from TWB-C. But neither of us has that much money, and I’m only one of seven people on my team, and the team is only one of two teams working in Africa this summer. So their costs are pretty high.

If you’d like to contribute, you can do so in a couple different ways. If you visit the TWB-C site, you can donate through CanadaHelps.org. For tax reasons, Americans may want to donate through Teachers Without Borders International, because they’re registered in the United States as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization. If you visit the TWB-International site to donate, please make sure you earmark your donation for “TWB Canada” to make sure it goes to the right place. If you’d rather go old-school, you can just send a check by visiting either of those sites and using the instructions provided.

Send Us Stuff
Maybe you would rather contribute something tangible that we can take with us to Africa to give to a teacher or a school. A few people have already donated netbooks. Others have donated Flip cameras, and there are some rumors of forthcoming MP3 player donations. We could also really use flash drives. You know you have some older, lower-capacity flash drives laying around that you don’t use anymore. We can put them to good use, especially if they’re in the 1-2 GB range. If you’d like to help in this way, please contact me.

Share Resources
Maybe you have a great resource for teaching Science. Or a wonderful tool for digital storytelling. Please use the tag “TWB-C” to draw our attention to it. We’re especially looking for pedagogically sound instructional software that doesn’t require a network connection, along with free open-ended educational software that can be used to help promote problem solving and critical thinking skills. But if there’s something else you think we should be looking at, we’d love to hear about it.

Volunteer
We have to realize that we’re all global citizens now. Technology has made the world a much smaller place. Our students need to have an awareness of other cultures and a tolerance for cultural differences. They also need to build collaboration skills, were they’re working together to solve problems and create products with people they’ll never meet face-to-face.”  If you are a North American teacher interested in building a relationship with a class in Africa, or if you are an African teacher trying to build ties with the U.S. or Canada, we can try to help.

There are no guarantees here. But as we work with teachers in Africa, we may be able to help foster some of these classroom connections. To express your interest in a project like this, tell us what you have in mind.

Regardless of how you choose to help, I’m grateful for all of the interest and attention. And, yes, I will be taking pictures on my trip, and (bandwidth permitting) posting them and blogging about my experiences while I’m gone.

WAT MicrograntUpdate – May 19, 2009:
I’ve applied for a $200 micro-grant through We are Teachers to try to get some Flip video cameras to take to Africa this summer. The plan is to use them to do collaborative projects between African and North American students. The top 10 proposals will be funded, based on the number of votes they receive. If you’ve not already voted for one of the other proposals, I would appreciate your support. You can vote here: http://bit.ly/IQgb4 once per email address, until June 1.

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