Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Learning about the internet and internet safety...

On Monday and Tuesday, August 10th and 11th, campers learned basic internet skills and also about internet safety.  I did not get an accurate count for both groups but in the first group of 30 girls, only 2 had ever used the internet.  From a show of hands, I would guess that less than 10 girls total of the 60 girls at camp had experience using the internet.  Compounding this lack of familiarity, many students were unfamiliar with a computer keyboard so had limited typing skills and other keyboard skills such as clicking on "enter" or the mouse buttons. 

You might wonder how girls can come to camp with their ICT teacher (implying that they have ICT class at school) yet be so unfamiliar with basic computer skills.  Quite simply many schools in rural areas have few or no computers.  The Rwandan Government is working very hard to improve ICT access, especially in schools but, in the meantime, ICT teachers without computers use a lot of creativity to teach computers without computers.  Despite this, the girls were like sponges absorbing information and quickly became very adept at navigating the internet and using search engines.

One girl in particular stands out in my memory.  I asked the students to enter the url for the Government of Rwanda’s website.  Because her keyboarding skills were new, she typed slower than the rest of the class.  When she completed typing the url, she sat there for a bit, forgetting that she needed to hit “enter” also.  So, I reminded her.  When the website appeared she jumped and clapped her hands.  It was a combination of her sense of accomplishment and also seeing a window into a whole new treasure trove of information.

Eric from Creation Hill Rwanda leading the lecture

Many students accessing the internet for the first time

Students learned to use browsers and search engines after learning many basic internet terms.  But they also learned a lot about protecting their identity and safe internet usage.  In a way, it’s very nice to have students who have not yet established unhealthy or unsafe internet usage behavior patterns.  

We discussed what constitutes a person’s “digital footprint,” why it’s important to protect your personal and confidential information, why it’s unwise to over-share personal information, various ways people try to either introduce malware or trick people into providing personal information, what sorts of bad things people can do with your personal information, and what the students could do to protect themselves.  We spent a lot of time discussing strong passwords too.

Girls googled the names of some of the camp instructors and were very surprised at the amount of information about them on the internet.  For example, they found the wedding gift registry for one instructor and were surprised that they could know exactly what this person received as wedding gifts. It also launched us into a brief cultural discussion about the American custom of brides registering for gifts.  Anyway, the combination of that googling experience and the lecture material seemed to spark a great deal of interest.  One group refused to leave class for morning tea because they wanted to ask so many questions.  After about 15 minutes I had to insist they break for tea lest we disrupt the entire day’s schedule.

The questions the girls asked offered encouragement that they are very serious about internet safety.  We also discussed the growing number of professional careers associated with internet security and safety.  Maybe someday we will see a group of former TechKobwa girls creating their own internet security company…who knows…  They were eager, passionate and very quick learners.  It would not surprise me one bit.

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