One of the great things about the internet is it lets you find out about all the stuff the mainstream North American media ignores (i.e. 90% of what happens in world). The second greatest thing is it lets you find out about all the stuff the mainstream media does cover but you miss because there’s just too much to consume.
I had an encounter of the second kind recently while listening to the BBC tech podcast, Click.
I found out that more than 1700 people gathered in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam from May 25-27 for the 6th annual eLearning Africa Conference.
In 65 sessions, under the central conference theme, “Youth, Skills and Employability”, participants explored 23 sub-themes including:
- Mobile Learning;
- Traditional Pedagogy Versus 21st Century Pedagogy;
- Affordable Bandwidth;
- eLearning in the Agricultural Sector;
- Affording Socially Excluded Young People Access to Quality; Learning Opportunities; and
- Open Education Resources (OER) Movement.
322 speakers from 57 countries discussed and demonstrated best practices and new ways of learning on the continent and in other parts of the world.
Canadian speakers included:
- Collin, Simon, Université du Québec à Montréal, The Potential of Online Tutoring and Innovative Learning Practice
- Crichton, Susan, University of Calgary, Developing and Using Online Education Content
- Karsenti, Thierry, Université de Montréal, Current Practice in Educational and Administrative Integration of ICTs in African Schools
- McGreal, Rory, UNESCO/COL Chair in OER, Associate Vice President Research, Athabasca University, The Learning Africa Debate
- Moncion, Isabelle, University of Montreal, Canada, Sustaining Free Access Web Resources for Professional Development
- Redmond, Darlene, Nova Scotia Community College, Canada, What is Meant by 21st Century Pedagogy: A Closer Look at Theory and Practice
- Thompson, Terrie Lynn, Digital Opportunity Trust/Athabasca University, African Youth and Digital Identity
Conference sponsors included global IT heavy weights like Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco. Other smaller organizations specifically supported African participation including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Spider, a Swedish organisation that does ICT development in developing countries. African government participation included 25 ministers and deputy ministers and more than 50 high-level government officials from 21 countries. The lead conference sponsor was cloud computing company WYSE.
As for using social media to keep the conversations going, the conference web site has links to a Facebook page with recent posts and over 1000 members and a LinkedIn page with more than 250 members. Their Twitter account is gone - though the link remains on the site. There is also a link to a lonely blog with sporadic posts and no comments.
With all the talk about the penetration of mobile phones in Africa I was surprised to see just one mobile sub-theme. I also saw nothing specifically dealing with K-12 age children. The biggest omission, however, is no videos or audios of sessions which to me seems a huge missed opportunity. Putting the sessions online for the many who couldn’t afford to attend seems a no-brainer – and very doable considering all the deep pocketed IT sponsors. Mmm….time to fire off another email…