Kien Giang Economic and Technology College


Gates

I am just finishing up two weeks working at Kien Giang Economic and Technology College. It’s amazing what you can fit into two weeks! There has been a lot of work accomplished. I taught IT classes, worked with various faculty, and we translated our way through several presentations and workshops.

Kien Giang is the Province; Rach Gia is the city. It is remote. It took us three hours to drive here from Can Tho airport, which is itself 170km south of Saigon. I’m not the only Westerner in town, but I haven’t met the other two.  People are sometimes surprised that I will travel alone to really remote areas to work. But, the truth is that when you work as an international volunteer, you are never alone. You are picked up at the airport, delivered to your accommodations, escorted to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You are given guided tours of the area; you are provided with a full-time translator…and you always get to hang out with the brightest and most personable people. My working visit to KGTec did not disappoint.

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Rach Gia is a seaside city; fishing is the main industry and very fresh seafood of all types is on every menu.(I tried jellyfish for the first time!) 

The city also has its share of history and temples and character..

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I got to enjoy my first National Teacher’s Day..TeachersDay8TeachersDay4 VID00020 

On the weekend, I  traveled with several staff members to the tourist district of Ha Tien. It is at the western end of the Mekong Delta close to the Cambodian border. Although a tourist spot, it doesn’t see many western visitors due to its remoteness. 049

We bought fresh crabs and had the seaside restaurant cook them for us and swam in the Gulf of Thailand…

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On the way we stopped at two mountains where stunning natural caves are used as temples.  At Da Dung Mountain a path goes around the mountain (a great up and down workout!) and there are several caves which serve as “cave temples”. It’s definitely a very special place and I’m so glad I got to visit..

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On Tuesday evening I was a judge for the First Annual Canadian- American Cultural Challenge. That was fun!..

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And on my last day at KGTec, I enjoyed a review meeting and a farewell dinner to which I wore my new áo dài…(What a fantastic gift!)

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Lots of new friends and lots of memories!

Saigon Polytechnic College and Cu Chi

2W9B6407aI have been working at Saigon Polytechnic for the past ten days. I continue to be impressed by the VACC member colleges. Again, I have arrived at a college where the administration and the staff are highly qualified, enthusiastic, and engaged. With the credentials of the faculty (many have Master degrees and a few have, or are working on, PHDs)  this could easily be a University but they have embraced the Community College model and they are focused on service to students and the community. Translated, that means the College has full classes seven days a week from 7:30am to 9:00pm to accommodate students who happen to be working. They even have an arrangement with one of the local employers for a bus to bring students, who are also employees, to and from the College.

Saigon Polytechnic is only four years old and I am the first international visitor. They have a great apartment on campus and they stocked it with coffee, crackers, treats…They also gave me my own fully equipped office…

The campus is actually located outside of Ho Chi Minh City in Cu Chi District. I knew of Cu Chi because it is where the famous Cu Chi tunnels are located. Two hundred and fifty kilometers of tunnels connecting six villages that served as headquarters for the Vietcong in South Vietnam during the war. How much nerve and ingenuity was required to live (to survive!) just 35K away from the American/South Vietnam Saigon headquarters throughout that war?  I have learned a lot about the Vietnam (American) War in the past five months but I must say the perspective from Cu Chi is much different.  While there are some fascinating stories and the war certainly set the economy back, Vietnam is a country that is looking ahead and glad to be united.

For now I’ll post some pictures of our day at the tunnels because I can hear that the volleyball game between SPC and the team from the Local Authority is starting and I must go cheer for the College!

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May, 2011 VETA Mikumi Reflections

253745_10150201662887086_507597085_6863504_4073334_nThe opportunity to bring IT students from our program to the VETA Mikumi Campus and improve ICT resources for the students and staff there was definitely a WIN-­‐WIN  situation! We made a difference and that is the best that anyone involved in international service learning could hope for.

The two NSCC students who travelled to Tanzania had, I feel, an ideal service learning experience. They used their skills, their knowledge, and their practical experience to install a sable, reliable network infrastructure   at  the  Mikumi  Campus.   They  learned  about  teamwork   and  gained  a  truly  global perspective. It was what service learning should be: rewarding and enjoyable.

The project also had an impact on the other students at the Truro Campus, as throughout the winter semester many “teachable moments” arose from discussions of the value and sustainability of various resources  and  components  we  considered  for  the  project:  virtual  disks…  VLANs…wireless  vs.  wired links…etc. With the success of this project, we all have a renewed appreciation for the value of planning and preparation.

