Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Nelson Mandela is a Great Example for World Leaders

As the world joins South Africa to mourn and celebrate former president and anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, it is necessary to reflect on what he stood for, what he achieved and what he can teach us. Madiba passed on last Thursday 5th December 2013 at his residence in Johannesburg. The father of the rainbow nation showed that Africa can have inspiring leaders too. He's bigger than any leader of our time in the world.

Mandela as a leader had a clear goal and was focused on doing what was necessary to achieve it. His life's mission was to see the end of apartheid in South Africa, and to establish a non-racial society. To achieve this objective, Mandela was strategic and flexible in his approach. He was not fixated on following a particular course of action when that would not achieve the results needed. In short, he was prepared to fight for the liberation of his country. Madiba, or Tata as some preferred to call him, was also reconciliatory and forgiving. As a great leader he was ready to overlook the mistakes of the past and chart a new course for South Africa, rather than insist on punishing all the wrongs of the dark years. A final attribute of Mandela that is admirable is his sense of naturalness and deep reflection. The man was always himself; he did not seek to be considered as a superhuman or an angel. Similarly, his reflective practice helped him to address personal mistakes in later years. Through writing, he gave all of the us the opportunity to walk through the mind of a great world leader and to learn how to arrive at complex decisions that have far-reaching consequences.
Tributes for Madiba have been pouring in from all over the world, including the Ghanaian blogging community.
A funeral service held at the FNB stadium in Soweto today attracted many former and sitting heads of states, including leaders from Ghana, Nigeria, USA, UK, Brazil and Cuba. Those given the opportunity to speak were unanimous and unequivocal in their praise of Mandela's virtues, what he achieved for South Africa and what he taught the world. US president Barrack Obama was at his lyrical best as he weaved strands between the civil rights experience of the US, the anti-apartheid movement, and the continuous struggle for justice, opportunity and equality in the world.

 Mandela is a towering figure of global leadership. His charm, resolve, wit and thoughtfulness were powerful assets that helped him to achieve his goals. Upcoming leaders can pick a few lessons from his book.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Harnessing the Power of Digital Technology for Education in Ghana

Ghanaian high school teachers undergoing ICT4E training in Saltpond, Central Region
Information Communication Technology (ICT) can be a great enabler of learning when used rightly. For this to happen, both teachers and students must be adept at handling all kinds of gadgets and software. Ghana has a lot of promise in the digital education space, but a lot remains to be done to bring our level up to speed with global standards. My post explores five ways through which technology can be applied to enhance learning in Ghana.

Use of Tech in Classroom
A skilled teacher can apply technology in her classroom in many ways. She can run her lessons using PowerPoint or an open source alternative. This automatically allows for the integration of pictures, videos and other multimedia. Use of multimedia content increases the attention of students as their senses are fully engaged. The chalk or marker board would still be used for sketches, annotations and other classroom activities. Of course teachers in a typical Ghanaian school may not have access to a projector but it is possible in this age of proliferation of mobile devices to take initiative to get relevant images and videos on a smartphone and tablet that students can watch to enhance their understanding. A student may have the challenge of understanding the chemical principles behind the cleansing action of a detergent, but would easily pick up the concepts when shown a YouTube video of the process. I used this method to great effect.

Content Creation
There is no gainsaying that access to the Internet opens up a wealth of information for the Ghanaian learner. That said, it is often asked whether the kind of content currently online is relevant to our students and pupils. I would say not always. Inability of students to relate to the information they come across on the Internet is a barrier to their full understanding of concepts. Also, there is almost zero content available for certain subjects like Ghanaian languages. Teams of teachers and students can work together to address the dearth in local educational content problem. This creates a collaborative learning atmosphere that fosters development of critical skills such as creativity, teamwork, leadership and communication. 

App Development
The Ghanaian developer community must play their part in improving educational standards in the country. Advancements in computing and software development has resulted in the abundance of many easily accessible yet powerful open source platforms, that can be used to create educational web and mobile applications relevant to Ghanaian school children. Therefore, technologists need to work with teachers to digitize notes and test questions, and repackage them into stimulating content that students can easily interact with and learn from. Growth in the use of educational technologies in Ghana would in the long run profit software developers. However, their involvement in the sector should not be seen with purely as a business opportunity but as a social crusade as well. We need to see more projects like Paasco Africa spring up and make a difference to learners.

