Friday recap: Daraja Tech, Modernist African Poetry, and dinner in Nanyuki

This morning I looked into the mirror and thought, it seems in only a few days, I am becoming more fit/thinner … and then I put on my clothes.  It’s funny how your clothes bring you back to reality:  No, you are not getting thinner, dear.  Perhaps you’ve been having too much of the fine Daraja food. I should thank my clothes for a humility lesson.

Yesterday ended up continuing in excellence.  I presented to the teachers on Educreations, Molecules, Nearpod, Teacher Kit, and Khan Academy. 4 Apps is about the limit of what can be done in an hour session, and Molecules was an addition just at the very end of class on Dennis’s prompting.  We (Stephen, Dennis, and I) had wanted to show the teachers also what can be done with the Apple TV, but there is some difference between the Volunteers Office network where it worked and the Computer Room network where it didn’t.  I initially thought that it had to do with the restrictions put on the network in the CR, but when Dennis removed them, nothing changed.  We will be working on that more next week.

As I noted before, I also had the experience of helping Anita Too, a Kenya student who went to an IB program in Singapore for two years after finishing Form A and is now preparing to go to Smith College in Massachusetts, convert her three presentations to Educreations videos.  I helped her with the first two, both very short videos, and then she was able to independently complete the third.  For someone who was not a fan of technology, she was able to gain the skills within a very short time, which I shared with the teachers, particularly as we talked about bridge lessons or flipping the classroom.  It was useful to be able to show a small portion of her presentation and talk with the teachers, some of whom are hesitant to try the technological tools available to them, about how quickly they can develop online tools.

We started the session with a brief question of what they used tech for and what they wanted to use it for.  These are actually difficult questions for someone who is just beginning to consider edtech usage, which I felt in the tittering rather than the bold answers.  That’s when I went into Educreations, Nearpod (showing the student view), Nearpod (showing the reports that can be run), Teacher Kit (had to walk around with my iPad to talk about placement and the ability to export to Excel sheets), and Khan Academy (specifically because the teachers have been doing a lot of research on Youtube to find educationally appropriate videos; with Khan Academy, you know that the videos will be quality and appropriate).  We ended with a brief:  What did you learn and what do you want to learn?  KWL  with a small reversal.  The teachers were given homework, to identify an area of growth and then an area of strength that they would like to augment with technology.  I also talked about how tech for tech’s sake is useless and a waste of time, but tech that can aid in bringing a lesson to the next level is what we are out to do.  We also talked a little about the WISH program and the potential for future collaboration.

Some questions I was asked were about gradekeeping programs (I like Teacher Kit, Gradekeeper, Edmodo, and Moodle with the Gradebook function activated in that order; two are specifically for gradebooks, the next can be used as a learning management system though it also has collaborative/social networking capabilities and the last is a learning management system); how to find latitude and longitude without using advanced geo-positioning software ( is a great online tool and taps into Google Maps; it will also show contours for Geography, though not elevation); and what is an app or program to introduce students to computer skills in a fun and easy way.  For the last, I’ll be looking for resources today.  Some students in Form 1 have had no exposure to technology like a computer in their lives and they come to Daraja fearful and anxious of even touching a touchscreen or keyboard, let alone using those tools to find information.

Enough tech talk … although before I finish, I have to note that I LOVE doing this work with teachers, helping them to use tech for the good of their students.  I also love talking with tech people who have an idea of what I am talking about when I get super excited about tech.

After the teacher session, I had a bit of downtime to do some reading.  I pulled quotes from the poems that I am analyzing for this Modernist Africana Poetry class and started thinking more about what makes them Modernist.  I did some reading from Roxane Gay’s book, Bad Feminist.

At around 6 we went to a restaurant called Camp Chestnutt to tapas, only to discover that last night it was Chinese food night, served family style.  Fine by me.  I was SO hungry and also a little nauseous after the 20-30 minute ride along bumpy roads.  We were 7 in the car, two literally in the trunk, and me, as the shortest one, riding behind Jason who is very tall.  Unfortunately, I also get motion sick, which I didn’t mention as there was nothing to be done about it considering our driving situation.  I did a lot of staring into the horizon.

The restaurant was impacted by a marathon that had just taken place in Nanyuki.  As Sophy and Alpina, the owners, expected less to attend, they adjusted the menu to suit a smaller crowd.  Dinner was GREAT!  Great food, great company, great conversation.  There was Sara, a long time volunteer at Daraja Academy; Mzeki, a former student; Steve, also known as Uncle Daraja, who has sponsored several of the students; Jason, one of the school founders; Stephen, the volunteer coordinator; Anita, a Kenyan college student giving presentations to the students; and me.  While there, Jason introduced us newcomers to Sophy and Alpina as well as Matt from the Simama project.  I’m hoping to see that project today, as it’s devoted to getting some of the street boys into schools.

For now, I’m headed to the dining hall to hear and see the students practicing for tomorrow.  Kubamba, a local television program, is coming to the school!

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