Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest Blog: Mr Diop, math/science teacher from Mbam

"Le netbook, un outil incontournable"

Au CEM de Mbam (dans la région de Fatick, au Sénégal), le netbook a permis à des élèves de 3ème, à partir d’un exposé sur le tectonique des plaques produit par 04 de leurs camarades, de comprendre en 2 heures ce qui n’était pas évident l’année dernière en 12 heures. L’impressionnant est que ces élèves ne savaient même pas allumer un ordinateur avant la venue du projet CyberSmart Africa au CEM. Et curieusement, ce sont ces élèves qui aujourd’hui sont allés chercher dans ces netbook des supports qui ont aidés à tous de maitriser le thème.

At the Mbam middle school(in the region of Fatick, Senegal), the netbook helped 9th grade students, starting with an expose on tectonic plates prepared by 4 of their fellow students, to understand in 2 hours what was not possible last year in 12 hours. What's most impressive is that these students didn't even know how to turn on a computer before CyberSmart Africa came to the middle school. And, curiously, it's these students who conducted the research in the netbook to find supporting information that helped all understand the theme.

C’est vrai que ces élèves avaient au début quelques difficultés techniques comme rechercher des informations, mais qu’ils ont fini par surmonter.

It's true that these students had some technical difficulties in the beginning, such as researching information, but they learned how to overcome them.

Moi, Mr Diop, professeur de maths/SVT au CEM de Mbam, mes collègues, et nos élèves remercions le projet et nous croyons aussi que la bonne utilisation du TBI avec le netbook peut permettre à l’éducation d’atteindre sa finalité.

I, Mr. Diop, math and science teacher at the Mbam middle school, our colleagues, and our students thank the project and we believe that the interactive whiteboard and the netbook can help substantially improve education.

Au passage, tout le CEM, par mon nom remercie de tout cœur l’équipe CyberSmart Africa et souhaite une bonne continuation a tous les écoles partenaires.

In addition, on behalf of the entire middle school, I would like to thank the CyberSmart Africa team and wish good luck to all their partner schools.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

"Weekly Challenges": SMS Texting as a Professional Development Tool

Our fairy tale of teacher professional development is a paradigm of the ongoing challenges that are faced by all who work to improve educational quality through professional development activities. The trainings and seminars are quality initiatives, well-meaning and good, but the work started there, the “educational magic” created, often does not continue, and the magic runs out.

In the cyber-savvy environment of developed countries, many schools and educational support structures are turning to the internet to support, or even replace, the exchanges that had, in the past, taken place only in the Land of Professional Development. Through interactive modules, teacher-led forums, virtual lesson-planning, and a plethora of other activities, teachers are given both the structured space and the ongoing opportunities to collaborate to improve their teaching and learning environments. The omnipresence of the internet means that the ‘net catches almost all teachers.

But here’s the tricky part: what about underdeveloped countries, where the internet is not available to everyone, where the ability to connect to the worldwide web is only practical in large cities, not in the small towns or villages where the majority live and learn? In Senegal, where CyberSmart Africa is undergoing our pilot project, “21st Century Learning,” less than 15% of people 12 years of age and older use the Internet (ARTP, 2010). This number goes down to 5.5% in rural areas! The internet will continue to become more accessible, in all corners of the world, as time goes on, but what do we do in the meantime? How do we support these teachers, the ones who have just as many daily challenges as their urban counterparts, if not more? How do we make sure that the magic once made only in the Land of Teacher Professional Development is within their reach as well?

CyberSmart Africa has turned to the cell phone, the ubiquitous technological friend of Africa that has allowed Africans to connect with the world – from friends who live just a few villages over to their recently emigrated relatives in Europe. Every teacher has a cell phone, and he does his best to keep the battery charged and the number active, because it is his link to the world, wherever he may be teaching.

