Sunday, July 21, 2013

Maker versus Taker

I joined clMOOC late, but was welcomed warmly, which motivated me to do several of the first assignments within a few hours. One assignment was to create a learning map, shown below, which helped me place my career in a new pattern, based on key learning periods for me.

While items 1 and 2 were years of intense (sometimes painful) growth before my career began and which were heavily influenced by teachers, item 4 occurred several decades into my career when I relied heavily on the internet. It was Just In Time learning as I grappled with having to mediate conflict and bridging cross-cultural issues, etc. I was a very big internet Taker, which without question enabled me to conduct a job that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Today I planned to prepare something more than this post for my clMOOC colleagues, but again it was filled with Taking, converting it into a very enriching day. The themes of clMOOC and my previous etMOOC were that one must Make and share. etMOOC actually motivated me to begin this blog and test all kinds of tools. I hope to continue that soon again, electricity permitting.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Swazi dancing to Namibia dancing

Namibia is about the size of France and Germany combined with a population of approximately two million, so one can travel for long periods of time without seeing anyone. One of the striking features of Namibia is the often glorious blue sky.

The red sand dunes of Sossusvlei are stunning, as shown in a clip from a production by schalkallroundsafaris on YouTube.

The society is rich in multiple, very distinct, cultures. The Basters, for example, are descendants of the Dutch and indigenous  Africans who traveled to Namibia from the Cape Colony in the late 1860s. The Western influence can be seen in the Baster dancing style and the Victorian dresses of the Herero in the clip below, which is edited from a YouTube post by Michael Paskevicius.

Windhoek is a modern, clean, orderly city, which unlike so many African capitals has wide, well-maintained spacious streets that easily accommodate the traffic.The clip below is from posting on YouTube by extrpesidente.

While the excellent physical infrastructure is a positive legacy of South African colonial rule, the downside is that the society was affected by apartheid. This can be seen in the area of Katatura township on the outskirts of Windhoek where non-whites had to live prior to the Namibia's independence. The longer original video can be seen at mynamibiatourism and journeys.

From 1884 to 1915 the German Empire ruled Namibia, and one can see this legacy most spectacularly in the coastal city of Swakopmund. The original video is a production of MediaOnscreen.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Found the Vizify Map

I joined the Mozilla teachtheweb online course and joined its Google Community where Sarah Gross shared her webremix that led me to her Vizify introduction. Thank you. I've been searching for a map with the ability of Visizfy to visualization of my career bouncing between and within two continents. This online course is certainly going to stretch me even further and I am pleased to introduce myself to the group.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tanzanian dancing to Swazi dancing

The Kingdom of Swaziland, approximately the size of Wales, has been inhabited since prehistory by one ethnic group, the Swazi, which makes the nation one of the unique countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Swaziland has beautifully varied geography from the mountainous west to the lowland plains in the east and is surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.

Below is a clip of a video that shows a village being approached from surrounding mountainous beauty.

We continue with our dancing theme that has transitioned from Dutch dancing (in Iowa USA), Cameroon dancing, Tanzanian dancing and now to Swazi dancing. Swaziland culture is colorful, and men and women dance with incredible energy, as shown in the two clips below from a longer video.

Below is a quick tour of Mbabane, the capital city. In the background one hears a choir singing, which comes into view later. Note traditional melody and tempo from the foregoing clip.

Swazi citizens embrace their culture with active participation in annual ceremonies. Below is a video of the Ncwale ceremony that lasts from late December to early January each year. The King disappears from the general public into a sacred enclosure where he is given the first fruits of the season, and the symbolic burning of his bedding and the slaughter of cattle signify the beginning of a prosperous new year.

Swaziland is most famous for the annual Umhlanga (Reed Dance) ceremony in which scores of single maidens, wearing colors that reveal different family status in relationship to the king, parade in front of the king who chooses another wife. In practice the selection is orchestrated behind the scenes before the actual parade.

