First Face-2-Face (F2F) Workshop for Uganda - Report of Visiting Facilitator
The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) funded a three-day Face-2-Face Intensive Workshop targeted at a minimum of 15 Secondary School Educators in Uganda from the 17th to 19th of December 2008. The aim of the workshop was to build the capacity of participants in the development of Open Education Resources (OERs), using the WikiEducator Platform. COL contracted Messrs. Victor Mensah (visiting facilitator) and Vincent Kizza (host facilitator), independent consultants to Facilitate the Workshop.
COL is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.
WikiEducator is an online platform started by COL for the collaborative development of free OERs. From humble beginnings in 2006 to date, over 6,000 daily users contribute to making WikiEducator the preferred online network for Educators through the coners of the world. WikiEducator's mission – A free curriculum by 2015 for all sectors is achieved by working collaboratively with educators around the world to develop free content resources in support of all national curricula.
Learning4Content is an innovative project by COL to build the capacities of Educators across the globe in OER development. The project freely builds the capacity of educators who in turn develop free content for open release. Through L4C, WikiEducator aims at turning the digital divide into digital dividends through free content and open networks.
The output targets for L4C include to:
- conduct 160 OER Capacity Building workshops
- train 2500 teachers/educators in OER development
- 2500 lessons of free content developed.
Lesson Notes and Programme Coordination
Discussions on the workshop began in October between the COL team, and the facilitators via online forums and telephone. The workshop code was L4C22 and a page created for same under the Learning4Content WikiEducator web page WikiEducator.org/Learning4Content. Programme planning and coordination, Lesson Notes and workshop discussions were all linked to the L4C page of the WikiEducator Uganda country page (WikiEducator.org/Uganda/L4C).
Host searching, venue booking, participant scouting, invitations, follow-up on invited participants, technical arrangements (software and hardware considerations), contingency arrangements (batteries, power generator, etc.), budgeting, and other administrative arrangements in Uganda was conducted by the Uganda team ably led by Mr Vincent Kizza. Mr Victor Mensah provided advisory services and technical backstopping for workshop programme synchronization.
The venue was Gayaza High School’s Computer lab, with a capacity to host over 35participants on a 1-to-1 computer bases. Back-up batteries and power generator set was at hand and ready for contingency situations. The technical assistance was provided by Mr Sam Kizito, the Head of Computer Section of GHS. A day before the workshop, the relevant WE pages for the workshop were cached on the server to avoid a reduction in bandwidth speed during the workshop.
Travel and Logistics
The flight schedule for the visiting facilitator experienced changes due to technical faults with the plane as well as booking errors. The flight delayed in Lilongwe, Malawi, for over five hours en-route to Nairobi on the first leg. This caused a shift in arrival at Entebbe to a day late. Return to Lusaka was also pushed to the 21st instead of the 20th due to a booking error in the time zones. The facilitator was thus held up in Nairobi for a night.
There were no medical emergencies. Food and refreshments were provided to all participants. Transport refunds ensured that participants – some of whom travelled daily from over 30 Kilometres – were comfortable. Printed handouts and notes of a few key tutorial points were provided to participants. Tutor slides were printed and transported to Uganda for the workshop. A CD copy of ALL, tutorial notes, slides (in both .odt and .pdf formats), as well as other OER materials were distributed to ALL participants.
Workshop Day Briefs
The general structure of the Workshop was intended to ensure maximum practical output as well as a strong theoretical background for all participants. A spot-assessment indicated that IT proficiency levels of participants were widely varied, with about 5% of participants having very little experience in using the internet. Lessons were paced to ensure holistic and class development of participants on OER development as well as promoting individual ingenuity. Theoretical instructions were designed for the first part of the day while extensive practical sessions and discussions were planned for the after-lunch sessions. <please refer to annex for detailed day-to-day programme>.
Utilizing the bell-curve workshop model, day one was planned as the shortest day with the lowest workload. Day two was planned as the longest day with the highest subject/topic load while day three was planned to be averagely short and most participatory (discussions, more group work and brainstorming) while having the lowest level of new subjects/topics introduced. <please refer to annex for detailed day-to-day programme>.
The first day, as usual, saw a slow start in participant arrival and start time. The Workshop started around 9:30am instead of 8:00am as planned. The official opening was conducted by Mr Ronald Ndungu, Deputy Head Teacher of Gayaza High School at 10am. Prior to the opening, technical details of the lab, house keeping and workshop administrative issues, and self introductions were conducted. The 23 Participants were drawn from 8 Secondary schools and Makerere University and they are:-
- Gayaza High School
- Hope High School
- Namilyango college
- Watoto Child care Ministries
- Namagabi S.S
- Lunar International college
- Kinaawa High School
- Entebbe S.S
Two teacher trainees from Makerere University who joined the team were
- Justine Namatovu
- James Lukenge
The instructional Objectives for day one was to make participants proficient in basic editing and formatting for WE as well as introduce other WikiMedia platforms to participants.
At the end of the first day, all participants had successfully registered for the workshop via the wiki registration link after successfully creating their WE accounts. All participants had created links on the registration list page to their user pages. All participants successfully created their sandbox and practiced editing and formatting.
The closing assignment for participants for day one included creating their User pages and introducing themselves to the WE community with at least four (4) headings. One of the headings was to include a listing of their expectations for the workshop.