Our new program “Weekly Challenges” is based on SMS text exchanges between the CyberSmart team and our partner teachers. In an attempt to continue the collaboration and focused discussions that started during face-to-face professional development activities, we send out an SMS to teachers every Monday that describes a challenge to complete during the week. These challenges can be limited and immediate, such as a response to a question sent: “What software do you use the most in your classroom?” They can be more task-oriented: “Co-facilitate a technology-integrated lesson with a colleague this week.” Or, they can be larger challenges, that ask teachers to reflect, collaborate, prepare, and execute during that week: “Create a film with students and teachers that describes the school’s history.” The challenges are designed to support teachers in putting into practice what they have been learning, and to provide more direction and practice in difficult areas.

By the following Monday, the teachers communicate their level of participation in the challenge by text – challenge not tempted, challenge tempted but not completed, challenge completed – and are awarded points for their participation and for the quality of any resulting products, such as lesson plans, films, or write-ups. The friendly competition is truly motivating, and the sharing of products through group e-mails encourages those who have access to an internet connection to use it as a professional development tool.

In addition, teachers are given the liberty to work individually or in groups, but they quickly tend toward group work to minimize the time and maximize the output. They are all of a sudden constantly interacting with their colleagues to accomplish defined professional development tasks – just as in the Land of TPD!

So far, the Weekly Challenges have created pocketfuls of educational magic, which the teachers have been sprinkling around their active, 21st century classrooms!

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Tale of Teacher Professional Development

Once upon a time, in the Land of Teacher Professional Development, there was held a delightful training for the teachers of all the surrounding lands. There were many teachers in this land, all of them good, teachers who worked hard and wanted to give their very best to their students. These teachers spent a few wonderful days together in the Land of TPD, working with each other and learning from each other, creating educational magic. This magic that they created together was so very valuable that, when the delightful training came to an end, and the teachers had to part ways, they all stuffed their pockets with handfuls of this educational magic to bring back with them. They then ran joyfully back to their lands, some north, some south, some east and some west, winding around and through for days and nights, pockets heavy with the magic but hearts light with possibility.

The next morning, these good teachers arose and went to their pockets, each to take out a little of the magic to bring with them to their schools. O the students will love this magic! they each thought as they scooped precious handfuls from their pockets into their school bags, and skipped off to school.

And the students did love the educational magic, they did! As the teachers ran around the classrooms, sprinkling their magic energetically in the air, they saw that the students were excited, and engaged, and were learning and participating like never before! The magic had done its trick, and the teachers felt happy and fulfilled. What a great time they had had in the Land of TPD! At the end of the day, they skipped home, grinning over their wonderful day.

The following morning, the teachers rose from their beds and went again to their pockets, again each taking out a little of the magic, and tucking it in their school bags. O how the students like this educational magic! they exclaimed, beginning the walk to school, motivated for yet another day of teaching with the magic.

And the students did like the magic, yes indeed, and reacted as the teachers circled the classroom, depositing small piles of it in the corners of the classroom. The students were attentive, and listening, and were learning and doing well, almost like the day before! The magic was still working, and the teachers were relieved for that. How wonderful that their time in the Land of TPD had produced such a nice thing! At the end of the day, they walked home, smiling over the usefulness of the magic.

The morning after that, the teachers rose once again, straight up with the sun, and headed for their pockets. They scooped out a little magic… But wait – the pockets were nearly empty! The magic had gone so fast! What were they to do with the little bit of magic that they had left? They trudged off to school to see what could be done.

As they began to teach that morning, each in his own classroom, north, east, south, and west, carefully setting the small pouch of remaining educational magic on the corners of their desks, the students did not seem so enthusiastic. But why not? The teachers were baffled; as long as there was some magic left, shouldn’t the students be happy and eager to learn? At the end of the day, they wandered home, frowning slightly over the seemingly uselessness of the remaining magic.

Finally, late at night, unable to sleep for fear of facing the students the next day without magic, one teacher, in a very far-off corner, summoned all of his strength and called out for help. His call wound around and through, went north, south, east and west, faster than the sun travels these same roads, and his fellow teachers awoke to his cry – “Help! I have no more magic!”

And each, upon hearing the message, shouted back in unison the same message: “We too are out of magic!”