We  accomplished  our  service  goal  and  far exceeded  our  learning  goals  and  credit  for that  must  be equally shared with the staff and administration  at VETA Mikumi.  We couldn’t have asked for better hosts  and  we  couldn’t   have  done  it  without  their  assistance.     They  were  accommodating   and appreciative and made us feel very welcomed.  The tourism students taught us about their country and their culture, and they shared their knowledge and time with us. We introduced Chrisostom Sosthenes to web  server administration only to find the next morning that the welcome message on the Mikumi WordPress Server was in now in Swahili and the photo was of the Mikumi Campus!…Just further confirmation that we had the right partner for this project.

After our time in Mikumi, I had the opportunity to attend the 6th Annual International eLearning Africa Conference  in  Dar  es  Salaam  as  a  presenter.   A  number  of  individuals  I  met  there  asked  me  for information  on  one  or  more  of  the  components  we  used  in  our  solution  at  Mikumi  (MSDNAA, DeepFreeze).  The  impression  I  was  left  with  was  that  our  project  at  Mikumi  could  be  replicated  a hundred times over in schools and college campuses throughout Africa. It would be exciting to think we could provide such an ideal service learning opportunity to even more NSCC students.

May, 2011 VETA Mikumi Project Implementation

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Learning Goals

On arriving in Mikumi, the team got started immediately with the work on upgrading the existing ICT infrastructure. VETA Mikumi faculty members Chrizostom Sosthenes and Jackson Haule joined the team upon arrival on-­‐site. Following is a summary of tasks which allowed the team to accomplish both learning and service goals:

 Apply problem solving strategies in situations where the problems and desired solutions are both cleaand unclear.

  •  Installed a hardware based firewall to restrict Internet access to HTTP/HTTPS traffic
  • Installed a proxy service to optimize Internet bandwidth utilization
  • Verified the network cabling infrastructure throughout the campus and made repairs where necessary.
  • Verified and repaired the campus satellite downlink/uplink Internet feed.
  • Replaced the existing network device infrastructure with enterprise grade Ethernet switches.
  • Prepared an appropriate system configuration for the lab workstations that would provide adequate access to resources based on three different user profiles: ICT students, tourism students, and general users.
  • Installed a Cisco 1300 access point to provide system and internet access to a faculty lounge area and to the outdoor areas of the campus adjacent to the labs
  • Re-­‐installed the existing Cisco 1100 access points in the Administration/ICT lab building.

Communicate information and ideas in ways that are appropriate to the purpose and audience through oral, written, and graphic means.

  • Provided an overview of the existing network environment and improvement/rebuilding  plans to orient the team and the Mikumi staff
  • Demonstrated workstation imaging using Ghost 7.2 software
  • Assisted Mikumi staff in imaging campus labs multiple times
  • Assisted Mikumi staff in customizing the Campus Intranet WordPress service
  • Introduced  the Mikumi staff to the Campus Intranet Moodle service as a tool for blended course delivery

Use information gathering techniques, analyze and evaluate information, and use information technology to assist in the collecting, analyzing, organizing, and presenting of information.

  • Monitored Internet usage at VETA Mikumi to determine how the campus could optimize access to the shared 256K satellite Internet feed.
  • Determined the most appropriate solution for network connection of the business lab was wired connectivity over a proposed wireless link.
  • Installed a wired 100Mb connection to the business lab allowing access to Campus Intranet resources and Internet.

Work with others as a member of a team to achieve a shared goal, help other people to learn on the job, and respond effectively to the needs of a client.

  • Re-­‐evaluated original implementation plans, based on the actualities on-­‐site and modified those plans to suit site constraints.
  • Implemented the network infrastructure and server equipment.
  • Cleaned aggressive and significant virus infections on all VETA Mikumi workstations.
  • Monitored and assisted Mikumi staff in cleaning virus infections using MS Essentials, CCleaner, Stinger and a selection of other utilities researched and accessed
  • Monitored and assisted Mikumi staff in preparing and testing wired connections on campus
  • Met with Mr. Christopher Ayo, Principal of VETA Mikumi, to discuss future directions at VETA Mikumi, including plans for a language lab and an extended ICT course

May 01, 2011 School of Applied Arts & New Media IT Service Learning Project VETA Mikumi, Tanzania

2011 Darlene Mikumi

Project Overview

The purpose of the 2011 IT Service Learning project was to update and rebuild the existing ICT infrastructure at VETA Mikumi in Tanzania. This was to satisfy the need for tourism students at VETA Mikumi to be more ‘world aware’ through reliable access to web based resources. NSCC has been working with Tourism faculty at VETA Mikumi for some time. This is the first ‘service learning’ project undertaken by NSCC International and the School of Applied Arts and New Media from the Information Communication Technology (ICT) group of Programs.