While the preservation of the kingdom and culture is widely embraced, the behavior of King Mswati III is drawing criticism from various quarters. In 2008 he ordered 40 new BMWs to ferry guests for his 40th birthday. Four years later the king proudly revealed a personal jet, costing about $46 million, as a gift to himself. Although he has a personal fortune estimated more than $100 million, the king has absolute control over all public institutions, including the national treasury, to fund his wishes. Meanwhile, the economy is deteriorating and it estimated that 40% of the nation is infected by HIV, which King Mswati III himself acknowledged below as a threat to the future existence of the nation.

Having very fond memories of our stay in Swaziland in the mid-1990s, it is sad to witness the socio-economic deterioration of the Swazi nation.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Advancing Agriculture in Africa: Mixing Low Tech, High Tech and High Touch Solutions

Below are a photos of the administrative and teaching blocks of the Uyole Agriculture Training Institute and Uyole Agriculture Research Center, just a few kilometers outside of Mbeya City in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, When I lived and worked there in the early 1980s, it was one of the premier training and research centers in the country.

I would take my diploma agriculture students into the villages where we helped farmers learn how to use their cows to plow and cultivate the land. For those unfamiliar with how animals can be used to conduct agricultural work, I'm posting below a YouTube video taken in the U.S. of one of the best trained teams I have ever seen.

Many decades have passed since I lived in Mbeya, but I found a Vimeo video uploaded in 2002 that captures the sights and sounds as I remember them many years ago. It is taken during the cold, dry, dusty season in Mbeya when one needs at least a sweater at dawn and dusk. The story line is of a young boy who seeks directions to a community skills training center in Mbeya from various roadside shops and friends playing soccer. He is unsuccessful until, in the second clip below, he locates a person at a carpentry shop who gives directions to the school.  

The relatively low tech agricultural solution of animal traction never seemed to gain much support in Tanzania, which still remains largely reliant on the hand hoe farming. There are a number of other low tech solutions such as the ingenious one published by Global Cycle Solutions. The clip below is taken from a longer Vimeo video in which GCS co-founder Jodie Wu gives her elevator speech about a bicycle powered maize (corn) sheller.

Mobile phones are pervasive throughout Tanzania and offer potential high tech solutions for agriculture. But this needs to be combined with high touch approaches that pay attention to social dynamics. The clip below is taken from a longer video about an IFAD project in Tanzania.It demonstrates how high tech solutions must be combined with high touch approaches in order to lead to sustainable results.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mbeya's Hills and Southern Highland Parks

The Southern Highlands of Tanzania is stunning in its remote beauty. The two clips below are taken from a longer YouTube video recorded from a bus traveling through the towns and countryside in Mbeya Region. As the bus speeds up and then slows down, one can see the many shops along the road, people chatting in small groups, TV dishes on zinc-roofed houses, banana trees everywhere, and many other images that bring back good memories.

I can now smell the fresh air of the green rolling hillside as the bus breaks free from the cities and villages.

Let's take a drive in a heavily bicycled and pedestrian market street of Kyela which is a cocoa growing area along Lake Nyasa and which is the small city entrance to the neighboring country of Malawi. The clip below comes from a longer YouTube video.

Finally, when tourists think of Tanzania, they often think of the Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Ngorogoro Crater in the north and Zanzibar off the coast. Few know about Ruaha National Park, the largest national park in the country. The Ruaha National Park, along the Selous Game Reserve farther to the south and east, are largely undiscovered gems for those seeking a less traveled tourist path. The south of Tanzania has much beauty in nature and people.

Cameroon dancing to Tanzanian dancing

I returned to the U.S. from Cameroon in 1973. After working in Peace Corps recruitment and completing graduate degrees with an emphasis in international agricultural education/extension, I received a contract in July 1980 with an American university, which assigned me to a farmer's training project in Mbeya, Tanzania. The experience in the beautiful Southern Highlands until December 1985 cemented my relationship with sub-Saharan Africa for the rest of my career.

