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eLearning in Africa

Random reflections about eLearning in Africa

Last Build Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2017 10:55:22 +0000


Reflections is about looking back and moving forward

Sun, 15 Nov 2009 17:39:00 +0000

In my many reflections, I have found myself looking back. In the looking back, am always very inquisitive. Asking the sort of questions that am unlikely to get answers, and even where I get the answers, am not sure of what to do with the answers. But, with time, I have learnt the most important part of reflections is moving foward. From the point where one possed to do the reflections, moving into the future.

Reflections in daily living always come when something have gone wrong. Rarely do we, as human beings, stop and reflect if everything moves smoothly or we expect it to. And therefore, as usual, my reflections is of two eLearning projects that I have worked on this year that to me have failed. I will report on one that has bothered me todate. It was on eLearning facilitation.

The eLearning course was for participants in Africa - working mainly in NGOs. It was only offered online. The reasons I documented for its failure are (with the actual feedback I got from some of the participants):

Lack of sufficient IT Skills

  • “I have been trying to open and watch the video on xxx in Module 2. I have been trying for along time it cannot open”
  • “Thanks again this is my yahoo mail but i'm still learning how the chart part stands so you can continue to help me understand how it works then”.( is not yahoo or
  • “I am sorry that I have not progressed very well in the course. I had changed the password as advised. I found that I could not login with the new password. Yesterday I spent a lot of time trying to rectify this problem. I have finally been given another password by the administrator. I tried to login with the new given password I still cannot login.”

Lack of Internet Connectivity

  • “Thank you James for the follow up I have had problems with our internet for the past week”
  • “Indeed one rested well, however I am having challenges in getting thru, you can skype [me] on xxxxxx”

Lack of time to commit to the course

  • “Thank you James for the follow up I have had problems with our internet for the past week but before that week I was doing training for the rest of the days otherwise am back to the office”.
  • “Thanks for the message and the new option for the next chat. It is of great dismay to reveal that I will not be available for both chat sessions as per your proposal. I will be facilitating in a cooperative meeting in one of the rural communities here in [my country]”.
  • “Dear James ...I am well, but busy with outreach courses that I teach. I will come to the office and finish all my pending assignments”.
  • One of the participants’ email addresses always had an “out of office” auto-responder.

My reflection questions were, what if all the participants in the course had the skills and access to resources required, would it have had an impact? What if they did not have the time but had all the resources and skills? What is a best match of skills and other requirements for an online learner?

Taking Time to Teach and Learn

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 14:03:00 +0000

Today I stumbled upon one of my fanatical blog followers who lamented that there is no new post for a while. True. This space has had no activity for sometimes but soon vibrancy will resonate (politically speaking). I have been facilitating a big class on Information Systems Implementation that has occupied most of my time. Also, I have made some good readings on some titles: The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman; The Innovation Paradox : The Success of Failure, the Failure of Success by Richard Farson and Ralph Keyes; and currently reading Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter F. Drucker. There are few more titles lined up. I will be posting on my experiences of the course soon.

Commandments of religious blogging

Sun, 28 Sep 2008 12:21:00 +0000

I thought that church leaders issuance of "ten commandments of religious blogging" was a bit hilarious. But I guess they were timely given the nature of content that is being spawned on the Internet. Hope this is another stub at co-creation woes. What would be the "ten commandments of educational blogging?"