Student Learning Activities
The effectiveness of ICT in education is enhanced when use of relevant tools is integrated into student learning activities. Students can explore topics such as Body Mass Index (BMI) and graphs with spreadsheet software, allowing them to develop computing skills alongside subject-specific knowledge. Tasking students to deliver assignments through presentations and email enable them to pick up key work-study-life communication skills needed to thrive in the 21st century. One may think my point is basic, but a student once scanned a handwritten assignment and sent it to my inbox when I asked them to submit a group work electronically. While such a behaviour is excusable at the pre-tertiary level, the reaction would have been totally different at an institution of higher learning. My point is that we need to create the platform for the young ones to make all the mistakes now, rather than later, when much is at stake.

Creating a Web of Learning
Social media has become a reality of our modern existence as a species. Many students are distracted from their studies when they spend endless hours online connecting with their friends on Twitter or Facebook. But, this situation can be turned around through well thought out strategy. We can capitalise on the students’ interest and engagement on these platforms to serve them with educational content. This ties in with some of the points raised above. Imagine the level of excitement and the amount of learning students will experience if they were working on a YouTube video project for class assignment. Further teachers can use Facebook groups (such as Global Lab Ghana, Google + hangouts and Twitter hashtags to take class discussions beyond the classroom. This way students benefit from the insights of their colleagues and other experts from across the world. They also get to analyse issues in a more relaxed environment as compared to the traditional Ghanaian classroom setting. This hopefully will deepen their understanding and engender application.

We cannot hide our heads under the sand like ostriches in the information age. Ghanaian teachers need to embrace digital tools for teaching and content creation. App developers need to pay more attention to the needs of the educational sector and students must be encouraged to harness ICT to aid their learning. The steps we take today, through policy formulation and effective implementation, will inform how well our educational sector will work some few years down the line.

This post is part of Blu’s LiveBlu Forum, a social commentary on work-life balance in Ghana. Join the discussion at: http://blughana.wordpress.com/ #LiveBlu #BeLieveUme or sign up here to try turbo-charged internet powered by Blu.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

BarCamp Ho 2013: Transforming Our Communities

BarCamp Ho 2013 will be held this Saturday 26th October at Ho Polytechnic SRC auditorium. The aim of the event is to network young technologists, professionals, students and entrepreneurs (Change makers), and engage them through learning and sharing. You're encouraged to register and participate in this barcamp, the third organised by GhanaThink Foundation in the Volta region since 2011. Register at http://barcampho13.eventbrite.com.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Guest Post on New African Lifestyle: What African Youth Need

Ketasco students at #jcketasco: Young Africans are ready to contribute their quota
I recently wrote a guest post on New African Lifestyle, a new blog project my friend and Python African Tour founder Kamon Ayeva. I sought to explore what African youth need to make a difference in their communities and contribute to social change.

Various thought-provoking viewpoints were aggregated were from my social media connections. Contributors included students, young professionals and a retired teacher. They all seemed to share the stand that African youth need quality education, mentoring and renewed mindset/culture.

You should definitely take a read and contribute to the discussion on what African youth need to make it!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Short Summary of Third Ghana State of the Environment Forum

Environmental Film Festival of Accra (EFFA), for the past nine years, has been raising awareness on environmental issues through film. They have also organised workshops for young filmmakers, to encourage them to create quality content.

Their overall goal is to rouse the general public to take action on environmental issues. Last Tuesday, 2nd July, the third State of the Environment Forum, part of the festival, was organised by EFFA in collaboration with Creative Storm Network at the British Council, Accra. The theme was "The Environment and Health in Ghana". The forum attracted stakeholders from academia, government, civil society, community groups, the media and development community. I provided coverage for the event through BloggingGhana.