And so, in hopes of creating more educational magic, the teachers made their way back to the Land of TPD. They worked together and learned from each other, and the magic was once again created, in abundance, and each eagerly stuffed his pockets with handfuls of magic, and ran around and through, for days and nights, until each arrived once again in his land.

The first day back with the magic was wonderful! But, once again, after three days, the magic ran out, and the teachers were discouraged. They called out in the night, and met again in the Land of TPD, and worked hard to create even more educational magic. And, once again, they greedily stuffed their pockets with the magic, and made the long journey, around and through, back to their lands.

Exhausted from the voyage, their first day back was dull and the students were bored, despite the educational magic the teachers had brought to the classroom from the Land of TPD. The second day was worse, and the third disastrous, until the magic ran out, and the teachers despaired. What could they do? They couldn’t go back, yet again, to the Land of TPD to create even more magic; they were too weak from going back and forth, and too discouraged at the thought of yet another voyage, yet another pocketful of magic, that was worthless after three days.

But what if they could work together, create magic together, without going to the Land of TPD? After all, it was working together, learning from each other, that created the magic every time! In fact, each night that a teacher called out to the others, the magic in all of their pockets grew just a little larger – they did not see this, were not looking at the magic then, were too worried, but it grew, it did. And what, too, of how they used the magic? Was this educational magic really magical when it was piled in the corners of the classroom, or sitting on the corners of their desks? Or did it need something more, was it the teachers’ energy, their skipping, their sprinkling of the magic throughout the classrooms, that made the magic so very magical?

Monday, February 21, 2011

World’s First Solar Powered Interactive Whiteboard Brings 21st Century Learning to Rural African Students

USAID-supported initiative incorporates teacher training with technology strategies to help underserved schools off the electric grid

BERNARDSVILLE, N.J. and DAKAR, Senegal, February 10 – Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane1 lies off the electric grid. Yet this rural Senegalese elementary school is providing students with a unique learning opportunity with the help of a groundbreaking solar-powered interactive whiteboard, part of CyberSmart’s affordable solution to bring 21st century learning to even the poorest schools in the world.

Recently, CyberSmart received a grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Senegal to implement its innovative learning solution to extend the Senegalese national curriculum in the areas of math, science, and social studies. CyberSmart will collaborate with teachers and experts to create and implement locally adapted training and lessons designed to spark a more active, real-world classroom experience.

"USAID is excited to be working with CyberSmart to pilot its innovative model offering a highly scalable, practical solution to impact the poorest schools in the world –traditionally underserved rural schools off the electric grid – with a 21st century education" said Kevin Mullally, Director of USAID/Senegal.

“Just as the mobile phone brings affordable communications to rural Africa, our vision for CyberSmart’s learning solution, which integrates mobile broadband, is to do the same for education. This provides hope for one-quarter of the world’s population – 1.5 billion people – who lack access to electricity and risk falling further behind the digital learning divide” said Jim Teicher, Director of CyberSmart.

CyberSmart’s patent-pending interactive whiteboard impacts hundreds of students in a single day as it is easily transported between classrooms. Its components – specifically designed for schools lacking basic infrastructure – require minimal electricity and can be powered by a low cost solar energy system.

With a “tech-lite” model at its core, CyberSmart flips the traditional economics associated with 21st century learning, and focuses heavily on teacher training. This is accomplished by using less equipment, eliminating the need for infrastructure modifications, and by reducing ongoing costs. The result is an instructional shift where teachers learn to engage students with the learning skills most closely associated with success in today’s globalized workplace.

CyberSmart also works in partnership with The Earth Institute at Columbia University’s Millennium Villages and Millennium Cities projects, and started its work in Senegal in 2007, partnering with the Senegalese Ministry of Education.