There are many diverse cultures within West African and East African nations. However, while East African dress is brightly colorful, the designs and materials tend to be simpler than those in West Africa. The music in East Africa often relies on percussion drums and basic horns, while West Africa also includes traditional bows and strings. This contrast between Western and Eastern Africa is immediately apparent in the dancing seen here when compared to the Cameroon dancing clips in the previous post.

Below are two clips of a dance by the Wanyakusa tribe, which is the predominant ethnic group in Mbeya where I lived for nearly six years. If one compares the longer versions of the first and second YouTube videos of the two clips below, one can more clearly see the same pattern that seem to reflect warrior dances of decades ago.

It would be a mistake to conclude that there is little pride in local culture, given the contrast to the more vibrant, boisterous, and costumed previous post from Cameroon. However, it is true the East Africa and Tanzania in particular has a more muted expression of its cultural past, which is heavily influenced by centuries of Arab presence and later the arrival of the Portuguese, Germans and British, who in turn welcomed Greek  and other European farmers and introduced Indians to the country in large numbers. The consequence is an accommodating and friendly atmosphere that gives a strong sense of a nation less torn by tribal rivalries that characterizes many of its immediate neighbors and their more distant continental neighbors to the West.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Kumba's Farms and Forests

After completing nearly three months of Peace Corps training in 1971, I was assigned to Kumba, then a city of 48,000 surrounded by plantain, oil palm, rubber and cocoa farms and relatively dense forests. I drew the short straw because all my fellow Volunteers were assigned more scenic and cooler climates.

Yet over the next two years Kumba became my home, which after several months I would not trade with any other Volunteer. I traveled by 125cc Suzuki to visit farmers in the area. Below is a clip from a longer YouTube video showing a typical farmstead of plantains that provided excellent shade for poultry projects, which was the core of my work as an agriculture extension agent of the Meme Division Agriculture Department Extension Services. The farmer praises his workers in Pidgin English, which I spoke relatively fluently once, for doing a good job of clearing the farm of weeds. The sound of rustling plantain leaves and the smell of the tropical soil are far different from those of the Iowa corn and bean fields.

During the rainy season it could be difficult to reach my farmers. The scene below from a longer YouTube video shows one truck trying to pull another from having slipped off the main road. The muddy roads of Kumba can be even more slippery than the snow covered roads of Iowa.

I can feel the warm breeze in this YouTube video of a motorcycle ride through Kumba's suburb of Fiango.

Below I can still smell the strange scents of colorful food in Kumba's open market, which after time smelled less strange but always remained pungent, in a clip of this video.

Since I left Kumba the population has increased by at least 100,000 inhabitants and with this surge in population, there is much pressure on the surrounding forests. Rapid deforestation by overseas-based timber companies was already an issue when I lived in Kumba, and I can only imagine that the need for local communities to band together to protect their forest from the companies and even themselves is even more important today. Below is a clip of a video describing the work of Canadian volunteers who are helping local officials to make informed decisions about how to manage their forests.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dutch dancing to Cameroon dancing

In 1971 left rural Orange City IA (then about 3500 residents) for even more rural Cameroon to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. Our training was conducted in the beautiful highlands in the north of West Cameroon, which at the time still had its own Parliament in Buea. Men as well as women dress in colorful clothing, which is most striking during festivals and formal occasions such as the one below. One can see an outer and inner circle dancing. The complete video can be found here on YouTube.

What culturally was most striking for me, having been raised in a Dutch Reformed Church that treats funerals as very solemn occasions, is the way my new world celebrated the memory of the deceased. While living in Cameroon, I attended several of these celebrations that could last as long as a week. The original YouTube post, from which the two clips below are made, provides an informative description of many subtle cultural meanings. What is immediately apparent is how spontaneously individuals, pairs and groups form to express their emotions through dance.

Of course, one of the main motivations of joining Peace Corps for me and so many others is to experience a different cultural world. It underscored for me how one's own frame of reference is limited and how important it is to move out of one's comfort zone for the purpose of increasing international understanding.