 After initial deliberations, the forum was split into four focus groups:

1.    Climate Change, Degraded Environment and Flooding
2.    Ghana’s Oil Industry and Fisheries
3.    Water and Sanitation
4.    Mining and Forestry

Breakout sessions were led by thought leaders for each of the thematic areas. Some of the outcomes were quite revealing:

Overall, I think the focus on health and well-being is spot-on as recent trends in Ghana such as e-waste, poor sanitation and galamsey are impacting negatively on our health. I also like the idea of involving school children in the larger festival, through events such as drama and film-making workshops. However, I think the organisers can achieve more by modifying the target audience to include people outside "intellectual spheres"; that way all who are affected will benefit from the information disseminated. Similarly, there are many pressing environmental issues affecting people outside Accra. The issue of galamsey and deforestation, for example, is well beyond Accra's borders. So, why focus all activities in this one small space?

Next year, the festival will chalk its 10th milestone. I trust the resourceful teams behind EFFA and Creative Storm Network would raise the notch higher in their advocacy efforts.

Friday, 28 June 2013

STAR-Ghana Grant Partners Discuss Strategies to Sustain National Development

Civil society encompasses voluntary organisations and NGOs whose programmes are aimed at preserving citizens' interests, as governments and businesses do not always address the aspirations of the people. In Ghana, STAR has been at the forefront of oiling the advocacy machine, and their efforts have resulted in significant strides. Their Grant Partners (GPs) recently convened at the plush Alisa Hotel, Accra, from 26th June to 28th June, under the theme "The Role of Civil Society in Sustaining National Development."

The conversations held were notably focused on the sustainability of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), post-2014, as the STAR-Ghana initiative reaches its five year mandate. Programme Manager Mr Ibrahim-Tanko Amidu spells out the focus of the convention:

On Day 1, discussions were centred on policy initiatives in the educational, health, energy and governance sectors. One thing that surprised me was the lack of emphasis on building local research capacity, particularly with regards to helping Ghana overcome her energy woes. Day 2 delved more into CSO sustainability and strategies that organisations can employ to remain effective and financially buoyant in the face of dwindling donor funding.

STAR-Ghana and Ghana Decides provided updates on Twitter under #STARGPC13 throughout the two-day conference. Pictures were also uploaded to STAR-Ghana's Facebook page. Find more tweets collected via Storify below. Enjoy and share your thoughts on what you think is the best approach to sustaining the gains made in social advocacy in Ghana.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Integration of ICT into Teaching of Mathematics, English and Integrated Science (MEIS) Workshop

I was part of the two-man team from Keta Senior High Technical School that participated in the fifth batch of the "Integration of ICT into Teaching of Mathematics, English and Integrated Science" (MEIS) workshop. The training was held at the Ghana Education Staff Development Institute (GESDI), Saltpond, Central Region from 6th to 10th May 2013. This workshop comes after the digital media training for teachers we hosted in Keta last year.

Concept maps are simple, yet powerful, tools


The “Integration of ICT into the Teaching of Mathematics, English and Integrated Science” workshop, part of the Ghana SHS Connectivity project, is aimed at training 800 teachers (from 400 schools) to lead the integration of ICT into teaching and learning in their schools and beyond. Through funding from USAID, the Ghana SHS Connectivity project is employing a phased approach to ICT Integration in teacher development. The main activities include: Installation of Internet services in 400 Senior High Schools, development of ICT curriculum and framework for integration, identification of ICT competency framework, development of digital content evaluation framework and identification of digital resources. The overall objective is to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Ghanaian schools, triggering improved student performance in the specified subjects. Partners for the project include the Ministry of Education (MoE), Ghana Education Service (GES), Global E-Schools and Communities Initiative (GESCI), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Vodafone.