Contact: Jim Teicher


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

One step closer to achieving a scalable 21st century learning solution to narrow the learning divide between Africa and the industrialized world

Published: 09/20/10 01:01 PM EDT

BERNARDSVILLE, N.J. and DAKAR, Senegal, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- CyberSmart Africa's innovative techniques are helping Senegal to achieve UN Millennium Development Goal 2, universal primary education. Through its "Sustainable 21st Century Learning Initiative," CyberSmart's "tech-lite" approach puts learning first -- uniquely focusing on teacher training and putting the latest low-power, portable equipment to work directly in the classrooms of rural schools -- including those off the electric grid.

CyberSmart Africa integrates the use of a specially adapted interactive whiteboard and other low-power digital tools which move easily between classrooms. Ongoing teacher training guides the educators in using these tools to facilitate an active and engaging classroom.

"This is a practical, scalable solution that reaches rural schools -- the ones most frequently ignored. Plus, with our emphasis on professional development, we foster 21st century professional learning communities, where teachers collaborate, share and build knowledge by supporting one another," said Jim Teicher, CyberSmart Africa Director.

In Mbour, Senegal, teachers develop interactive whiteboard lessons to enhance the Senegalese curriculum. Trainings encourage the development of student lessons emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving, the skills necessary in today's globalized workplace. In nearby Louga and Leona, in partnership with The Earth Institute at Columbia University's Millennium Villages and Millennium Cities projects, 120 middle school students use the interactive Livescribe Pulse smartpen to extend and support math and English language learning.

The results of the first semester pilot show:

  • teachers reliability, efficiently, and regularly used the technologies to support classroom instruction
  • more than 500 students in four schools were exposed to 80 newly developed lessons enriching the Senegalese curriculum
  • teachers were highly energized by the new technologies
  • access to timely information and interactive activities increased student motivation and learning according to teachers reports
  • student tardiness and absence were greatly reduced
  • students and teachers were quick to adopt and adapt the new technology skills
  • teacher training and feedback sessions nurtured an organically grown and scalable professional learning community where staff now turn to their colleagues for support




Contact: Jim Teicher, Director

CyberSmart Africa


Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link.

SOURCE CyberSmart Africa

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Whole Class 21st Century Learning Works for Every School!

CyberSmart! Africa is piloting whole class 21st century learning at the elementary level. Why whole class learning? Because it enables more students – even in the poorest schools – to efficiently benefit from living in a globalized world!

We have adapted interactive white board capabilities to serve the unique needs of development education in Africa. Our technology is easily transported between classrooms, even those where light shines through holes in the roof! In fact, the whole set-up can be disassembled and reassebled by teachers and students in 10 minutes or less! It consumes very little power, but is powerful in terms of delivering all of the basic interactive functions.

Focusing on learning, heavy on training

We use interactive whiteboards as a catalyst to develop an active classroom where the teacher facilitates student engagement in the learning process, as compared to a lecture style of instruction. Nearly all of our efforts (and budget) goes into professional development, where teachers learn how to carry on learner-centered instructional conversation with students. Furthermore, teachers support each through ongoing meetings, and archiving lessons they have found to resonate in the classroom.

The whole class instructional approach enables us to integrate technology directly into authentic, everyday classroom teaching and learning. For example, when it’s time for science instruction the teacher might draw on the resources available through the Microsoft Encarta multimedia encyclopedia or Wikipedia.

We are also realizing other benefits to the whole class instructional approach, including:
  • an observable increase in student motivation
  • an appeal to various learning styles, such as visual learners
  • the ability for an entire class to gain knowledge through the use of integrated software, including multimedia encyclopedias
  • the ability for students to learn and apply basic ICT skills within the context of classroom instruction
  • the ability for teachers to scan, display, and work with textbook content that would not otherwise be possible due to book shortages

In sharp contrast to the use of interactive whiteboards in technology-rich developed nations, the interactive whiteboard represents students’ only hope to gain regular exposure to interactive learning software, multimedia encyclopedias, and the internet. Furthermore, use of the interactive whiteboard is continually facilitated by a well-trained educator who has actually created lessons that are carefully aligned to the national curriculum, as well as 21st century learning standards as defined by
UNESCO and the International Society for Technology in Education.