Monday, October 31, 2011

Last day in the village

Last Friday was my last day in the KKEV village. After spending three months in the centre I had to leave my children. It was by far one of the hardest thing I had to do and I told myself that I can leave only if I come back to visit them next year.

My last week with them was touching as they made flower crowns for me everyday and they were always close to me in the lunch breaks. They made drawings for me, we played volleyball, we visited a vocational centre, we took lots of pictures..

I really felt like they were like my family and the night after I left I made a book for them and a calendar with some of our pictures. I didn't want them to forget me and I also wanted them to remember everything we learned together.

Here you can see the book:

And the calendar for 2012:

I you wish to receive the documents in full resolution please email me at: druga.stefania[@]

¨So do you think you can search?¨

Inspired by Dan Russell, search research scientist at Google, I gave my first lecture on web search to the Journalism Master students of University of Pannasastra.

First we clarified the basic notions: Internet, Browser, Web-page, search engine. Afterwards we analysed the search process in small steps and tried to find adequate search strategies for different scenarios. The students loved the search exercices and these Search Tools.

"Is this a toy or a computer?"

Thanks to Florian kindness who send us an OLPC computer from Ireland the children got to play with this computer toy for the first time. They were very excited to see that the "toy"actually has a web cam and they can take pictures and make videos. Their excitement went further when they saw that they can actually access internet from the small computer as well.

I was very happy to see how fast they adopted the device and I have to say that I think that the OLPC it's a great tool to get children interested in computers. For them everything is a game and it's so much easier to play with this small green box:).

Thank you Florian!

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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First day of teaching in the KKEV village

This morning at 8. a.m I moved in the KKEV village (around 30 km away from Phnom Penh). This is a German NGO established in Cambodia in October 2006. They are fostering one hundred children until the age of 18 (21 for the ones that choose so). The children have different backgrounds: HIV parents, victims of violence, homeless and abandoned children. There are 45 girls and 55 boys, and the average age is 9-12 years, but there are also two found babies.  

The children go everyday to a public school with a KKEV bus and have English, art and computer classes in the village. Also children from outside are coming for English lessons.

It is hard to describe the atmosphere here..when I first arrived to visit the village two days ago all the small children from the Kinder-garden jumped on me and tried to take me to their house in the village. During lunch everyone eats together (children, volunteers and staff) and afterwards everyone cleans and puts the tables back. The meals are very basic: always rice with vegetables and a piece of chicken or fish. On some days we get also dessert (today we were lucky;). 

The English class is very small with wood benches and some colored vocabulary posters. The English teacher , Mister Mai tries to compensate by his good will and I have to say I was surprised to see to what level he brought the older children from the school only in three years.  

Today I had three classes of two hours: 10 years old, 15 and 16-18. It was quite challenging because I never taught before and besides that I know very little about the Khmer culture and language. I felt like every gesture counted and I tried to teach them as much as I could, make it fun and involve them in the dialogue. Conclusion of the day: I have to learn how to draw better, get used to stand and talk all day long and smile every time I don't understand something. 
There are many things  I want to do here besides the English classes. First I would like to get some working computers because there are only two old Pentium left for one hundred brains. As I noticed it is very complicated to receive donations in computers because the governmental restrictions. The only solution I could foresee for now is to get donations in money and buy the computers here. For now we are also using my computer for projecting DVDs but it is crucial to ensure some continuity. For that the English teacher would need a decent laptop as well. 

I am also going to organize some workshops with the staff on computer use and media literacy. I believe they could pass on the knowledge and that's important. How about you? What would be the first thing you would teach to one hundred children and why?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Arrival in Phnom Penh

After 1.30 h flight from Bangkok + 15 min delay I arrived in Phnom Penh. First impression from the plane was that we are arriving to a flooded country. There was water everywhere and we all wondered if that´s normal or not. Later on I discovered that recent flood of Philippines affected a little bit Cambodia as well but nothing serious.

De Phmom penh
I was very worried about the visa process after experimenting quite some adventures in Thailand but the process went along smoothly and the real adventure started when you got on the street.

A member of the CWS staff was waiting for me and we took a Tuk-Tuk (local moto-taxi) towards the school where all the other volunteers were having a farewell party. 

You could get a feeling of the Phnom-penhian traffic from the next video, as from my side I have to admit I admire a lot their chaos order. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why Cambodia?

After volunteering in many educational programs in Romania and Peru I really wanted to see how the system works in an Asian country and I choose Cambodia because it´s a country where everything needs to be build. With a strong NGO network, a literacy fraction of 74% in a population of 15.1 million inhabitants, Cambodia has the best economic records in Asia, with economic growth of 6.0% for the last 10 years. 

One Dollar, Sir!

I was curious to see how eager to learn people can be after decades of civil war in a country where half of the education is done in private schools. How can the open education and the open educational resources can help the people that can´t access the private education? How do we organize our teaching strategies in a country that made the gap to mobile internet and where 50% of the population is younger than 22 years old. 

With all these questions in mind and many ideas for projects I arrived in Cambodia in order to see what is that people really need and how could I contribute to that.