Co-creation: Selecting Wheat from Tares

Mon, 15 Sep 2008 19:08:00 +0000

I am not sure if the people who are alarmed or sending warning on the future of the internet can be labeled as pessimists, or they are just timorous of the potential of the web. The BBC online today reports of one Sir Tim Berners-Lee worries about the spread and propagation of misinformation on the web. (For those who don’t know Sir Berners-Lee, he is the inventor of the World Wide Web). Sir Berners-Lee with others is now looking for ways to help people discern the integrity and reliability of the information contained on the web. A tough call.I applaud this initiative and appreciate the difficulties in the nature of the task and its importance. But should we be ringing alarm bells? I don’t think so. While I acknowledge that, we should not think that all people making contributions on the web are people of goodwill, and that everything they post would pass Sir Berners-Lee’s trustworthiness and reliability criteria. I guess we should be moving toward educating the masses and especially the Internet community on the importance of verifying any suspicious piece of information through refereed means and channels. Without sounding pessimistic, I do not really think a movie-rating kind of approach is likely to achieve the desired results.To argue my point, I will use Tim’s examples of conspiracy theories and cults. The American Heritage Dictionary defines conspiracy theory as “a theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act.” This is done intricately accounting for evidence presented either by showing of “the cover-up, which the conspirers are attempting, or “showing discrepancies in the received explanation.” (Clarke, 2002). Further, a conspiracy theory always seeks to deceive and always targeting the anti-elitists and populists and always have more visible evidence than the convectional elitist theory. Due to their populist agenda, conspiracy theorists are likely to convince most of the unquestioning and non-inquisitive minds against the conventional science, just like the case of MMR and LHC. (It is worth noting however that the original evidence of the link between MMR and autism was published in Lancet, a recognized scientific journal). What we get after a conspiracy theory, is either total silence from the mainstream bodies, or branding of the conspiracy theorists without providing evidence that would convince even the undecided. It would not be surprising if the conspiracy theorists come up with a good explanation as to why we should not use Sir Berners-Lee’s approach for authenticating web content, rather we should use their content as it has passed all the known tests.Like a conspiracy theory, cult is a blind following that is also against the mainstream doctrines. One of the definitions given by the American Heritage Dictionary for cult is an “obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.” In the history of human history, cults and cultism have been known to exist – from the religious, political and social followings. That would probably explain why people would, for example, come out in numbers to support some politicians and political causes that are detrimental to the wellbeing of forward-conscious society. Take for instance the ongoing talk here in South Africa of people in some high offices claiming they are ready to kill if one of the politicians is convicted of corruption. Here, the blind masses have been indoctrinated to think that their preferred politician is being persecuted. While there seems to be conspiracy theories surrounding the case, I would want to think most of the people who are seen following the politicians are just cultist. In the same note, followers of any ideology would follow what they think (or are made to believe) is within their leaders – blindly. By implication, even if we rate web-content, we are unlikely to change their way of thinking or appro[...]

Government funding in Higher Education

Wed, 10 Sep 2008 19:37:00 +0000

This week there are two articles on the funding of Higher Education (HE) that have caught my attention. One of the articles talk of a professor who has just discovered a “Better way to cut up of the pie” in South Africa, while the other one talks of a noble way of “Paying universities to lower their standards” in Italy. What is particularly interesting, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, the Vice Chancellor of one University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa considers it pretence in the government approach of seeing the 23 universities in South Africa as the same and using the same blurred vision to dictate their kind of funding. He advocates for the recognition of the “different histories, different capacities, different resources, and different visions and missions” each of the 23 universities in funding them.What is intriguing is his argument for more funding for Humanities than science in South African universities. (This is not only a surprise because he is of a medical background, but also for the prominence science is being given for the economic development in Africa. I would argue also, given the AIDS scourge a person of his background would advocate for more funding for medical research especially in HIV/AIDS and TB). That is not to say that humanities (or social sciences) are lesser than the natural sciences. Indeed his proposal looks more proactive than reactive on one angle – that we need to first deal with our social and individual needs before we turn onto other areas like science. That is not to say I agree with his point of view. I would add that South Africa as a country as without doubt the rest of Africa need a proactive approach to the funding of projects and by extension higher education. That is, our reason for funding more humanities projects than science and technology projects in higher education should not be based on factors like the number of Nobel prizes we have in humanities as compared to sciences. Neither should it be pegged on the areas that we are good at, we need to explore new and diverse galaxies to find if there can be better life.Just because South Africa is good in “international mediation, non-racism, reconciliation, justice, equity and even xenophobia” we should focus all our funding there. In fact, we can use that as a step towards exploring other areas like sciences or even medical research that is of betterment of the citizenry of this country and Africa as a whole. What the old professor seemed to ignore is that, despite what we can achieve in humanities, at the end of the day the “hungry child is going to aim to become a great scientist” not because there is lots of humanities in universities, but because there is food. In a time like his where everyone in the world has been alerted of a looming food shortage (although some are saying is artificial and speculative while others attribute it to the use of foodstuff in fuel/power generation), I would have expected the professor to advocate for some funding in food and agricultural research to feed the “hungry child”. Humanities won’t feed the child. In addition, it is time we changed the meaning of struggle from the mere creation of “a humane and just society... largely [based] on humanities”. Rather, we should transform the struggle to creating opportunities for the populace. I am yet to see a humane and just society where a section of it is destitute and hungry. While the iconography, native knowledge (and I may add wisdom), and unique history should be explored further, wide and deep, it should not be at the expense of science and technology. Well maybe I did miss a point.In Italy, the economics are working. Universities (just like in SA incidentally) get subsidies from government based on number of graduates who “pass” through a university system. In this system, government “funds allocated to a university increase with the total number of full-time equivalent students (FTE), which is [...]

