eLearn Africa day 1 – preconference

Since I have never been to Africa before, and never been to eLearn Africa, I decided to attend the workshop for first time attendees at eLearn Africa. It presented a good opportunity to meet a few new people, and get a sense of the conference. It was a pre-workshop event in the afternoon before the opening plenary.

In the workshop, I participated in a small group discussion with about 8 people. Our group included myself, one gentleman from Ghana, and everyone else from Nigeria. Later, we were joined by a women from Tanzania (from Zanzibar). Of particular interest was one lady who just completed her MA in distance learning online from Athabasca University (in Canada). She lives in Lagos Nigeria, and was able to do her defense using Adobe Connect with committee members from California, Canmore Alberta, and Athabasca Alberta. It all sounds pretty cool! She is looking at doing her PhD, but may be limited to Universities in Nigeria because of the cost.

The intro workshop was bilingual with simultaneous translation – however, the translation wasn’t particularly well done. It seemed to me that the translator was adding pleasantries that did not align with what was said. For example “merci” was translated as “thank you for your attention”. Later, at the opening plenary, the translation was much better.

In the evening, I attended the opening plenary. When I entered the room, and went to move to the other side, I was asked where I was from. Being from Canada, I was seated as a “minister” from Canada. They had setup the bottom half of the theatre for “ministers” or representatives from every country that is represented. From Canada, I met a couple people from Athabasca University and from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

A highlight of the opening plenary was the talked by Sugata Mitra. I was familiar with both of this TED talks. A couple of quotes that I particularly appreciated where:
“With broadband access to Google, you can pretend to be educated”
and
“it takes brains to cheat”

While he spoke, I was struck but the similarity between what he does with research with kids and what I am planning on doing with faculty development around iPads. His research says that, if you give a small group of kids a big challenge, one computer per group and about 45-minutes, they can find an answer to the challenge. The model is similar to what I was thinking with an iPad show-and-tell workshop. I think that if you have
University Professors in groups of 4 or 5 with one iPad, and give them a problem to solve and 15-20 minutes, they will teach each other how to use the devices.

Entertainment between speakers at the opening plenary. Note the person in front of me taking pictures with her iPad.
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