# Northern Uganda joins OER

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By Denis Godwin Okello & Lauryn Oates

Background

Since 2007, I(Lauryn Oates) have been carrying out research in Gulu as a University of British Columbia doctoral student for a project entitled ICT for Mother Tongue Education and Teacher-Produced Content in Northern Uganda, working in collaboration with the Gulu Primary Teachers College, and in particular with their ICT Lab.

This project seeks to identify ways in which computer literacy among teachers in Gulu (northern Uganda) can be harnessed to effectively support instruction in the mother tongue, and ultimately, to vitalize the local language and facilitate higher learning outcomes among students. This study approaches teachers as partners in content production, as potential contributors and beneficiaries of the Open Educational Resource movement, and responds to the finding, from research carried out in Uganda, that the community is a significant but untapped source for the production of local language texts (Tembe & Norton, 2008). This study is part of a larger research program in Uganda, led by Dr. Margaret Early, Dr. Maureen Kendrick and Dr. Bonny Norton.

The computer literacy training embraces the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement, in seeking to use the training skills for the purposes of teachers producing educational content, particularly education content in their local language, Acholi. Teachers learn basic applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Power point, and while the GPTC does not have an internet connection, the teachers took several field trips to a net café in Gulu in order to learn how to use the Internet. In the internet sessions, they were introduced to OER collections such as Curriki, Merlot Africa and TESSA, as well as other tools such as search engines and Wikipedia. This phase of the training asked the teachers to use what they had learned to produce OERs for use in their classrooms and to share with each other. They were asked to produce one OER in each application they had learned.

Request

Our final phase of training is focused on supporting the teachers to participate in global forums of educators, and to share the resources they have developed with others both regionally, nationally and internationally, through mediums such as Wiki Educator. This will allow them to draw attention to their language and culture, and to add Ugandan voices to the global OER movement, and specifically, voices from an often isolated, conflict affected and poverty-stricken part of Uganda. However, it is BOSCO’s intranet system, which has been used by other teachers in the north, which holds particular relevance for the teachers who have participated in this study to date, as a regional networking and knowledge-sharing tool. We would therefore like to request the opportunity for the 12 participants in the ICT for Mother Tongue study to benefit from BOSCO’s intranet system and to be able to join BOSCO’s program. We would like to meet with BOSCO representatives to discuss further how the study’s teachers can learn and access the intranet system, as well as to see whether there are any training opportunities through BOSCO for these teachers. We are requesting this on an in-kind basis, as we do not have a budget available to pay for the teachers to be included in the program, but hope that they may be accommodated within one of BOSCO’s existing programs, as beneficiaries.

We hope that the teachers’ use of the BOSCO intranet will contribute

to a better understanding of how teachers from Gulu can use technology to produce educational content, and make a modest contribution to the overwhelming lack of learning materials, particularly in the Acholi language, in schools in Gulu. We also anticipate that the teachers’ participation will contribute to further developing their own content area knowledge, and exposing them to new means of peer support and professional networking, improving the quality of teaching in classrooms and learning outcomes among students. Overall, this experimental research project has much potential to serve as a model for other African communities where indigenous languages are threatened and where new strategies are needed to vitalize local languages, in the hands of teachers.

At the conclusion of this study, research findings will be published in various scholarly journals, as well as in the newsletters and websites of relevant non-governmental organizations and research networks such as the Research Network on Applied Linguistics in Africa and the Diaspora. Research findings will also be presented at conferences related to language, literacy and education. All collaborators in the project will be credited for their contributions in published articles and presentations. Further, following the conclusion of this study, a proposal will be submitted to the Commonwealth of Learning and other donors, to support a larger pilot project to implement a curriculum on using ICTs for mother tongue OERs production.

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