Ranting about anything for eLearning in Africa

Sun, 31 Aug 2008 17:38:00 +0000

I have been missing in action, rather my participation for the last few months in the blog has been low. Not that nothing eLearning has been happening with me, but just that too much was written about it and not posted here. Not also that whatever wasn’t posted here wasn’t important.I have been thinking about what eLearning can be in Africa, if all the obstacles and barriers are removed it can prosper. But wait a minute, we are always reminded and reminding ourselves of our weaknesses, our inadequacies, our insufficiencies, and more often of our past failures that we become pessimistic of the future, we become procrastinators or non-starters, and people who will always see and hear the negative side of things. There is the usual rhetoric of seeing the opportunities, in every situation and context, where its said that a pessimist will see a glass as half-empty while an optimist will see it as half-full.How often have we heard and read news of how Africa as a whole is not ready for the digital revolution and eLearning specifically? How often have we talked of the lack of access to digital resources in Africa, the bandwidth, the human capacity, the prohibitive and restrictive policies and regulations, the lack of ‘African’ content on the Internet, the poor electricity and related infrastructure; the lack of policy makers support; the limited or lack of financial resources; and of how our socio-cultural issues are very incompatible with what eLearning espouses? How often have we looked at closing debate on the questions of our weaknesses, inadequacies, insufficiencies, and past failures? Have we let these questions to blind us to the extent of seen an opportunity just because it is canvassed between illusional barriers? Have we attempted to turn this barriers (or identified Threats and Weakness in the SWOT analysis to Strengths and Opportunities)? I guess we are still seeing the glass as half full.A story is told of how two shoes manufacturing companies in Europe sent there marketing gurus to an ancient country in the tropics to look for prospects of diversifying and extending their brands' market. On reaching this country, where as it were, the natives did not wear shoes, the two gurus returned to their companies with two different verdicts. Representative of one of the companies (say Company A) reported: People in that country is so primitive that they do not, as it were, nor do they need shoes. Investing our brands in that country would be the worst thing (since the sinking of the Titanic). The marketer from the rival company (Company B) reports: The country has an unexplored market that is just waiting for us to venture into it. A market that we will have no competitors, and the only thing we need to do is to show the natives of the country the benefits of wearing shoes, and off we have the market for our shoes!Incidentally, some of those doing the marketing for Africa, are seeing a market (which some would say is digitally unexplored) that has no potential or opportunity for eLearning as the case was with Company A’s representative. They fail to see how the simple possibilities, benefits, advantages, opportunities, potential and the future that come along with the use of eLearning are. It is sad, to know that most of these crusaders of inadequacies are Africans themselves. This is not to say that we do not have our shortcomings, or there aren’t any barriers or hindrances to the use of eLearning in Africa. Rather, we should first look at what we pose to benefit from in the use of eLearning, and the work on the barriers. We should not try and paint a gloomy picture of our wonderful continent just because we are looking for a collaborator or donor or development partner (or any such entity) without putting ourselves first, and knowing what we are seeking to achieve at the end. Unfortunately, this can only be achieved for the good of all if we, as a continent are devoid of the[...]

A Refrain about eLearning

Tue, 29 Jul 2008 20:26:00 +0000

Last year, I reported about the Kenyan Minister of Education claiming that with the introduction of new technology, many teachers would loose their jobs. I disagreed and a few days later the Kenyan Ministry of Education issued an errata stating the minister did not say that (although it is typical of any politician to always claim s/he was misquoted). That said, this did not seem to be the official position of the Kenyan government, because during its budget estimates, it provided for the employment of more teachers. In fact, though there are two conflicting reports, the Kenya government through the Teacher Service Commission is recruiting a multitude of teachers. (its is reported more than 14000 teachers on one section and 6000 teachers in another). You just trust the media to offer contradictory figures.The minister's comments then seemed to be a single case, but it seems to be a reflection of the perception within the political and policy making circles that eLearning will indeed increase interactivity to the level of phasing out teachers and professors in educational institutions. In neighbouring Tanzania (or is it the United Republic of Tanzania) the Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Prof Jumanne Maghembe, has said that IT will be used to cater for teacher shortages in schools. With a shortfall of 40 ooo teachers, Mobile phones, computers and projectors will be used not only to cater for the shortage of teachers, but also to improve on the enrolment rates. The minister is quoted to have said:After the project is completed, we shall be able to use one teacher to teach many students and the shortage of teachers will be history in TanzaniaWhat I always seem to miss is what world some of this policy makers and politicians live especially when they have some (potential) 'donors' in their midst. They seem to have a rare and distant intelligence that make them utter words that might seem to be policy directions that are impractical to say the least. First, like I stated in May last year if the reason for introducing IT in schools is to do away with teachers, then that is the worst reason that can ever be. The mere introduction of IT in education brings about paradigmatic shifts and challenges in both quality and delivery (or imparting of knowledge).This new paradigm requires the (teachers to transform into) facilitators to involve and engage student frequently to avert loneliness, low self-esteem, isolation, and low motivation to learn, whose consequences are low achievements or eventual drop-out. The engagement and involvement, both during the teaching and learning process, and the development of the learning materials and contexts translates to increased workloads for the facilitators and therefore the need for more teachers. This dual challenge of paradigm shift, and increased workload in the face of eLearning in the schools might lead to user resistance, and eventual failure. In fact, most of the change theorists and researcher have indicated that people would always resist anything that would challenge the status quo, or one that is perceived to bring about increased roles and responsibilities.Secondly, the drop-out (also attrition, absenteeism) rates are reported to be higher in technology mediated classes than in the face to face classes. It is only difficult to proof absenteeism in the case of online learning because of the anywhere anytime philosphy. Completion rates to some on online programmes have been reported to be as low as 30%.Prof Jumanne Maghembe, did you mean what you said or you were also misquoted? Or did you just read from a 1985 Apple Classroom of Tomorrow script?Edit: 05-Aug-2008A quote from The Citizen (Tanzania) of 2nd August:Several African governments have turned to mobile phones and computers to mitigate the effects of teacher shortage they are facing.Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia have st[...]

