[ 18:42 monday 6 november – rains office , tamale , northern ghana ]
it’s almost four weeks since i arrived in ghana , though within a few days of getting here such measurements ceased to have much meaning . my return flights were originally booked for tomorrow but i have decided to remain here a further five weeks . i hope to complete my activity in the digital workshop within three weeks and spend two weeks travelling . the general election is on 7 december so it should be an interesting time to be around .
for the remaining weeks most of my focus will be on tutor recruitment , tutor training and course architecture . since the best tutors will not necessarily be those few people who already possess computer skills i’m using a cascade approach which assumes zero competence to start with . we started putting this into practice last thursday .
the first priority was to get a module up and running providing an introduction to using a computer . this will be one of the most important courses the workshop offers , but by focusing on that at the beginning we can also use it as an induction tool for prospective tutors who have no computer experience .
i designed the module on the principles of action learning and collaborative learning . everything is structured around performing practical tasks and learners work in groups of three to each computer system . this last aspect might seem perverse , surely people will learn better if they have a system to themselves ? but my experience is otherwise . beginners learn more quickly if they are working in groups . three brains are available to grapple with each problem and the process of discussing why something hasn’t worked and suggesting remedies brings thought processes into the open . working this way also helps strengthen collaboration and sharing skills . one tutor is provided for each group of three learners , though it may prove possible to reduce this to one tutor for every two groups .
the module has three sections . for the first of these the whole group of learners is addressed by a single tutor , who welcomes them , explains what they will learn before they leave , gets everyone’s ideas about what a computer can be used for , introduces the hardware and gives everyone the opportunity to ask questions .
the second section begins with the learners moving to the computers in groups of three , with tutors , and starting them up . the rest of it consists of a series of cumulative tasks , each of which is performed by the three learners in turn . along the way they master use of the mouse (pointing , clicking , double-clicking and dragging) and about the basic metaphors (desktop , icon , cursor , folder , window) .
in the third section learners start to use menus . they launch a program , create a new document and learn basic text editing skills . they then have some time to type whatever they want (this is the part people enjoy most , the pay-off for all their hard work) which they save before exiting the program and shutting down the system .
we currently have eleven functioning systems in the workshop . in a period of ninety minutes or so it is therefore possible to introduce a group of 33 learners to all the basic skills and concepts required to use a computer . every one of those learners will leave with the confidence that they are perfectly capable of using a computer , and there is somewhere they can go if they want to learn more .
last thursday i got together with three prospective tutors and took them through the first draft of the module . they took the role of learners and i of the tutor . this is a good approach , as it means every tutor learns to use the computer the same way they teach others . having made some revisions to the module based on their comments , those tutors and i worked with a group of ten more prospective tutors on friday . this is the cascade approach i described .
it was arranged that we would take our first group of “real” learners , 18 girls from tamale girls secondary school , tomorrow afternoon at three . so four of the tutors came into the centre this afternoon to practice on the systems .
however , demonstrating typical ghanaian planning , 25 girls from the school turned up at four this afternoon having been told they were expected . i was a bit horrified but they had walked all the way from the school , a distance of several miles , and i did not have the heart to turn them away . so my fellow tutors and i gritted out teeth and got stuck in , with me shouting guidance to the others as we went along . i was leaping back and forth across the room , responding to the girls’ insistent cries of “mr charles , mr charles” as they mangled their desktop or got locked into some backwater of the atrocious windows operating system .
i finish the day exhausted but confident that the module is going to work .