Service Mandate

Provide VETA Mikumi with a sustainable network infrastructure that would interconnect workstations in an Intranet, providing content management and learning management systems as well as providing optimized access to the Internet; using technologies and equipment suitable for the operating environment at VETA Mikumi.

The project was an ideal Applied Portfolio piece for the NSCC students and addressed the following learning objectives:

  • Apply problem solving strategies in situations where the problems and desired solutions are both clear and unclear.
  • Communicate information and ideas in ways that are appropriate to the purpose and audience through oral, written, and graphic means.
  • Use information gathering techniques, analyze and evaluate information, and use information technology to assist in the collecting, analyzing, organizing, and presenting of information.
  • Manage and direct one’s own learning.
  • Work with others as a member of a team to achieve a shared goal, help other people to learn on the job, and respond effectively to the needs of a client.

Planning

Prior to departure the team was tasked with identifying the IT challenges at VETA Mikumi and developing sustainable solutions given the Tanzanian context. It was expected that proposed solutions would include capacity building among the staff at VETA Mikumi.

The team met weekly via Elluminate sessions to review progress and discuss potential solutions. The initial phase centered on understanding the ICT context and needs that currently exist in Mikumi and proposing a viable LAN configuration. The team researched various open source operating systems, content management systems and learning management systems. Various hardware configurations (physical and virtual) were investigated and tested to determine fault tolerance and resilience given severe climate conditions and the fact that uninterrupted power is not an option in Mikumi. The team was tasked with preparing training materials for all the components of the project solution. The primary areas of investigation, discussion and preparation are as follows:

  • Basic Network Security (content filtering)
  • Microsoft Security Essentials (virus protection and mitigation)
  • WordPress (content management system for Campus Intranet use)
  • Moodle (learning management system for Campus Intranet use)
  • DeepFreeze (workstation configuration protection and restoration)
  • Ghost (mass deployment of workstation images)
  • Proxy Caching (WAN/Internet optimization)

June 2010 Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC)

Ghana Week 1 059When you embark on a service learning project, you identify, at a minimum, the service outcomes you hope to accomplish. Sometimes it’s possible to identify learning outcomes as well, often it’s not. What you are going to experience, what you are going to bring back, is often the great unknown. I have listed the service outcomes for my Leave for Change placement in Ghana. I will address what Ghana and it’s wonderful people taught me in another post.

Position:

Communications Advisor

Mandate:

  • Edit and format current draft of 2010-2015 Strategic Plan 
  • Prepare an accessible version of the Education Bill for GNECC staff and partners
  • Prepare an FAQ document with HTML links to 2008 Ghana Education Act
  • Train GNECC staff to use editing features of MSWord
  • Develop a draft document outlining a Media Engagement Strategy for GNECC as identified in the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan

Results:

  • Edited and formatted version of GNECC Strategic Plan 2010-2015
  • HTLM version of 2008 Ghana Education Act  available for distribution to GNECC staff and partners and for posting on GNECC website
  • HTML document linking FAQ to Education Bill available for distribution to GNECC staff and partners and for posting on GNECC site
  • Two (2) female staff members trained in word processing

Outcomes:

  • Increased capacities of GNECC staff and partners to access policy data and implement programs of advocacy in the education sector more efficiently and to participate in policy dialogue.
  • Increased skills and knowledge of individuals in GNECC to facilitate data dissemination to GNECC staff and partners.

Other unexpected results achieved:

  • Produced a membership/responsibilities table of entities and committees highlighted in 2008 Education Act.
  • Edited and formatted June 2010 Quarterly Report
  • Repaired wireless network configurations to improve bandwidth speeds at the GNECC office.
  • Edited 2007/2008 AGM Report

June, 2009 Reflections on Service Learning at Kimara Peer Educators

4894_120807630648_502090648_2763536_2526232_sSince I’ve been back I’ve spent a lot of time trying to answer to my own satisfaction two questions that have been put to me:

“Was this trip effective service learning? ”
and
“What, other than an exotic trip, was accomplished?”