eLearning Fundi on Wordle

Tue, 08 Jul 2008 21:07:00 +0000

Just seen the wonders of Wordle. All this came from the eLearning fundi site.


Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

eLearning Adoption Framework: Link Between Adopters and eLearning

Mon, 30 Jun 2008 10:25:00 +0000

Due to the requests and responses I have received on the presentation I made during the ICEL 2008 conference in Cape Town, I have put it up here for everyone.

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The eLearning Adoption Survey: Day 3

Tue, 03 Jun 2008 10:30:00 +0000

Day 3: (14 responses received).
Are you an academic in higher education? Are you from or working in any of the following countries (Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe)? If so, you are invited to participate on an eLearning adoption survey. Click here to participate. A guide on how to go about filling in the questionnaire is available here.

Day 28@1203 28 June 2008


Number of responses: 74

Number of valid responses: 38

Number of saved responses: 6

Countries represented: 11

Universities represented: 20

Day 13@1505 13 June 2008

Number of responses: 59

Number of valid responses: 30

Number of saved responses: 5

Countries represented: 8

Universities represented: 11

Day 9@1525 09 June 2008

Number of responses: 29

Number of valid responses: 16

Number of saved responses: 1

Countries represented: 6

Day 3@2017 03 June 2008

Number of responses: 14

Number of valid responses: 6

Number of saved responses: 1

Countries represented: 5 (Kenya (2), Mozambique (1), Rwanda (1), South Africa (1) , Zimbabwe (1)).

Universities presented: 6 (University of Nairobi (1), Africa Nazarene University (1), National University of Rwanda (1), Stellenbosch University (1), Catholic University of Mozambique (1), National University of Science and Technology (1)).

Gender representation (6 Male, 0 Female).

More information also available on my homepage.

The eLearning Adoption Survey

Thu, 29 May 2008 10:00:00 +0000

Are you an academic in higher education? Are you from or working in any of the following countries (Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe)? If so, you are invited to participate on an eLearning adoption survey. Click here to participate.

Over the last few decades, there has been a worldwide surge in the use of information and communication technologies (or digital technologies). There have been reported mixed results of the ‘digital revolution’ to the different angles and spheres of our daily life including education. However, there is a perceived lack in terms of both research and success stories in African higher education institutions with regard to the adoption of digital technologies in teaching and learning despite their promise and potential. There is therefore need to study and document the contributing factors, and at the same time develop frameworks and/or guidelines for successful use of digital technologies in teaching and learning, popularly known as eLearning.

You have been kindly requested to participate in a research on the adoption and use of eLearning/Learning technologies in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in selected countries in Africa. The questionnaire seeks to gather information about the perceptions, motivation, organisational and environmental factors affecting the use of eLearning with the aim of understanding the kind of interventions required for faster adoption and continued use of eLearning. The results of a statistical analysis of the data will be used to make specific recommendations on the areas of personal characteristics and attitudes, organisational realignments, technology policy, implementation, and operations for HEIs for successful adoption of eLearning

It will take you approximately 20 minutes to fill in this questionnaire. For internal validity of the questionnaire, some items may appear as if they are repeated. To fill in the questionnaire, copy and paste the following URL onto your browser: OR

