Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Planning for TechKobwa 15 Begins

On February 4, we received the email from Elisabeth Turner, Peace Corps Volunteer and Director of TechKobwa 14:  The Peace Corps Rwanda was thinking about TechKowa 15.  Were we in?  It was the email we had been waiting for!

Planning immediately kicked into high gear – so much to do in so little time.  We had a head start this time on curriculum planning because of the experience from TecchKobwa 14.   We had a much clearer idea of what we could expect and how lessons needed to be revised to fit the realities that teachers and students face in rural schools in Rwanda--uncertain electricity; 30 students to a computer in some schools and no computers in others; limited connectivity, if any.  So got right to work on revising lessons.  

We also needed to get a much better handle on how to evaluate outcomes from the camp.  Evaluation was a problem last summer—we had not anticipated the advance planning it required, the problems with translation, and cultural differences around filling surveys.  Campers and even many teachers, for whom pre-test surveys was something entirely new, equated them with “tests,” which normally carry heavy consequences for the test taker in Rwanda.  The idea that the survey taker should leave a question unanswered if they did not know an answer created extreme anxiety.  Many would guess an answer (50% chance it might be right for True and False) rather than leave it unanswered. 

We were therefore thrilled to enlist Michelle Slattery of Peak Research, LLC to design an evaluation plan and help us develop appropriate evaluation instruments in advance. Everyone needed to be surveyed—teachers, campers, facilitators, and organizers.  Pre and post surveys were needed for each day.  All surveys had to be created in time for volunteers at Creation Hill to translate them into Kinyarwanda.  It was a mammoth undertaking just to have surveys ready for printing and then administer them.  It will be a second mammoth undertaking to enter  and analyze the data.  But we were much better prepared this time around to obtain data we will need to pursue sustained funding for TechKobwa for years to come.

MSU-based Team: Laura Dillon, Louise Hemond-Wilson, Blair Fleet Singleton, Rodney Singleton II
MSU-based Team (from left):
Laura Dillon, Louise Hemond-Wilson,
Blair Fleet Singleton, Rodney Singleton II
Over the course of the 6 months before camp, a core team of volunteers met regularly by skpe—typically 8 am in Colorado, 10 am in Michigan,  4 pm in Rwanda.  We created schedules for TOT (training of the teachers) and the week with the girls, strategized for raising funds, reviewed budgets, determined what to purchase in the US v.s. purchase in Rwanda, made travel plans, assigned volunteers to revise teaching materials and others to review them, and much, much more.

In the last week before the US-based team left for Rwanda, were felt much better prepared for TechKobwa 15 than we had been for TechKobwa 14.  No doubt we will learn new lessons (and possibly repeat some old mistakes).  But the mood was one of excitement when those of us at Michigan State met for our last planning meeting.  

We all headed out on Thursday, July 30 from different locations/at different times...meeting up in Amsterdam and arriving in Kigali Friday evening, exhausted but excited for the work ahead.

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