Let me address the service learning question first because prior to leaving for Africa I was struggling to understand what service learning is. Service learning outcomes are soon to be incorporated into every program at the NSCC. Throughout the spring of 2008 I did a fair amount of research into what service learning is and what it looks like because I could not see having outcomes in my program that I didn’t understand. (It’s hard enough teaching the things I do understand.)
When we had our pre-departure orientation in April, Nancy O’Regan did a short presentation on service learning as it pertains to Community College faculty, students and alumni. I don’t remember the entire presentation, but I took from it two pieces of information that clarified what service learning needs to be in the context of our academic program.
The first point I remember from the presentation was the explanation that service learning happens along a scale which goes from volunteering on the one hand to learning on the other. Pure volunteering, without an advancement of knowledge, is not service learning. Neither is a situation where the individual derives knowledge and learns but makes no contribution. Somewhere in between is the situation where the individual gives and at the same time as he gives, he learns and grows.
The second thing I took from Nancy’s presentation was a wonderful definition of what a citizen was. A citizen belongs (to a team, to a school, to a community, or to a global community). In order to be a true citizen that relationship needs to be a two-way street. As a citizen, you must feel that some group or some entity is doing something for you and you, therefore, feel the responsibility to give back. This is the goal of service learning within NSCC Programs: to make us responsible citizens and have us acknowledge that things are being done for us, and recognize where we might give back.

“Was this trip effective service learning?” My answer is personal, but I would have to say, “Not yet.” The NSCC group did organize the children’s session and Ed’s session on grief counseling was very much appreciated. But, there was definitely more learning than service involved for our group during the time we were with Kimara.
-We gained background on the HIV/AIDs epidemic in Africa.
-We were shown how stigma can thwart efforts to address a problem and how it can be best overcome.
-We saw the effectiveness of micro-financing.
-We learned how a community organization with limited resources can make an impact.
-We got to see peer education and community action at its most effective.
-We were challenged and we gained first-hand knowledge of a county very different from our own.
-And we each learned things about ourselves.

Reflecting on the comments made at the end of our two weeks with Kirama, I know I’m not the only one who feels that the service/learning balance still needs to be addressed. At the end of the final session, we all acknowledged that we were given so much; we couldn’t “just walk away and forget”; we committed to doing something. So, while a trip like this is an amazing learning experience, it is still up to us to make it a true service learning experience.

“What has been accomplished?” For thirteen people, the groundwork is now complete. The orientation is over and it is up to us to take what we learned and act on it. For some that will involve returning to Tanzania to work with our partners there. Jolene and MaryJane did some preliminary work on setting up industry placements in Africa next year. In both cases these students identified what it was they could contribute and I’m confident they can add “significant service” to the “significant learning” they experienced this year. I hope their plans work out.
Other participants plan to work for Kimara from Canada. Jane will be a second-year graphic arts student this year and she hopes to work with Kimara designing and developing media.
Realizing what Kimara needs most is financial support for the wonderful work they do, several of us will fundraise and “spread the word” that this is an organization that uses resources more effectively than we could imagine. They can make a small donation go a long way.
Finally, something we all learned that we can apply as citizens here in Canada is the power of the an individual to effect change. Mama Kiwia started Kimara to address the stigma that was hampering efforts to do anything about HIV/AIDs in her community. Look around. What kind of stigmas are people facing in our communities?

Wednesday, May 20th Grief Counseling Session

Wednesday, May 20th Grief Counseling Session

Over the past week and a half I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what life is life for the neighbors at the Kimara office. This morning again when we arrive there are two small boys wondering at the mzungu (white people) in the bus. They may be school age (I believe they are) but they are not in school. Two women (their mothers?) build a cooking fire each day and cook rice. Today a water truck arrived and they filled several yellow containers with water.
Ed and Mr. Manyama co-facilitated a session on grief counseling. Ed explained his activities as a crisis intervention councilor in Nova Scotia. It sounds as if funerals are not so different in Tanzania as they are in Canada. Extended families gather and support each other.
The session lasted into the afternoon and we shared our final lunch with our Kimara friends. It was difficult to say good bye to them knowing that many of us we would never see them again