ROI of eLearning II

Mon, 21 Apr 2008 12:56:00 +0000

In November 2006, I posted the first section on ROI of eLearning, and posted some questions on why getting financial quantifications on gains that can be attributed to the investment on eLearning especially in Higher Education.
Recently, a JISC funded initiative continued to define and enumerate “tangible benefits” of eLearning that could be used as an indicative measure of ROI. The benefits are in a report entitled: Exploring Tangible Benefits of e-Learning: Does Investment yield interest . Among the tangible benefits identified in the report are:
  • Effect on learning (e.g. context, style, insight and reflective practice)
  • Effect on exam results
  • Effect on student personal development (e.g. skills, employability, confidence)
  • Student satisfaction with e-learning (e.g. effect on motivation, attendance and enjoyment, as shown in national survey, institutional survey, module evaluation, focus groups, or other)
  • Innovation in teaching, learning and assessment (e.g. stimulus to creative approaches)
  • Influence on educational research
  • Staff satisfaction with e-learning
  • Effect on staff personal development (e.g. skills, employability, confidence)
  • Influence on recruitment (students or staff; e.g. through greater accessibility; opening up new markets)
  • Influence on retention (e.g. students or staff)
  • Influence on policy (e.g. institutional, faculty/school, departmental, or other extra- institutional body)
  • Effect on resources (e.g. effect on cost of delivery, time, applying full economic costing to teaching and learning)
  • Modifications to learning spaces (e.g. libraries, wireless networks, informal learning spaces)
  • Effect on management of learning assets (e.g. institutional IP, repositories)
  • Effect on a social justice agenda (e.g. widening participation, provision of space for consideration of differing or challenging perspectives).

I am yet to read the whole report but as I do, more questions that I asked in 2006 still linger. How for instance do you tell the difference in effects on learning that are as a result of eLearning? And not, say, as a result of student’s personal initiative, extrinsic motivation (e.g. having to get a job promotion after completion of a course), what is the effects of learners’ innovativeness when it comes to using technology tools that can be attributed to effects on learning? Can we measure and ascertain that good grades in an exam can be attributed to the use of eLearning only? Hopefully, I will get insights or partial answers or convincing arguments on this and more questions as I read the the report.

Questions Asked When Deploying Linux and Other Free and Open Source Software

Mon, 17 Mar 2008 19:07:00 +0000

A colleague approached me to find out what are the main issues in deploying Open Source solutions (and Linux in particular) in an organization. Here are the questions he asked and the answers that I provided.Thank you very much for agreeing to help us out on this, alright here are these questions: Not a problem! It is always good to know I can be of help to someone. Please note that some of these questions are too technical and the few sentences given as answers are oversimplifications of what actually is or happens. When is open source free and when is it required to pay a fee? Free in open source is a matter of freedom not fees. What this freedom means is that you get the source code together with the software (or you can access the source code without limitations). The freedom hence mean you can take the source code study, change, and improve its design and redistribute it to others. In addition, you can use it for any purpose. You may be required to pay for the software (if its not available for download) or pay for its customization to your requirements if you do not have the in-house capability of doing it. With other operating systems, particularly Windows XP, they tend to be very vulnerable to viruses, How is it that Linux is immune to viruses? What makes windows more vulnerable to viruses is its design especially on permissions management. Most users (including programs) can install software and also take control of the running of some software. In Linux, security and permission is king and installation of programs take a process and need change of rights. The implicit requirement to set user rights on Linux makes it less vulnerable to viruses. To some extent Linux might be vulnerable to malicious software, but since most of the control is on the user then the system administrator can control what specific users do on an installation. How does one choose between the likes of Mandriva, Fedora, Ubuntu, etc, when planning for deployment? All this are blends. The rule of the thumb in choosing between them is closeness to support of a wider community using it. In case you need help or when you need to improve or do something extra with them. I use fedora because I like one or two things in it. What are some of the utility programs available on Linux? Utilities for? I don't understand.But most of the blends or distros of Linux come with most of the basic software: Office Suite (open office), Email client (Evolution, Thunderbird etc), Package management (Yast, RPM,etc), Web servers (Apache). Depending on your installation choice/type, you can easily add on most of the applications that you need. Threats to system security come not only from outside the computer system but also from inside the community of systems users as well. What are security measures that are taken by Linux on unauthorised access to sensitive data by unauthorized users? First, physical security is as important as software security. Linux-based system have the best user and user rights management system (Access Control Lists) that I know in an operating system. You can manage users to the point of what file the user (or group of users) can see, execute, or write. In short, the user access-level security is as good as you can set it to be as the administrative user. How does Linux support kernel threads? Much better than most of the other operating systems. Please see for more information. What are the most common problems that are experienced by Linux users, or open source in general? Mainly its a question of attitude and resistance to change. Otherwise, most of the people who have changed to using [...]

Crossroads, dilemmas and paradoxes

Sun, 03 Feb 2008 12:51:00 +0000

I take this opportunity to welcome back all my ardent readers and visitors. I did not want to come back in the New Year wearing the eLearning cap for the last years, but oh, I got that wrong. I am still in the old cap; probably what has changed is its look and color. It has definitely faded and the environmental breach has taken toll on it. All said and done, am still here trying to see what way to go for the New Year (don’t really think it is still new).
There are too many technological and pedagogical decisions to be made, and at times, even being an adviser in the same you are at the crossroads. The crossroads often leads to dilemmas that as a technology advisor, I have to take a stand and follow it through (standing on it, although deep down I have this feeling it might fail and portray negatively on my image). That said, there are no silver bullets, and there are no quick fixes especially on educational technology. There are tough pedagogical implications of any technology choice. And then there is the paradox, I am expected to advice and strongly advocated for the use of technology in teaching and learning, while at the same time be wary of their pedagogical shortcomings (that at times need not be known by the clients).
In short, I don’t envy being a salesman.
So, back to the New Year story. The prediction of the year, is in as much as we would want change in teaching and learning using technology, the only thing that will change considerably is the technological jargon, with little offer on the pedagogy. Before you shoot me, please read my prediction at least three times.

