Summer Adventures: Tanzania, apparently

This is one of a series of posts about what I’ll be up to this summer. — PMK

In January, I was humbled to be the first recipient of a new award at Schools of the Sacred Heart, San Francisco. The Sister Ann Conroy Award for Faculty Excellence supports professional development for faculty at Stuart Hall High School and Convent of the Sacred Heart High School. I applied for the award and proposed that I would travel to Tanzania to volunteer with an educational nonprofit. The focus of my work, I argued, was to work with organizations who focus on things that I love, like technology in education. I wouldn’t be bringing money or material goods; instead, I would forge a partnership that focused on sharing of ideas. This could help me better understand the needs of learners abroad; it could help the people I partnered with to get a sense of the challenges that we share with mobile technology integration in the United States.

I submitted this proposal and burst out laughing. There’s no way they’ll pick me, I thought. Tanzania? This is nuts.

Well, the joke was on me: they did choose me, and now I’m trying to plan a trip to Africa!

The Republic of Tanzania is an extraordinary country in many regards: it is exceptionally beautiful and it has a remarkable history. Perhaps the most exciting thing for my purposes on this trip, though, is Tanzania’s relationship to technology. Fifteen to twenty years ago, the “digital divide” was vast and widening: the internet was expanding and it was becoming clear that equal access for education and information now included a need for internet access. Some great groups have done great work to narrow that divide, like the One Laptop Per Child organization. However, the rise of mobile technology has done more than perhaps any one program could: more and more people have mobile phones, and mobile phones can access the internet. If you can bring educational content online and make it accessible to mobile devices, you’ve brought access to information to the developing world in an extraordinary new way.

This summer, I am working on a partnership with two educational nonprofits Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I’m still working out the details in a big way, including when I will visit in the next year, but I’ve been in touch with leadership from a girls’ high school and from an educational web portal called Shule Direct. More information to come as I get things finalized, but please keep my work in your thoughts and prayers. I’ll let you know as I know more!

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