Course Structure

The course facilitators employed discussions and group activities to engage participants, amplying demonstrating what teachers are expected to do after the training. The main topics covered were:
  • Day 1: Introduction, Review of Computer Networks and Techniques of Presentations 
  • Day 2: Concept Mapping, ICT Policy and TPACK 
  • Day 3: Didactic Lesson Plans and Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) 
  • Day 4: Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Learning Objects 
  • Day 5: Micro Teaching and Closing Ceremony

Impressions and Recommendations 

  • The workshop is a step in the right direction as it equips teachers with the right skills, techniques and attitudes in the information age to nurture 21st century scholars 
  • The facilitators did an excellent job. It was important and admirable to have fellow teachers coordinate such an important activity as they are better suited to relate to Ghanaian education contexts
  • It would have been very helpful if stress was placed more on digital content creation (by teachers to meet peculiar needs of Ghanaian curriculum) rather than just content consumption. 
  • More focus should be placed on mobile learning as current trends show that it is the future 
  • It was commendable that a discussion-focused model was used throughout the workshop, but it would have been more worthwhile if more time was created to enable teachers share their experiences and ideas with regards to the use of tech in education 
  • Reliable access to Internet must be ensured for future workshops of this nature
  • Schools must endeavour to send representatives who already have some basic knowledge of ICT since the workshop is focused on integrating ICT into education and not teaching ICT skills from the scratch. 
  • Teachers trained should transfer knowledge and skills back to their schools and communities. 
  • Future workshops be held to address pertinent topics not covered in the first iteration

It was refreshing to find more Ghanaian teachers who are actively using ICTs to make learning more effective and fun for students, like members of the Ghana Educators Network!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Behind the Scenes of Ghana Decides- A BloGH Election 2012 Project

Ghana Decides was a year-long project by BloggingGhana aimed at fostering a well-informed electorate through online social media tools. The project is officially one year today, and here are video highlights of what went on "behind-the-scenes". The video was curated by project videographer Sharifah.


Monday, 11 March 2013

Reading Aloud on Independence Day with Read Ghana- #WRAD

I joined the Read Ghana team and their volunteers on 6th March ( Independence Day) for their World Read Aloud Day (#WRAD) activity at Madina Estate Primary School, Accra, on behalf of the BlogCamp team. It was easy for me to identify with this cause because I read voraciously as a child, and that opened doors.

When I got there, the children were having their faces painted. Everyone was happy to have one design or the other on their foreheads, cheeks or some other part of the body.

Who's who in face design?
Trying out some shoulder styles
Soon reading resumed. It went on until about 1:30 pm when the programme closed.

Great readers become great bloggers
We made a little video to show what happened:

The Read Ghana folks seem to have one message: Promote reading, wherever you are! 

Reading means the world to us

More pictures at BloggingGhana's Facebook and Flickr pages.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Ghana Social Media Awards Finalists List Out

The BlogCamp team recently released the list of finalists for Ghana's maiden Social Media Awards. The Social Media Awards is part of BlogCamp 2013, and is aimed at encouraging the development of more quality local content. This reinforces BloggingGhana's overarching goal of increasing the relevance of the Internet in Ghana.

After a very grueling selection process, the following blogs made the final cut for "Best Blog":
Also, nominations were made in twelve other categories, and these are  "Best Original Content", "Best Creative, Literary Short Stories, Poetry Blog", "Best Organisational Blog", "Best Technology Blog", "Best Citizen Journalism Blog", "Organisation with Best Social Media Presence", "Personality with Best Social Media Presence", "Best Business & Commerce Blog", "Best Showbiz and Entertainment Blog", "Best Lifestyle Blog", "Best Activist Blog" and "Best Photo Blog".

See the full list of nominees at blogcampghana.com. Many bloggers whose blogs made it through expressed joy and appreciation for the outcome. Some who could not make the final list were obviously disappointed.

BlogCamp 2013 will be an all-day event held on 23rd March at the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT. Registration is still ongoing for the biggest social media event of the year, with roughly 57 tickets left. The event is organised by BloggingGhana, Ghana's biggest social media association, and supported by Intel, Fiesta, US Embassy in Accra, Google and Voltic.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Report on First Junior Camp Held at Ketasco

Leti Games CEO Eyram Tawia poses with Seyram and Kennedy
One of the best ways to encourage learning among young people is to encourage them to take up initiatives. By so doing, they make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, correct them and become better. A Chinese proverb captures it pretty well: "what I hear, I forget, what I see I remember, what I do, I understand." Students of Keta Senior High School (Ketasco) demonstrated the above saying aptly when they organised the first Junior Camp Ketasco as part of this year's SRC Week celebration.

