I Still Go To School

on teaching, learning, travelling


Leave a comment

eEducation and eLearning

As I am currently continuing my education with an MA in eEducation at FernUni Hagen, I am hopefully soon to complete module 3 (Developing New Media) . The degree consists of 8 modules, which can be freely chosen throughout the course.

Generally speaking, the courses haven’t been as I expected them. Having heard of distance education courses offered by US or UK universities, my expectation was to have lots of online sessions with streamable lectures and interactive content.

But it turned out differently, in a very challenging way: the courses consist of 3-6 excercises, mostly research papers. As a student, your sole input is the instruction: complete this task until given date, stick to APA. Some modules have links to useful papers attached, but that’s as far as input goes. So basically, I was on my own, on new terrain. Of course there is a pretty well kept and regularly forum for each task… but I frequently had the problem of not knowing which questions to ask the tutor, apart from “Where do I start?”, which was frustrating!

With time I got into it, and with a friend and study buddy figured that this might just be the modus operandi we have to get used to. Now every paper and every product for the course is super hard work, made from scratch, which gives learning itself a completely different meaning.

I found, that I mostly had to teach myself!

So I’d like to show you the fruit of my effort a bit. Please be gentle with judgement, it’s the first time for me to ever create a video, and it took me AGES to learn how to edit sound and motion picture and record speech. Personally, I’m still not satisfied, but anyways, I’ll have plenty of chances to improve.

I’d be grateful if you left your feedback here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1j_-GhMo3xP8QZw5hDYgpYjmHrM9gLIfZpYyv2w0EswY/viewform

[ALERT: it’s all in German]

Picture credit: @demandaj / Flickr

Advertisements

Back to school

Leave a comment

 

Well hello there!
Twelve months have passed since I left Vienna for Abidjan. Two months have passed since I came back to Austria.

My Holidays were more relaxing and less intense than the usual case. Main cause: I’m broke! 😦 Anyways, had a nice time on the country side in Gaflenz with parents and family, also watching Miyazaki’s Kaze Tachinu, meeting people in Vienna, helping out at a summer camp in Holland and right after staying in Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Achievement Unlocked: “Travel to Amsterdam and neither get stoned or drunk, nor hit by a bicycle!”

Thank you everyone who contributed in making my holiday enjoyable as it was! 🙂
And the show goes on: Back to Vienna, back to school!

I just finished my first week at my new school in the 15th district of Vienna, where I’ll be teaching Physics and Chemistry. The teachers and headmistress have welcomed me nicely and I felt it’s a good start. Though I’ve only held two lessons so far, as we held no afternoon lessons this week, I felt they were good. Many bright kids in there!

The first few meetings with other colleagues at school was generally funny. They immediately thanked me for coming and relieving them from the stress of having to teach physics and chemistry themselves. That’s the Austrian system: if your school doesn’t have a teacher in a certain subject, all other teachers need to hold the lessons instead. My school hasn’t had a physics teacher in more than 5 years! I even received an applause at the initial teacher’s conference, how weird is that? Like science is some kind of disease and I am the only cure. Meh, anyways I will see how much the kids will remember from the previous years.

There are several  “plusses” of this school:

  • it’s a UNESCO school
  • it’s Catholic and private, yet open to everyone and rather mixed in both culture and religion.
  • I am the one and only science teacher, so I got two rooms on my own!
  • Every classroom and also the science room have a projector, which I will use for some blended learning when possible
  • it takes me just 35 minutes to get there

I am working part-time as a teacher because…

In October I shall be starting a MA degree in eLearning at Fernuniversität Hagen (Deutschland!), which will be great as well! I just like to continue to progress on many levels at the same time, so both working and studying at the same time is the ideal option for me right now. I also value mobility and flexibility, so having a distance learning course about eLearning is perfect and authentic.

All in all, I have a year to look forward to!

 

 

This gallery contains 11 photos


Leave a comment

It’s half-time, not break-time!

March 2nd marked the completion of my 27th year of life, and 6 months of living and teaching in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, – a perfect occasion to reflect a bit and update you on what I’ve been up to.