The second day started with all participants on time. The workshop received new participants. A fast track session was organised for these few while a recap was underway in the forecourt of the lab area. A recap session, dubbed flashlight, aimed at refreshing the memories of participants to key lesson elements of the previous day. This activity was conducted on the fresh-cut lawns of the venue and entailed participants being selected by their pears at random to “address” the class on “what they remember” in a very short time frame. A sample video clip and pictures of this activity is attached.
Participants were introduced to creating pages, creating links, collaborative authoring, collaborative editing, discussion boards and talk pages, ethics for collaborative work, watchlists, minor edits, assessing what link where, uploading images and other media, as well as adding attributes to files.
Several assignments were undertaken by participants, individually and in groups. The key assignment for the day was a thematic/subject group discussion on proposed contents. Participants formed groups according to the subjects they thought in their schools, eg. Biology. The groups then decided on a topic under the relevant subject, eg. Digestion. Their assignment for the day was to:
- 1. decide on a content to be developed under that topic, eg. Lesson plan, instructional notes, etc.
- 2. decide on the structure of the proposed content – chapters, sections, etc.
- 3. allocate parts/sections of the proposed content to members of the group
After the group discussions in class, participants presented on flips and paper, their proposed content structure for comments by the facilitators. The final part of the assignment was for participants to:
- 4. create subject and topic pages under a school’s WE page
- 5. collaboratively author/develop the content
In the words of a participant after day three, the lessons of the day were to ensure that the OER contents developed were “pedagogically astute”. Main lessons for the day covered the wiki structures and page navigations, development and use of templates, pedagogical templates, as well as wiki ethics and a wholesome discussion on what is free content.
Day three witnessed a full, enthusiastic house, in time and poised for business. The first exercise in the morning was a polishing up of the collaborative contents being developed. After a flashlight activity, participants were taken through the main lessons for the day amid a blanket power outage lasting virtually the whole day. Backup batteries and a generator provided limited accessibility of content pages for practical exercises. The content pages of the groups were thus enhanced with pedagogical templates to improve learning.
The after lunch session was devoted entirely to a lively and in-dept discussion on what is free content. Ably moderated by Mr Kizza, participants explored the definitions and forms of FREE CONTENT as well as debating the pros and cons of each of the licensing modes available to the open community today. This activity was beyond measure, a fitting capstone to the three-day workshop.
The closing ceremony was wrapped-up by Mr. Darnis Kakinda Executive Director of SchoolNet Uganda emphasised the importance of open resources for development, especially for developing countries. He said, “making education accessible and progressive through OERs is not just a good action, it is the best way forward”. He espressed the joy of all educators in Uganda for COL’s keen interest in OER development and the L4C approach to ensuring global capacity development in OERs. Mr Ronald Ndungu, Assistant Head of Gayaza High School (GHS), thanked the organising team and COL for the opportunity to host the first ever L4C workshop in Uganda as well as having the opportunity to have a number of GHS’ own teachers benefit from the free training.
The facilitators thanked all participants for their sturdy participation and commitment. Mr Kizza announced that there were more L4C workshops planned for Uganda. He indicated that several of the current L4C graduates will be called upon to assist facilitate future F2F workshops in Uganda and beyond.
While a great deal of effort was put into planning and organising the workshop, a few challenges affected its smooth running. Internet connectivity, although perhaps the best in the community, was relatively slow, but sturdy. A few hardware capacity challenges were experienced on a limited scale. The single highest challenge was the daily, constant, random and persistent cut of power. Power outages were multiple per day. The dispersed geographic location of participants and the traffic situation leading to Kampala and Gayaza townships also posed time constraints.
Internet bandwidth was enhanced by caching several of the relevant WE pages on the server prior to the workshop. All computers were tested and a few hardware adjustments and maintenance conducted a day before the start of the workshop. Several back-up batteries and a generator set was on hand to assist mitigating the effects of the prolific power cuts. Transportation refunds were provided to all participants.
Of high commendation is the state of instructional equipment at the venue – high quality LCD projection cum interactive white board (Smartboard) system, combined with a clean, well ventilated computer lab.
Participants, individually and collectively showed a great deal of commitment and dexterity throughout the duration of the workshop. Despite having different in-school positions (HODs, Assistant School head, etc.) a free-spirited, collaborative environment was maintained throughout the workshop. Worthy of mention was the high level of “after class work” done by participants. Take-home assignments were undertaken by participants with enthusiasm. After the workshop and considering the outputs of the participants, over 80% deserve a WikiBuddy certification.
Participants affirmed their commitment to continue building their capacity going through he numerous online tutorials and “how to” notes on WikiEducator. The facilitators promised a prolonged online engagement with participants through emails and group discussions. Participants were also introduced to WIkiEducator’s online community interaction through google groups. All participants were encouraged to sign up and interact with the whole community.
Without the contingency mechanisms put in place by the organising team, the whole workshop would have failed due to the persistent power outages. It is imperative that such contingency measures are taken for all future workshops. Due to the dispersed geographical locations of participants, it is recommended that, multiple in-school workshops are held for participants from interested institutions and close-by schools. This will encourage school-wide capacity development and sustainability.
The collaborative nature of the facilitation also brought about an “international-global-community wide” appeal and value to the workshop. Participants gained diverse perspectives on topics while facilitators learned extensively from each other.
It has been the singular pleasure of this facilitator to have worked with Mr Vincent Kizza and team, the COL team in making this workshop a possibility.
Victor Paa Kwesi Mensah
+260978404739 Lusaka, ZAMBIA