Profile - Souleymane Camara
I am originally from the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. I received a diploma there in programming - databases, system analysis and design from a private computer science and management institute.
When I moved to the UK in December 2000 I studied Multimedia Computing at Thames Valley University. Now I concentrate on web development, using open source technologies - Apache, MySQL, PHP. I am also a part time teaching assistant at Thames Valley University (TVU), and am completing an MSc in Information Systems. Only my final project, an evaluation of the use of Blackboard in our university, remains.
|For the last six years I have been developing interactive radio education in Guinea, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia and Nigeria.|
For the last six years I was consulting for an American-funded NGO called Education Development Center. They specialise in providing education systems in developing countries, focusing on interactive radio education. The national curriculum from a country was used to create teaching and learning materials, including radio programmes. For example, to teach children in primary school the difference between colours, the radio would prompt the teacher to show the children different colours around them and give instructions as to how to play a colour game. The teacher would follow the radio instructions, which would have pauses for the activities to be undertaken. I worked with such programmes in Guinea, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
From my experience, I have a general idea of how African children like to learn, or what sorts of things interest them. Of course this varies somewhat on each country, community, and region. For instance, a new teacher goes to teach in a community in Chad. The next day the teacher returns and finds that there are no students. Why? Because the Chadians from this community are a nomadic people! They have migrated elsewhere to find pasturage for their herds. A technology could be used to track them - or to help them track the herd they follow. Maybe the teacher - or the students - could access learning materials wherever they go, using radio programmes or another technology. If people cannot or will not go to where the resources are, maybe the resources can come to them.
|What really attracted me to the VeSeL project was the interactions between different types of communities.|
What really attracted me to the VeSeL project was the interactions between different types of communities. In Nigeria, for example, one community might be very fundamentalist Muslim. If we had designed a programme with an instruction for the teacher to ask a boy and a girl to come to the front of the class, we would have heard complaints from the community about mixing boys and girls. There are all sorts of things that must be understood, depending on the community in question.
In Guinea, we were developing a radio series for the whole of sixth grade. But in the meantime, the government redesigned the national curriculum. When we were ready to broadcast the programmes, the Minister of Education informed us that we could not go ahead due to the change in curriculum. This was a real challenge!
|If we develop a mobile phone application, my job might be to figure out the right menu system for it, or even the icons, what sort of voice the users like best.|
My primary interest in VeSeL is in the human-computer interaction side - collecting requirements, doing surveys, evaluating the product, and suggesting what sort of technology might be considered in terms of what might best suit the communities. I would enjoy developing something if necessary, but I prefer in the short-term to focus on the usability side of the project. For example, if we develop a mobile phone application, my job might be to figure out the right menu system for it, or even the icons, what sort of voice the users like best, etc. The technology development might not come into play until the end of this process. It has to start with the people, rearranging whatever necessary to suit their needs.
I have not yet been to Kenya, although I have been to neighbouring countries where they speak Kiswahili as well. I worked on a radio programme in Kiswahili in Tanzania, so I have some familiarity with the language, but do not fully understand or speak it.
I hope that by the end of the project we will be able to come up with a framework, something more than a standalone technology, that can be replicated everywhere. We can come up with guidelines for ways that rural communities can embrace technology, for how they might start and what they would have to consider.
|There are similar projects, but usually focused on one particular technology. I believe that VeSeL is a truly innovative project in that sense.|
I am beginning to think about some sort of knowledge management bank that could grow. This is precisely why I am currently devoting a lot of time completing my literature review - I need to find out more about what has been done and what is happening in the field. There are similar projects, but usually focused on one particular technology. I believe that VeSeL is a truly innovative project in that sense. If the framework can be tested in another country down the road we will have some more answers to guide us.