Two years ago, I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya on my first service trip with Crossing Thresholds to begin a robotics program at the FAFU Primary School and the WERU High School. As I was preparing to teach a class at WERU, Teacher Dedan handed me a box of chalk. I jokingly asked what this was for, and let him know I had not used chalk in my classes in many years! At Byram Hills HS where I teach, we use PowerPoints, projectors, and web-based instruction. One of the most striking disparities in their schools was the lack of technology in both the educators' presentation vehicles and the students' lack of educational interaction with computers. It was then I felt the need to help the educators and students begin to develop a more technology-based institution.
Looking back on our multi-faceted initiative to integrate technology into the schools, I cannot believe ‘how far we have come’. We partnered with the Microsoft Corporation to develop the teacher’s ability to utilize technology in the classroom, and now have Office 365 licenses for faculty members and students in all four schools. FAFU has developed an E-Learning Center, has WIFI connectivity and is utilizing projectors and PowerPoint instruction in two classrooms. Also, the students have begun computer literacy training and have learned the basics of computer use. WERU has WIFI as well, and has two multi-media classrooms in use. Two other Crossing Thresholds schools have been given projectors, computers and have begun training on their use in the classrooms. And last but not least, S’Cool Sounds is now beginning to develop a pilot program for remote music instruction and tech-based programming in each of our schools. None of this would have been possible without the added support from generous donors and service organizations at Byram Hills HS.
Last month, I traveled back to Kenya and was extremely pleased with the progress of the program in all the schools. The students and faculty are so excited about this initiative! I taught over 290 students during my week-long visit and held numerous teacher training sessions. As the PowerPoints and YouTube videos of the lessons appeared on the screen, the attention and excitement grew with the students. The educators were equally enthusiastic as they discovered the benefits for everyone involved.
As I walked out of Kibera to catch my flight to the United States, one of the teachers (Teacher Fred) asked if I was going to cancel my flight and stay a bit longer. I told Fred I couldn’t stay now, but I would be back as soon as I could. It was a poignant moment – my heart was open and grateful. And I thought to myself, what an extraordinary gift to be a part of something that has come so far, and has already touched so many lives, not least of which is mine.
Educator, CT Volunteer, Technology Liaison, Chess Club Facilitator