Junior Camp was put together by the Students' Representative Council (SRC) of the school in collaboration with GhanaThink Foundation. The idea for a Junior Camp was birthed when students of Ketasco participated in BarCamp Ho and BarCamp Tema last year. Realising the immense exposure and network they gained from BarCamp, Nathaniel Alpha and co. decided that the rest of their colleagues must have a taste of the pie.

Ice breaker: Ato "vimming up" Ketasco students
Before Junior Camp, also dubbed "Ketasco Goes Professional", selected students and teachers visited various basic schools in the area to educate their pupils on the opportunities and challenges of senior high school education. I was at Tettekope Global Evangelical Basic School with Yvonne and Robert who advised the students on courses available at Ketasco, admission requirements, time management and career opportunities. The duo did a brilliant job, as they shared their own experiences with the younger ones.

Junior Camp focused on skills acquisition and career development. As such students were set up into mentoring sessions with mentors from different fields. They had the opportunity to ask questions and were given tips on how they could develop their talents and succeed today's challenging global climate. Mentors were drawn from the school, GhanaThink Foundation and industry.

Eunice shares her story with students as she is flanked by future engineers
Eunice Ogbugo, award-winning CEO of Eugo Terrano, gave the keynote address in which she touched on her journey from senior high school at St Roses to her current career. She explained her initial difficulties with certain subjects in school and how her determination and perseverance helped her to overcome those challenges. Eunice also took time to answer questions form the students.She was a huge inspiration.

The following mentoring sessions were held:
  • Entrepreneurship with focus on mobile communications and opportunities in the Keta area: Famous Avuletey
  • Engineering and Innovation: Ato Ulzen-Appiah
  • IT and Project Management Nehemiah Attigah and Seyram Ahiabor
  • Journalism: Senam Oyiadjo
  • Start-ups: John Armah
  • Talent Development: Joel Degue
  • Creative Arts and Creative Writing: Eli Aidam and Emmanuel Adonu
  • Banking: Arnold Parker and Richmond Ovadio
  • Public Speaking and Motivational Speaking: Courage Tetteh, Solomon Adawu and Rose Zaney
  • Fashion: Yayra Tay
  • IT Training and Education: Makafui Nyamadi
  • Sofware Development and Games: Eyram Tawia
  • Marketing: Donald Ward
  • Teaching: David Kattah
  • Digital Literacy: Eldad Nutakor and Gameli Adzaho
Seyram (arm raised) and Nehemiah in action during IT mentoring session
Read more accounts of Junior Camp Ketasco by Enock Nyamador and Eldad Nutakor.

Cross-section of Junior Camp mentors after the event
I believe that creating more learning opportunities outside the classroom will go a long way to buttress what is learnt in class. It will also expose students to the realities of life and motivate them to be more serious with school work. Thank you to all the mentors who took time off to spur the next generation on, and the many others who could not come, due to the unfavourable time, but were in Keta in spirit. To Nathaniel Alpha, Ato Ulzen-Appiah, Enock Nyamador, Eldad Nutakor, Mr. Norvor and everyone else who gave their support, thank you for making this happen.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

BloggingGhana Chair Launches Social Media Awards

At exactly 2: 33 pm today the Chair of BloggingGhana, Ghana's biggest association of bloggers, launched BlogCamp Ghana 2013 and Ghana's first social media awards. The event, which was first announced last year will be the first time that awards will be given in Ghana to acknowledge the contributions of bloggers to society.

Chair Kajsa Hallberg Adu also mandated the BlogCamp team to find Ghana's best blogger in a tweet:

BlogCamp 2013 is themed "Content is King" celebrates the relevance of quality content in branding individuals, organisations and nations on the web. 

In 2012, BloggingGhana organised the first BlogCamp Ghana under the theme "Voice of a New Generation". According to feedback gathered on social media, the event was a huge success. BlogCamp 2013 aims to take the experience a notch higher with Social Media Awards as a key part of the event.