the myths of innovation: there is a method for innovation

Thu, 08 Nov 2007 17:18:00 +0000

In the last two days, I have posted a summary of the first and second chapters of Scott Berkun's book, the myths of innovation. In the third chapter, Scott shows that despite the conventional belief that there is a systematic approach to innovation, there is not such a thing, hence the myth: There is a method for innovation.

The myths stipulates that there is a methodological (or systematic) approach to innovating – more so that can be read in cookbooks or how-to manuals. Taken this way, there are myth posits that there are calculated risks and steps toward an innovation. Paradoxically, if there are known steps or risks toward an idea then it is not new and therefore not an innovation.

Innovators are driven by unsystematic desire, curiosity and dreams. These in themselves do not translate to an innovation until they are translated to a commitment – to hard work in a certain direction that might extend for years. However, there can be a direction change when new knowledge or an intended innovation arises. In the equation, there are personal interests and ambitions that drive people during the innovation process. In addition, a number of innovators are driven by the quest to make more money. Clearly, a mesh of factors contribute to the basic need to innovate, and with the different combinations, there cannot be a single methodology for innovation.

There are however common challenges that all innovators face including finding an idea (creating the initial curiosity); developing a solution to their idea; sponsorship and funding of the innovation process; reproduction of the solution so that it can be optimized for profit; reaching the potential customers; beating the competitors; proper timing on when to announce the innovation; and keeping the lights on. These challenges are further influenced exponentially by the unpredictability of the innovations, and the intended market or customer base.

However, there are paths that can make the innovation process easier or manageable: Self knowledge so that decisions are guided awareness of environments or challenges; passionate intensity toward success and willingness to look back and reconsider assumptions; starting it small and growing as new insights and ideas are realized; and honoring luck and the past – “acknowledging that you can do everything right and fail, and do many things wrong and succeed.” (Berkun, 2007, p. 51)

the myths of innovation: We understand the history of innovation

Wed, 07 Nov 2007 15:27:00 +0000

Yesterday, I posted a summary of the first chapter of Scott Berkun's book, the myths of innovation. As interesting as the first chapter is the second one. It rubbishes the idea that the history of innovation can be completely understood - or written.

What makes history? Who defines it? What defines a hero(ine) or heroism?
People and events are transformed to legends and legendaries as an effect of time – all the times. Their (people and events in history) are influenced by “circumstance, world politics and chance” (Berkun, 2007, p. 21) and the location the people are and the events take place.

Further history is written by people after events have shaped up meaning a) that what goes in the history books is not necessarily the truth b) that history is written as a means to a certain predefined end e.g profit for book sale, political advancement of an agenda c) that due to the diverse sources of information historians use, they are bound to impose their perspectives or opinions as facts d) there is a possibility that crucial facts about a historical event are overlooked and e) Oversimplification of historical events so that they can fit a certain timeline, that does not necessarily show any relationship between when the event in question happened and when it started.

When these shortcomings of history and its making are applied in the field of innovations, they lead to a number of assumptions or beliefs such as a) every innovation being adopted is an improvement in all spheres and contexts of the innovation it replaces b) representation of historical events as timelines while in essence there might be no direct progression (without detours or feedbacks) on the timeline.

From the foregoing discussion, it is illogical to assume or believe that we understand the history of innovation.

the myths of innovation: Innovators and the myths of epiphany

Tue, 06 Nov 2007 16:09:00 +0000

I am back to blogging after a well deserved break.

I am currently reading Scott Berkun's book, the myths of innovation. It is good in informing me about research am doing for my doctorate on adoption of eLearning. The first chapter is very interesting, which in away questions where good (or great ideas) come from, and how they are generated.

Where do great ideas come from and how are they produced?
The myth of epiphany – a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something – posits that whenever an innovation arises or is reported, tales of its magic moments are the first to appear. This is more so because myths are “often more satisfying … than the truth” (Berkun, 2007, p. 6). When innovations are being reported a number of myths go with them: Newton’s apple story and gravity; Archimedes and the bath tub;

However, innovations don’t happen in just one magical moment, and they are not completely new either. They are a build up of (hitherto unknown) innovations, a combination at times – where if any of the components is missing the innovations would not be realized. Therefore, imagining that epiphany plays a pivotal role in the innovation process is misguided. Probably, the epiphany – or the magical moments come when the last bit or last piece of an innovation is put into place, or when something being made for a different purpose realises some new use (e.g. Viagra).