Launching the Journey: Orange City IA

etMOOC has finished, but it has started me. I went back to my opening post introducing myself to the group using PhotoPeach. I decided to retrace that introduction but in more depth, building upon some of the other posts that followed. So the story begins on an Orange City IA farm. I discovered QuikMaps, which is an easy interface in generating Google Maps.

I also discovered a wonderful video on YouTube about Anamosa, Iowa, which I have edited for smaller clips that capture my world growing up on a small farm.

I remember too well the dusty, itchy, bouncing baling of hay in the fields and the milking of cows who swung their tails through the dirty gutters into my face as I hoisted the milkers onto the straps.

This clip rather accurately captures my recollection of my assigned chores in the care of beef cattle, pigs, poultry and sheep.

I remember accompanying my father to livestock sales that were critical markets for the family income.

Many thanks to Michael Ten Haken for his YouTube capture of the annual Orange City Tulip Festival where local  residents conduct dances and walk the streets with rough replicas of market carts from decades ago in the Netherlands.

All of the above is important only as a background to the following posts about my sojourn to sub-Saharan Africa.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Newspaper, Squirrel, Cat

I discovered a blogging website for students called It's a fun and easy website. One can create newspaper articles and animated gifs. Click on the newspaper for zoom view.


I noticed that the embedded gifsfrom the fodley. com site sometimes did not work, which is the first row. This may be more of a function of internet capacity here in Africa. Blogger won't accept gifs so I uploaded the gif embed code of the squirrel and the cat from, which is the second row.

Create your own Animation Create your own Animation Squirrel from photo SquirrelOne_zps52f1cf0a.gif Cat from photo Cat_zpsbbc0240f.gif

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Free Mosquito Bednets: Good or Bad?

etMOOC may have finished but it can score a success in having motivated me to continue testing various digital tools. Below are two Voki characters that give different view points on whether it is a good idea to give free bednets to keep malaria carrying mosquitoes away. The debate is much more extensive than can be treated here, but it provides the core arguments.

Friday, April 5, 2013


In 1896 postal letter carriers in the United States began Rural Free Delivery (RFD) as an experiment in a few rural communities, but the pressure upon Congress to expand the program was enormous. By 1901 there were nearly 77,000 post offices providing RFD, and by 1902 RFD had been established in nearly every state. As the first short video below shows, there were detractors in Congress who asserted that RFD was too expensive. Private companies using road and rail service also tried to stop RFD from carrying larger packages. But the power of the Grange farmer organization, which took on the role of advocating for meeting the social needs of and combating the economic backwardness of farm life, won the battle for RFD on behalf of rural citizens.


This second video, which appears to be the excellent work of student(s), describes in more detail how mail order catalog companies using RFD transformed the lives of rural citizens. As we shall see later, this same transformation is now occurring in countries like the Republic of South Africa (RSA), but using different technology that is moving benefits to the rural communities at even a faster speed.

Telkom is a company run and owned by the RSA government that provided landline telephone services to the country for decades. In 1993 the government awarded contracts two cell phone providers. The first contract went to Telecom itself, which partnered with Vodafone of the UK and the Rembrandt Group of South Africa. The new company was called Vodacom. Consumers rapidly embraced cell telephony, which innovated quickly, driving cell use prices downwards, thereby accelerating the number of mobile phone users.

Mobile phones now connect rural communities into the larger RSA economy, which we see in this Davos Notebook blog video clip below. More than 75% of the population of 50 million are cell phone users in the country. Cell phones are not only connecting the rural population to the world of commerce, but also to better health services, agricultural support, and education. Just as RFD and mail order companies transformed the life of rural citizens in the USA, so too the cell phone is uplifting rural lives in the RSA and sub-Saharan Africa in general.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Electricity and Water: Game Changers in Africa

ZooBurst is an easy tool for communicating key ideas quickly. The pop-up feature perhaps appeals to younger audiences most, but it should hold the attention of older audiences as well if the story is not too long. I am grateful to etMOOC for having motivated me to experiment with a wide variety digital storytelling tools. It's almost an addiction at the moment.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Genetically Modified Crops/Foods Debate

This is my first time to use Animoto for storytelling. Two questions are raised: Are genetically modified crops/foods safe? Who will control the food chain: farmers or transnational companies?

