This week has been extremely varied and busy. On Monday I started off by helping with the student induction sessions for the Technology Institute students. Mesi and Berihu (the elearning team in the institute) are now able to run the inductions themselves, so I don’t need to get involved with these any more. So in less than 3 weeks, we have gone from training the teachers in how to get their courses online to having students enrolled on the online courses they have created.
Then on Tuesday I gave a couple of presentations about the Digital Campus project and Open Educational Resources to the languages department. Andrew and Elinor from Clarity were back in Ethiopia to run some training for their English language improvement software, so my presentations were to help inform the languages department about how they may want to use elearning in their teaching.
I spent Wednesday morning helping to interview 13 people for 3 lab attendants posts to look after one of our computer labs and to work in shifts so the lab can be open 24 hours a day. The interviews were extremely short – only 5-10 mins each and the candidates had the choice of whether to speak in Amharic or English, so in the end there was only one candidate I could give an opinions on as they had answered the whole interview in English. Although I couldn’t understand every word, I could tell that the level of training at some of the private colleges was a little suspect (many had their IT diplomas from private colleges in Mekelle). For example, in response to my question about what they would do if a student had a problem with their password, over half replied that they’d use password cracker software (or at least I heard the words ‘password cracker software’ in their Amharic response).
Later in the afternoon I travelled up to Wukro again to accompany Mahmud (another of the phd students at Alcala) on some of his research field work. He’s looking for particular types of parasites in children, so is going out to rural schools and doing blood, urine and stool tests on a subset of the students.
On Thursday we headed out to Sherafo school (about 30 mins drive off the main road from Agula) to complete the testing he’d started there the day before. Our lab was set up in the model classroom at the school and whilst Mahmud was interviewing the children and their parents, I was helping the rest of the team weigh and measure the children – improving my Tigriyan numbers at the same time. I’m not sure how much a disruption my presence at the school was, most of the children spent a long time staring at me.
I was also looking at whether the cameras on the smart phones were going to be good enough to take photos of the microscope slides, so they could be attached to other questionnaire/interview data being recorded on the phone application. The unfortunately predictable answer was no – the only way we could get even halfway recognisable photos was to use a proper digital camera with macro setting.
On Friday morning I caught the bus back to Mekelle and was up at the Arid campus by just after 9am. I went to look at the refurbished PC lab that’s still being built. The furniture was just being installed, but there’s no sign yet of the network or electrical work that we’ve been waiting quite some time for. Although the tables use a similar design to those I had made for the other lab, I wonder how long the new tables will actually last. The sliding keyboard shelves feel like they’ll break quite easily.
In more positive news, over at Ayder campus in the afternoon, I arrived to find that all 22 classrooms were now networked. The college dean had asked for this to be done only about 2 weeks ago. Each classroom also has a projector and an old desktop computer. So next week all we need to do is get the computer configured to boot from our server and all the classrooms can have internet and other computing facilities.
I’m now going to have a relaxing weekend