1. I went to visit the big Universite de Cocody (which is – guess what – named after Felix Houphouet Boigny) together with my colleague and friend Armand. It’s a huge campus, with nice gardens, lots of nature and places to relax. Having studied at a site that’s somewhat tiny and has no outsides to relax, I could really envy the students passing by. But that feeling changed quickly when hearing of all the troubles students are facing here on a daily basis.

abandoned student accomodation

abandoned student accomodation

student apartments left empty

student apartments left empty

student appartments -  "Access prohibited for students" hmmm

student apartments – “Access prohibited for students” hmmm

The spacious gardens of the campus

The spacious gardens of the campus

Lecture room for economics

Lecture room for economics

University tract for middle- and highschool teachers. They earn quite well (CFA 250.000) and are needed everywhere!

University tract for middle- and highschool teachers. They earn quite well (CFA 250.000) and are needed everywhere!

So what might be the problem? Basically since the new presidency, students cannot use the university grounds for accomodation anymore. Nobody could tell me why, but anyways the new president said so. So half the campus is actually empty and it feels like a ghosttown.

2. How’s school?
It’s been seriously intense. But let me show you a bit of the work, that my students are doing. All books are to be done by the students on their own, with teachers supporting when needed. It’s the homeschooling system, and directed towards native speakers… which most of the class actually aren’t. Some don’t even have A1 proficiency, honestly speaking.

Grammar books grade 7 (age 12-13)

they are not shy to use the proper terms. Around 5% of the kids actually understand what they mean.

The authors are not shy to use the proper terms. Around 5% of the kids actually understand what they mean.

Go on, fill out the exercise! Mind the antecedent!

Go on, fill out the exercise! Mind the antecedent!

Civics, Grade 8 (age 14)

Amercia, the land of opportunity... the ONLY one, and BEST

America, the land of opportunity… “There is more ambition in America than in any other country in the world. That is because every boy and girl has a better chance in America than in any other country in the world.”

Spelling grade 8 (age 14)

I honestly haven't seen most of these words until after highschool. Plus they serve them without any kind of context or hint.

I honestly haven’t seen most of these words until after highschool. Plus they present them without any kind of context or hint.

To sum up, it’s an understatement to say the books are bad. They seem like they aren’t even made for kids! There is nothing on actual writing of coherent texts, no reading exercises connected with the new vocab, no examples. There are barely any illustrations either. The only mark counting on the final grade is a multiple choice test in the end of each unit, or in the case of spelling it is to spell all 20 words of the unit correctly. Many pass the grammar test with 100%, but have not a clue what an action verb is.

So much for the academic side of the school. I will be writing more about student behavior and local teaching culture in my next post.

3. How’s Africa? Are you African yet?
So I’ve been here half a year. I can truly say it’s been a very good decision to come here, and that both professionally as a teacher as well as personally I have learned a lot and now see things from a different angle as well.

Some examples…

  • Colonialism has ended in the 60s, but the phantom continues within people’s mentality. Whites are seen as superior. Even among blacks there is racism against those with a darker skin.
  • There is such a great diversity between the countries and tribes in Africa. By now I can differentiate between some of the tribes, like the Malenke and Baoulé. Abidjan is so different from Accra, and probably other cities have a different feeling as well.
  • Everything is about relationships and being social. Strangers call each other “older brother/sister”, “mama”, “friend”.
  • Kids imitate their peers and elder, in the good and bad ways. In a way a classroom is a miniature of society, reflecting cultures and norms, but without the adult ability of adequacy. They speak out freely what their parents think and do at home. If they get beaten at home, they often beat their schoolmates in class. This is how they think respect works, by physical superiority.
  • Teaching takes your entire self. If you are distracted by other things in your personal life, or overwhelmed by how different things are, or distracted by the heat –  you will fail miserably.
  • Teaching is a FULL TIME JOB, even in my free time, everything focusses on how to improve my teaching and on preparing lessons, revising my policies for classroom behavior, classroom English, and so on. I sometimes don’t even feel I am living in Africa, but I am living at school. I leave the house every day at 6am and come back at 6pm.

I will be staying in Abidjan until the beginning of July, so there’s still much to learn and to see. I will keep you updated 🙂


Leave a comment

Bonjour, Le Blanc!