Make your own slideshow with music at Animoto.

Having been a writing teacher decades ago, I could see how it is an excellent tool for stimulating creative thoughts in the classroom. It is clear that the tool primarily is meant for pictures without text. For example, there is little time for the viewer to read the book covers. The final clip is a diagram showing the linage of Dolly, a sheep who was born in July 1996 and was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell. This proved that a cell taken from a specific part of the body could recreate a whole individual. At the time, the experiment drew heavy criticism. There was not much time to read the map either. Narrable seems more versatile.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Digital Storytelling: Contrasting Images of Africa Part 2

The previous post was a rumination about what a digital story is. The question raised was similar to the question, "If a tree falls in the forest and no animal, including humans, is there to hear it, does the fall make a sound?" Well, the post generated two Google + responses, so the falling tree was heard. The topic, Should we care about Africa?, deserves far better treatment than it was given in the previous post. I wanted to submit a post sooner but the frequent lack of electrical power (even now I’m writing the post off-line) and my having time to work on post only on the weekends has delayed me. This is my first time to use SlideRocket.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Digital Storytelling: Contrasting Pictures of Africa

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is it worth when combined with three others as shown below?

And if these four are juxtaposed to the set of four below, what might be the takeaway message?

My major learning from the etMOOC sessions by Doug Belshaw and Howard Rehingold is that one of the key distinctions between traditional storytelling and digital storytelling is the communication that is stimulated, forwarded, remixed, tweeted, etc. by the original post. So I have posted above a set of pictures. But the story is simply dead weight in cyberspace if the pictures simply lie there. It becomes a digital story when others react. 

In digital storytelling, in contrast to traditional print journalism, readers have the ability to react to the author and to each other as they comment across the web. Therefore the above is not really a digital story by my putting it there (at least one not sufficiently stimulating to induce comment--and thus not a digital story).

Thanks to for assistance in preparing this part of a potential digital story.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Beyond Silence of the Trees

I used a photo of the Serengeti taken by my brother when he and his family and my sister visited us last summer as the background for this Thinglist production. For the most part, ethical businessmen and women are the hope of sub-Saharan Africa.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Training of a Village Leader

I applied another new tool by creating a Storybird story, using the lovely artwork of Shishir, who wrote: Hi…!!! I am illustrator and character designer. Art is a passion for me. It is fun to read wonderful stories made by you all here using these images. That motivated me even more to use his artwork. Storybird's policy is to review submissions, which may take up to five days. I posted my story and, without waiting for the five days, decided to create this posting before waiting the five days. The internet seems to operating better at the moment so I should take advantage of it. While creating the story, my pages frequently froze and the Adobe flash kept crashing. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dwindling Space for Small Farmers

I am grateful to Wesley Fryer for his post that introduced me to Narrable. It took me much longer than I had anticipated to create my short Narrable reflection about how my roots on an Iowa farm were easily transferred to a career living and working in sub-Saharan Africa. I changed the story line several times, largely to accommodate the few photos and articles available of my early years on the farm and Peace Corps. I dumped several audio recordings in disgust with my voice quality and pace of the presentation. While I was trying to learn how to use Narrable, I received an email from Dustin Curzon, one of the co-founders, who answered a question from me within minutes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

End of Smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa?

I have enjoyed trying to use Mozilla's Popcorn Maker for the digital story telling assignment. I do not detect many agriculture teachers within the etMOOC audience, but perhaps there might be a reader or two for whom my personal appeal to not abandon the small farmers of sub-Saharan Africa might resonate. Larger farming most certainly will be the ultimate way to provide food and cash crops in the most productive manner. For the most part all countries that have modernized have seen the dwindling of their farming populations. But the danger is that the rate at which the small farmers possibly might be eliminated could far exceed the ability of sub-Saharan African economies to provide alternative employment. In my personal situation, our family farm sustained a livelihood for several decades, although it was increasingly clear that we were becoming less viable. By the time I moved away from the home farm, the U.S. economy provided my father and me alternative employment. This is not the case in sub-Saharan Africa. Some amount of disruption is inevitable, but the pace and scale requires careful thought on the part of local policymakers and the international donor community.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Different Teaching Reality?