One thing that arises though through the myth of epiphany is that there is need for innovators or creative thinkers to take breaks (go under apple trees; take a bath) so that they can experience the magical moment (the Eureka or wow moment).

This reminded me of my physics lessons whenever I encountered the famous inventors. I used to have a perception of them being lazy. In the Newton and the apples instance, I could add...
Newton was (probably) so lazy to climb on to the tree, or get some form of scaffold to get apples from the tree. Instead, he spent most of the time under the tree waiting for the apples to fall. The idea of him questioning gravity, in this case, came when he was fully satisfied? His question therefore was now that I am satisfied, why are the apples still falling (on me) instead (for example) of flying up?

what is the diffusion of eLearning like in Africa?

Fri, 10 Aug 2007 17:43:00 +0000

Does it follow Roger's diffusion of innovation theory (see Rogers, 2003 - Diffusion of Innovations)?
Or does it subscribe to Gladwell's Tipping Point theory (see Gladwell, 2003- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference)?
Or is my worry just an innovator's dilemma (see Christensen, 1997 - The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail)?
Or is it time we looked at the democratization of innovations (see von Hippel, 2005 - Democratizing innovations)?
Or we can explore the myths about innovations (see Berkun, 2007 - the myths of innovations)?
Or maybe we are just crossing the chasm, somehow (see Moore, 2001 - Crossing the chasm)?

Volunteer Computing

Tue, 17 Jul 2007 10:09:00 +0000

I have not posted in this blog for the last month or so. I took a break to do some base work, though that has proved to be counter-productive. I guess am more productive when am doing the mind2finger thing and letting the world know my thoughts as I encounter them, or at least when I come across something new, rather than consolidating so many thoughts and waiting for a grand posting that will never be. This does not mean, soon or later, I will be making a grand post. But it is just another resolution that procrastination should never again creep into my dictionary.
This week I am participating in a workshop on volunteer computing, as a trainee. First a disambiguation of volunteer computing. Maybe for some, like I did when I received the advert for the workshop, would think more of volunteering as the process of offering oneself to do some work (often) for free, at free will. My thinking was the workshop was how to prepare me to volunteer my computing experience through offering my services to others. Well, I was not that far off from what volunteer computing; only that the focus of the free will is different, but the purpose is mainly to server others. Volunteer computing is an arrangement in which people (volunteers) provide computing resources to projects, which use the resources to do distributed computing and/or storage.
Having defined what volunteer computing is, we need to look at projects that require massive computing resources that might benefit from it, and also the technology (software, hardware and people) who would drive such projects. For a start, we got introduced to the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC project). We got introduced to the client and the server technology and the credit system that is used to encourage volunteering. I will be posting more on this shortly.

My home is becoming bigger and better

Wed, 13 Jun 2007 19:20:00 +0000

I have decided to pull most of my postings and resources online to a single places. As you all know, a fundi likes to start working when all the tools and materials are on-site. This saves on time, and it is also convenient because the fundi does not need to get out of the site to look for extra tools and materials. In the new home, it is not only about blogging, there will be additional tools, gooddies and not-so-good-enough things - ALL related to eLearning. For a start, I have a content management system up and running, moodle is up and running, and a wiki is coming up soon.

In the near future, my favourite learning management system KEWL will be coming on this site.

Once again welcome.

Net Geners Part II

Mon, 04 Jun 2007 15:45:00 +0000

Yesterday I put forward an introduction to Net Geners. Today, I highlight what Sword & Leggott (2007) call the Seven Principles of educating the Ne(x)t Generation.

1. Relinguish Authority
When we renounce our own exclusive status as erudite experts, placing our students in the role of teachers and ourselves in the role of students, not only do we model for them the benefits of life-long learning, but we allow them to experience firsthand what every seasoned teacher already knows: If you really want to master a subject, teach it.
2. Recast Students as Teachers, Researchers, and Producers of Knowledge
Teaching to the future demands that we imbue students with a sense of intellectual purpose, instill in them a desire to make a difference, provide them with opportunities to reach a wider audience, and furnish them with the tools to break new ground.
3. Promote Collaborative Relationships
Teaching to the future involves harnessing the collaborative impulses already at large in digital culture and directing them toward educational ends, so that "group work" shifts in our students' perception from an eyeroll-inducing educational gimmick to a cutting-edge skill worthy of cultivation and scrutiny.
4. Cultivate Multiple Intelligences
Education for the future needs to address all of these many abilities [spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, and mathematical-analytical], teaching students to be aware of and make use of their own particular gifts
5. Foster Critical Creativity
Criticism looks back; creativity looks forward; and in the meeting of the two glances, sparks fly.
6. Encourage Resilience in the Face of Change
Critically creative people regard obstacles as opportunities; they welcome challenges because the act of surmounting impediments so often leads to unanticipated insights.
7. Craft Assignments That Look Both Forward and Backwards
This double vision [to preserve, yet also to transform, the past] is the core attribute of teaching to the future.
Read full article: Sword, H., and M. Leggott. 2007. Backwards into the future: Seven principles for educating the Ne(x)t Generation. Innovate 3 (5). (accessed June 3, 2007)