Most of the residential areas in Abidjan, at least the more wealthy ones, have gatekeepers for their streets. It’s kind of a communal decision, and everybody within the “cité” pays their tribute. Anyways, this one gatekeeper kept calling me “Le blanc” (the white guy) and saluted me every time I enter or exit my cite. Saluting, not figuratively, but literally – putting his hand up to his head and standing straight, as in military. It was funny in the beginning, but when I realised also outside the cité I was being called le blanc, I started to sense there is a certain image or expectation linked to it.

The old President as painted at the garden of the University, which carries his name

The old President as painted at the garden of the University, which carries his name

As a white person in Cote d’Ivoire, you have already won the minute you set foot in the country. People will treat you with respect and friendliness unparalleled in your home country. You will be offered marriage multiple times a day if you’re among people, you will be offered food and drinks everywhere you go, people have been asking me to visit them at their homes and to meet their families. When you leave your friends’ places, they ask you to give them a call when you arrived home safely. Taxi drivers will offer their services as soon as they spot you from hundred metres away, up to the point where it gets annoying. Security controls will let you pass without any questions asked.

But why this favouritism, unconditional trust and respect? The situation in Cote d’Ivoire is very special. There still is a big French ground force in zone 4 of Abidjan, and in total there around 10.000 men of UN troops in the country. During the reign of President Felix Houphouet Boigny, the country opened its borders to foreign immigration from far and wide, and especially drew in experts and entrepreneurs from France. His policy was that “Cote d’Ivoire is a friend to all and an enemy to none”. The result was a great rise of economy in the private sector. Unfortunately, the 90s were a tough time due to financial mismanagement, economy collapsed and didn’t rise again. The country divided into south and north, and ten years of civil war followed. During war, a country cannot develop. People are focussed on survival in the moment, instead of looking into the future. This way of thinking still persists up to now, when times are peaceful.

A picture of the younger Felix Houphouet Boigny, when he became President in 1960 at age 55.

A picture of the younger Felix Houphouet Boigny, when he became President in 1960 at age 55.

 

When President Laurent Gbagbo came to power, his approach was to get the whites out of the country. “Go home, French!” was one of the mottos. When he lost elections to Alassane Ouattara in 2010, he didn’t accept the result and still “crowned” himself President. One cannot follow two masters, so unfortunately an armed conflict broke out. Many of the families that I know here escaped to Ghana, others withdrew to safe zones like the hotels which were hosting foreign workers and ministers, and were defended by the national army. During this time though, a great part of European, American and Asian immigrants fled the country, never to return again. As a result, many companies collapsed, and the unemployment rate rose. Furthermore, about 65.000 ex-combatants were left without a job, but with their weapons, mostly old Kalashnikovs, imposing a great threat to public security. Who in his sane mind would return to a country in such a condition? Only the bravest did.

After Gbagbo’s forces diminished due to his not being able to pay them anymore, he was brought before the ICC (International Criminal Court), and peace once returned to this country. President Ouattara now speaks of “regaining our former glory”, and he is opening up again for foreign investors and immigration.

So, that was a bit of a background info. Unfortunately in other places there is such strong resentment, such as The Gambia and The Republic of South Africa, where politicians and even Presidents openly degrade and speak against “European Colonialism”. Cote d’Ivoire is very different in its approach toward whites.

I’ve been reading the “New African”, a pan-African magazine in English. Going through the interviews, my heart is split. The general agenda is anti-UN, anti-Europe and anti-ICC (from most authors). There is pride and ambition to develop a strong Africa, but often the scapegoat or source of inspiration is hate against whites, against Europe and the US. One reason why I came here is to help the country develop and for it to improve the living conditions of its population. But if many African countries rise to power and become prime countries of the world, will this spirit of anti-Europeanism result in anything good? Will the former slave turn against his former master, once he feels the power to do so? Are nationalism and racism an inevitable crutch on the path to a profound African identity? Whites have exploited and still are exploiting Africa to this day. I am only wondering what I can do to apologize and bring reconciliation. Is it enough to buy fair trade products? What can I personally do?

So what I thought I’d do is that I tell the gatekeeper my name. He still salutes me, but we also shake hands now. 🙂