The reality of most of my etMOOC colleagues working in education differs significantly from my own. An article in the local newspaper, The Guardian, describes how 80 students share one text book. This is not uncommon in much of sub-Saharan Africa. With one textbook, it often falls upon the teacher to read the information to the students, who dutifully repeat the information back to the teacher later. There are many well-intended book donation efforts, but the need greatly outstrips supply. Furthermore, the used textbooks, which are sent with best of intentions, often do not match the learning levels of those who receive the books. Of necessity, then, my vision is a book-less classroom, similar to the one shown in this YouTube by Cybersmart Africa. A laptop and projector, powered by solar charged batteries, a white sheet against the wall or on a movable stand, and appropriate interactive learning programs, which are downloaded in peri-urban centers where there is more reliable connectivity, would be truly revolutionary. While having current materials immediately at hand would be revolutionary, the more revolutionary aspect would be making the classroom learner centered, requiring an entirely new mindset on the part of teachers and school administrators from the currently predominant "banking" model as described by Freire. This, I suspect, is the reason why these innovations have not taken hold. As I read conversations among my etMOOC colleagues, it's clear that the same pedagogical proclivities exist outside of sub-Saharan Africa, which is more the frustrating given all the digital tools and advanced learning materials available. So upon further reflection, maybe the pedagogical realities across the across the oceans are not that different after all.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Entering the Waters Slowly

I have spent an inordinate amount of time downloading YouTube videos on how to setup and use HootSuite, which also motivated me to setup a Google + page. I'm still a fumbling tweeter. My online practice continues to be hindered by the on-and-off nature of my ISP, compounded by electrical brownouts.

I watched and listened to the enjoyable archived etMOOC BlackBoard Collaborate session by Sue Waters on blogging. My takeaway: Blogging first requires a lot of reading and reflecting as the foundation for blogging. As one blogs, one becomes more comfortable with sharing the personal learning. During the BB session someone in the chat window wrote: "We write ourselves into being." I can relate to that. I graduated from an intensive undergraduate program that required lots of reading, reflection and writing--integrating poetry, stage plays and fiction on a weekly basis. At least two writing assignments per week  required experimenting with new persona and led to lots of self-discovery. But I was so exhausted by the time I graduated that it took me many years afterwards to pickup any of such genre again. That may partially explain why I'm entering the blogging waters so slowly.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Testing the Tools

Three days ago I got up in the middle of the night to participate live in the etMOOC Blackboard session on Social Curation, but about a hour before it was to begin the electricity went out. So I felt my way along the walls in the dark and climbed into bed, under the mosquito net. Fortunately, I found the session in the archive, which motivated me to sign-up for Hootsuite, Diigo and and added an image to my blog banner. There have been excellent posts about information overload, but at the moment I'm just happily focused on getting the tools set-up and trying to understand how they work. (The ISP has only dropped three times over the weekend for no more than an hour each time, and the electricity has only been out about an hour. So I've been pretty lucky.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

etMOOC pushing me "out there"

I have resisted setting up a blog because I'm not particularly interested in being "out there" in the public--until this moment. My "publics" are smaller ones in my immediate physical world and from previous physical worlds now held together through email and other social network tools. Yes, I have met many others virtually. Some connections have endured for a significant period of time, but others have survived for only a specific engagement, mirroring the physical world.

What has motivated me to surface is the enrollment in etMOOC We shall see how long I can remain connected--literally because either the ISP or the electricity in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, is known to frequently isolate me. This happened several times during chats with my team mates enrolled in the Stanford University MOOC on Developing New Learning Environments.

My first etMOOC assignment is to introduce myself. My submission uses PhotoPeach and can be found here. Intro etMOOC on PhotoPeach