The Net Geners

Sun, 03 Jun 2007 14:03:00 +0000

We have come up with clever names to identify and classify generations. Now comes the Net Generation which has been give quite a number of names (the Dot Com generation, the Millennial Generation, Generation Y, the Internet Generation, iGeneration, ). Net geners are members of the Net Generation, and in demographic terms, though no clear demarcation is available is agreeably the people who have grown up with the digital technology (what Mark Prensky would call digital natives). This generation, to some, is a cohort of people who were born between 1982 and 2001.

The net geners are characterized by their:
High digital literacy: It is a generation of people who have been born and/or brought up when most of the digital devices are available e.g computers, internet, iPods, etc
Connectedness and socialisation: It is in this generation that the connectedness between peers, especially using online social software and sites (myspace, facebook, Hi5,, tagged etc).
Multitasking: They can been seen doing an assignment, chatting with friends on IM, view friends profile online among other things at the same time.
Consumption and production of digital information: Being born in the age where Web 2.0 is the net buzzword, net geners not are not only passive recipients of information, but also they participate in its creation.

For more information on the Net geners and implications in teaching and learning, check out the current and previous issues of the Innovate magazine.

Many Teachers Loosing Jobs? I Disagree!

Tue, 29 May 2007 07:55:00 +0000

The Kenyan Minister for Education Prof. G. Saitoti, while opening the eLearning Africa Conference, is quoted to have said that thousands of teacher could loose jobs if and when eLearning is fully implemented in Kenyan schools. I disagree. We might probably need more teachers, or retraining of most of the existing ones.

In addition, he is quoted to have said that eLearning is cheap and requires less man power. I disagree. eLearning is not as cheap as it is usually advertised, neither does it require less man power as hyped. To the contrary, eLearning is a very expensive initial investment. The costs of hardware, software, training, material development and the like are so high. Also, not ALL learning can be done through eLearning!

In addition, he believes that the use of eLearning is not age restrictive as with formal school. I also disagree. Age restriction in education if anything is a people issue not a technology issue. The idea of open learning, and open learning universities that have operated without using technology is a clear testimony. While the flexibility offered by eLearning is an advantage to the working class, admission criteria in formal learning institutions need to be revised to cater for the restrictions imposed on age and prior learning.

Reflections on Africa Day!

Fri, 25 May 2007 13:27:00 +0000

Today we celebrate the Africa Day. We are celebrating at a time when we have a strong call to end armed conflicts in some of our African states (Somali, Sudan and others), Corruption and civil inefficiency, economic downfalls (e.g in Zimbabwe), media freedom (e.g in Kenya, South Africa etc), Diseases (e.g HIV/AIDS) among other social evils and problems.

One of our greatest enemies in Africa is ignorance and poor governance. For us to ensure political stability we need to do something in educating the masses, and ensure that our systems and structures are well formed to make sure that the political leadership is kept at checks always. This, I believe is one of the mandates of the African Union: Cultivating politcal stability and ensuring rapid socio-economic development in Africa.

It is encouraging to see that the AU intends to increase the use of VSAT technology for communication between member states. Although this is not sufficient for what Africa needs for development, it is a good starting point in seeing that the political leadership sees the potential of communication, more so using technology.

Even though a lot has been down to reach were we are, so much more need to be done for use to reach where we dream of being. We need not only to work towards the objectives, but also to make personal sacrifices. The sacrifices that most of the freedom fighters in Africa made. If we all made sacrifices, and do everything we can and to the best, then Africa our great continent will prosper.

What would you do if you had all the technology?

Mon, 21 May 2007 13:13:00 +0000

If all the questions of access to and availability of technology were address, what would you be doing with it?

There are concerns, some genuine, some out of proportion on the use of communication media like the blog. For example, some politician in South Africa feel that the government should lay down policies to regulate blogs and their content because they have been used to malign and mudsling politicians. A columnist is up in arms for what he calls "air guitars of journalism".

There are also concerns on the use of mxit a popular mobile chat service. School going children are addicted to it and on top of having poor concentration in classes, there are reports that some have fallen into the traps of sex predators.

These two examples show cases of technologies that are available and accessible to a good number of people that are subject to abuse. How to use them for the benefits of both the users and the wider community has been put into question. I therefore think the question on what to do with a technology that is available and accessible to a people, especially for educational purposes is in order now. For now, do we wish away the dangers of the use of this technology, and assume that with time good will prevail over the evil.