Good news. We just got word that the crates with the contents for the multi-media lab for Jakmel Expresyon have cleared Haitian customs in Port au Prince! Our shipper will get them to Grassroots United who will help us get them to Jakmel. Thanks to all who have been following this journey with us and especially thanks to those who have donated to the project. We will keep you updated as the installation proceeds.
We are still raising funds to help facilitate moving our gear from Haitan customs in PaP to Jakmel and to obtain the remaining electrical infrastructure needed to keep the lab up and running when the electricity goes out.
The Haiti ICT in Education Summit took place in Port Au Prince, June 16 – 18, 2011. Participants included education ministry officials, policy researchers who study Information Communication Technology (ICT) in education, curriculum and technology implementers, and Haitian technology entrepreneurs and business people. The conference was sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank which is a major donor to educational initiatives in Haiti including ICT support for education. Other attending organizations that are sponsoring ICT in education initiatives in Haiti included WorldVision and Microsoft.
One purpose for the conference was to give a checkpoint and evaluate how to proceed – Will ICT add value to an educational system that has difficulty in bringing a majority of students to completion of secondary studies? ICT in education in initiatives have been going on for a while in Haiti without too much success. Problems identified in past Haitian implementations were similar to those poor practices or success factors which have been generally identified by researchers. These included poor training or support for teachers, underdevelopment of curriculum, and infrastructure problems (especially in regard to electricity). For some more thoughts on this, Marc Truscano from the World Bank presented ten truly painful mistakes that could be made for ICT projects. (http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/worst-practice)
Yet the general viewpoint of the symposium was that Haiti must envision ICT as an enabling force in to bring change to the education sector and the country as whole. The challenges Haiti faces and the incredible track record of technology as a change agent both mandate this. Old ways of distributed educational content do not scale up. Keynote speaker Jeffery Sachs, from the Earth Institute said that ITC is a core skill in education globally and that all schools need connectivity. Furthermore, nationally honored economist, Kesner Pharel, said in an interview with the Children’s Heritage Foundation: “The use of ITCs in the education system in Haiti could greatly facilitate the integration of the youth in the global economy. They could do so without having the pressure to leave the country.”
Ideas discussed for rebooting computing in education in Haiti:
- Put Curriculum before Technology
- Move beyond drilling and rote memorization.
- Train and Enable Teachers
- Ensure Kreyol Curriculum
- Increase Governance in Education in general and ITC specifically.
Put Curriculum before Technology
Putting curriculum before technology means making decisions about what needs to be taught and how it could be taught before implementing technology solutions.
Move beyond drilling
Drilling and rote memorization do not bring out all aspects of a child’s talents and haven’t been working to graduate enough well prepared students in Haiti. Computer-assisted education brings up opportunities to increase collaboration, problem solving and play in education.
Train and Enable Teachers
Teachers can’t just be tossed into a room with computers and expect to thrive in this new environment. Their own computer literacy needs to be increased. Teachers must also become comfortable with new modalities in educating.
Ensure Kreyol Curriculum
Curriculum needs to be developed in Kreyol. Children are spending too much time coping with French as a second language in the classroom and not enough time learning. There is already a precedent in Haitian and International law for children to be taught in the mother tongue. The need to develop Kreyol curriculum might present some considerable work efforts in translating, but according to some presenters, there is already a considerable body of material to work with and also the possibility of developing original content.
Increase Governance in Education
The question of governance was identified as one of the most important considerations for understanding a ITC in Education policy for Haiti. It was mentioned in the conference that 85% of schools were not government funded or managed. The symposium generally recognized a need to increase the strength of the Education Ministry as an institution. Mr. Mathurin Creutzer – Ministry of Education and Training, Chef de Cabinet relayed these recommendations that a working group has made:
- Establish a Teaching Training center
- Assess One Laptop Per Child program in Haiti and possibly extend
- Introduction of computing topics into general curriculum
- Measurement and Evaluation of ITC in Education
- Ministerial self-evaluation of its governance of ITC projects.
Cart Before Horse
One recommendation I would have is for national technical milestones to be developed in careful cross-reference with requirements coming from the educational sector. For example, some participants made reference to cloud computing, web resources (video course-ware on youtube.com for example), and also intranet applications such as learning management systems (I.e Blackboard). If these are real needs as identified by the stakeholders, they can’t be easily be put in place or utilized in Haiti with the existing network infrastructure. The need to structure the technology time-line in advance of the educational sector time-lines may seem obvious, but at the same time, it wasn’t discussed much.
The Lone Ranger
One humbling aspect of the talk was the talk of coordination problems. Will there be 1 new curriculum or 21 curriculum brought by 1 government and 20 NGOs? How can measurement and evaluation be achieved when data does not travel organizational boundaries (for example, no one can say how many computers are in schools currently). Mention was made of the long rangers helping Haiti with an isolated individualism that does not scale up.
This begs the questions of how our project compares to this troubling image of vigilante assistance. What I reminded myself is that Techne Lab’s projected projects are not in schools – education is only one element of the workshops that will be given at our first project site for the Jakmel Eksypresyon Art Center. Its seems that grassroots organizations serve best when they envision and execute in spaces and ways where governments aren’t prepared to and are off the map. So while I can really commend the desire to bring in development of education and ICT into good governance, I’m reasonably fine to be a lone ranger.
I really appreciated meeting so many great minds interested in education, technology and the intersection. There’s a lot of room for optimism about what kind of change ICT and Education directives can make in Haiti, but only when ideas about how do to this with good governance and sustainability are brought to bare. At the same time, unique ideas brought by individuals may have also bring positive change. In fact technology is driving this as well with the connections that individuals and communities can now form globally.
Steve Raden is in PaP being hosted by the amazing folks at Grass Roots United while he waits for our crates to be released from Haitian customs. Steve is spending the time designing our power infrastructure for Jakmel Expressyon and doing some geeking out with the Grass Roots United crew. Grass Roots United works around the world to support communities affected by natural disasters and is doing significant work in Haiti. Check them out.
While Steve and Zaka wait for the Multimedia Lab to be released from Haitian Customs, Aaron Funk of Spare Change Theater and Eder Romeus run an improv theater workshop at Jakmel Expressyon.
We got word in Port au Prince today that the multimedia lab crates will be inspected by Haitian customs imminently which means they should be on their way to Jakmel very soon. Thanks to Grassroots United for providing housing and logistical support to Steve and Zaka during this critical period.