I’m calming down now after a Fanta and a couple of mandazi. But I just took Stege IV for a Unix lab: the one where they log in and enther their passwords and type ls and other exciting things. They took notes, they typed commands. They even answered some simple questions, all the signs that the lesson was going according to plan (my plan)….
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Cor blimey guvnor

Friday afternoon is “get out of the lab and go to the Market” day for our students. James gave the ladies an extra hour of browsing time then chased them away so he and I could try connecting two computers directly with a cross-over cable; something he has to teach on one of his courses. In the process we discovered two machines with lots of unwanted Explorer toolbars and spyware on them… and lots of links to pornography.

I don’t know whether our students have been following these links or whether they were just installed by some software someone downloaded. Much as I like pornography myself, and have enjoyed it in the past, I’d rather not be exposed to it here. I think, and the other staff agree, that we don’t really want to give our students a learning environment where the Explorer favourites menu is full of “anal rape” and “animal sex”, etc.

Anybody know anything about content blocking software?

The Road To Hell

Today’s little bit of controvertial rhetoric is a book: The Road To Hell. (links here and here). I’ve not read it all yet, but enough so far for it to make an impression. And it’s not cheering me up much.

I sat at home this morning reading it and listening to the children at the primary school over the way singing beautifully. I was avoiding work. The girls of Stage IV are a bit hard work. Conversations with other staff reveal a general feeling that hey are not the most communicative class. ‘Survivors’ one teacher called them: they choose the subjects with most bookwork and least brainwork so that they can ‘survive’ the exams by swatting. I know this is common practise everywhere — back at DMU we used to get students through clearing, sifting the forms for good candidates like bargain hunters in the January sales; camping out all night by the telephones to take calls from disillusioned A-Level students: “Yes, you can study Information Technology in Leicester”. But for me it was different. I chose that same course because it seemed to offer the Goldylocks combination of hardware and software for me. By doing my shopping early I got a course that was Just Right. So I worked hard and got a first. Much of my learning was done in the classroom during term-time motivated by the joy of learning rather than at home during revision time motivated by fear. My own expereince of education is completely different from (some of) these ladies here.

Last night I sat at home listening to Lemon Jelly. Something about that music has a sort of home-counties feel to it. I was cooking chapatis with potatoe in them, but pretending that I wasn’t in Africa. I’m off to teach Stage IV about Unix in a few minutes. Wish me luck!

Silence and laughter

This morning my class wouldn’t answer my questions.

Any of them.

They just sat there. I waited.

After a short time I got up and took the chalk.
“If you dont’ want to talk”, I said, “neither do I.”
I wrote notes on the board for an hour and a half without even looking at them. Then I wrote up a classroom exercise: “Arrange these PC components into the order in which you think they should be tested, blah blah…”; put the chalk down conspicusously and sat in the corner in silence.

One lady came and wrote her answer up on the board and I clapped. The other ladies all joined in too. Then I wrote on top of her solution “Is this correct?” and sat down again. After some more waiting I wrote the following on the board:

“Does the class work when teacher does not speak?”
“Does the class work when the class does not speak?”
They said “no” to bothl so then I wrote “Whats missing?” and they answered “communication”. Then I asked them all to stand up and answer aloud my question “will you help me make the class work bu communicating?”.

Then, at last, we had a bit of a discussion. But even then it was difficult. This particular class are very hard to work with. They don’t laugh as much as some of the others. Laughter, I have decided, is good.

Bring it on.
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Another surprise visitor

I just added the rest of the photos to yesterday’s entry.

Today I received a message during my class that I had a visitor in the staff room. A gengleman who teaches philosophy at the Catholic University in Nairobi had come to greet me. He is a friend of the man I met on a Matatu on the way to Machakos and who invited me to the safari park at Easter. What a lovely supprise! He sat and took tea with me and we talked about teaching, philosophy and logic and its relation to programming, volunteering, peace and conflict in African countries, and our mutual friend.