Next monday (Feb 20th) we begin the TechChange four week certificate course on New Technologies for Educational Practice. I’m excited to announce that rockstar educator Daryn Cambridge, Director for Knowledge & Digital Strategies at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict adjunct professor at American University will be co-facilitating with me.

We’ve got an amazing group of educators, administrators, practitioners lined up from organizations like Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, UN University for Peace, USAID, Catholic Charities – Refugee Services, German Agency for International Cooperation, Close Up Foundation, IREX, Teachers College, Plan Finland, Graduate School, Marymount University, and more.

We’re also thrilled to welcome a number of guest experts to the course who will be giving presentations, fielding questions and interacting with the class.  A list of confirmed speakers so far (with a few more on the way):

●  Rafi Santo, New media & learning theorist Doctoral Student in Indiana University’s Learning Sciences Program.
●  Julie Lindsay, E-Learning & MYP Coordinator at Beijing International School. Co-founder Flat Classroom Projects
●  Noble Kelley, Executive Director of Teachers Beyond Borders
●  Rangan Srikhanta, Director of OneLaptop Per Child Australia

We’ve got an excited four weeks planned: we’ll be playing some video games for social change, learning about all kinds of new tools for classroom practice, diving a little bit into theories of social learning, active learning, connectivism, hosting twitter chats, discussing tablets and e-textbooks, trying to figure out if m-learning is for real, exploring case studies like Khan Academy, CodeSchool, engaging in online scavenger hunts and so much more.

There are still a few spots left so register today to reserve your spot and hit the ground running!

This past week, Raymond Besiga, my co-fellow on the Global Health Corps fellowship, and I met with Dr.  Paul Muyinda, a leading mLearning practitioner in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2008 Makerere University, started a mobile broadcast system of one way communication to students regarding administrative and academic support information.  This was the first step to an innovative mLearning project.  Since 2011, the distance learning team has been developing a 2 way communication tool of “virtual mLearning”, drawing on collaborative learning theories.  In this case, the student (user) would receive communication from their lecturer, such as a discussion question and respond to it via an assigned response code.  The questions and responses are stored in an online system for later reference by those with Internet access.  “Virtual mLearning” will be deployed in April 2012.

The Department of Open and Distance Learning is also developing a “Virtual mNotice Board”  support tool that will search within the University for the most sought after information.  Instead of students going to campus to find out that they have gone to the wrong office, need a different form, etc, they can search a directory of campus services on their basic mobile phone.

Lecturers are generally motivated to engage in mobile learning as it is convenient for them as well and they are often paid for participating on “External Program” activities.  These lecturers can stay up to date with students using mobile messages and track their students after they leave the classroom.  They do complain about privacy issues with the current mobile broadcast system where students call their personal numbers, send messages at odd hours of the day and are generally “too responsive.”

Dr. Muyinda brought up the issue that Mr. Okumu had discussed earlier this month about the project specific Learning Management Systems.  Each project has its own version of Moodle (in this case) as it is easier to set up and test your own copy than manage the technical bureaucracy of working with the main system during the project development phase.

The biggest problem Dr. Muyinda’s mLearning project faces is funding, where the short code costs US $2000. Also costs of SMS aggregation have to be factored in plus cost of acquiring test equipment.  There are also cost of developing the application itself.

The Project is looking forward to the realization of the Virtual mNotice Board (Virtual mobile learning notice board) and social media for use to achieve third generation open and distance learning.  Virtual mLearning will be piloted in April 2012 and updates will come about the success and challenges of this project.  As more mLearning projects are deployed, we discover more about how to use technology for education and about how we learn.

Makerere University is one of the oldest and most well reputed universities in East Africa. As a leading institution in the field, Makerere, or Mak (pronounced Muuk) as it’s affectionately called, has had a prolific distance learning program since the early 1990s. Much of this program followed the historical route of paper based correspondence learning until the early 2000’s.


Tomorrow I’ll be giving a talk at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution on how emerging technology and crowdsourcing can enhance academic research in conflict-affected settings.  The TechChange team will be there for the talk, and I’ll be live tweeting the event all day (#confresearch).

Along with my talk, we’ll also be hearing from my George Mason colleagues as they discuss the challenges of protecting their informants in high risk environments, the legal issues of doing field research on terrorist groups, and the logistics of doing research in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

For those who are in the educational and research field, my talk will also be a good opportunity to learn a little more about what TechChange will be covering in their upcoming courses New Technologies for Educational Practice and our soon-to-be-posted Social Media and Technology Tools for Research (July 23 – August 10).