First of Many

Welcome to my first Blog under the African maths initiative.

I think a good place to start is by thinking a bit about why we started the African maths initiative site and why I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that blogging might be useful. I am going to attempt to write something at least once a week.

The site itself came from discussions with a colleague Tom Denton, who has visited us in Maseno a couple of times now. He was keen to get involved in an electronic courseware project whereby Kenyan lecturers and students could  have access to free resources which were adapted to their curriculum. Given that Kenyan lecturers tend to teach between 3 and 10 lecture courses a semester access to such resources would save lecturers time and offer students an improved education. While this project was interesting in it’s own right it is actually just one component in a range of initiatives to improve maths and stats in Kenya, from school all the way to research. We felt that the whole is more than the sum of its parts and there needed to be somewhere where the whole existed.

So a site got thrown together in a draft form and we’re now trying to figure out how to use it and what it might become. As the name and structure suggests we’re aiming towards an Africa wide network in the longer term with country wide sub-domains. It has already been suggested that it might eventually want to become an NGO so that it could actively scale up and spread successful projects. It is still early days for the site and just draft ideas lets see what happens.

For any one who knows me the real question is why would I want to start a blog given my lack of love for writing? I dislike writing to the extent that friends and family who travel with me tend to know that filling in my entry form will make me as happy as a child in a candy store, which is closing down and giving everything away for free!

So attempting to write a blog seems silly beyond belief especially since I’m currently not expecting anyone to read it. However I have been feeling I should do it for a few months now ever since eRM (our new research methods eLearning MSc) took off last term. I was so impressed by the way the participants took to the technology and interacted with the new media, despite poor computer skill and access in some cases, that I felt that I should write about it somewhere. If things go well I wanted them to be able to at a later date read about some of the thoughts from the other side of the program in a personal way which hasn’t be objectified for publication.

As you can guess that wasn’t enough to get me to overcome my desire not to write. Unfortunately a number of other things have really kicked off recently where the same thoughts apply, the new undergraduate degree programs, which have just had their first big intake of over a 100 students combined, and the Maths camp, which is getting interest from a few  schools all over the country. In years to come if things go well maybe some of the original participants will trace back posts that relate to them and be able to learn from the experience.

In short I think I have begun to believe that social posting can teach at least as much about an initiative as academic publishing. I am especially hopeful that some of those who experienced these initiatives first hand might, in  years to come, want to get involved themselves. I will probably have forgotten most of the details that effect decisions by then but maybe some of the thoughts from this blog will help them understand how and why we do what we do.

Ciao for now