| May 20, 2011

Sara’s Aha! Moments


Sarah Rhyne at Kilgoris Project

Sara Rhyne stands at the doorway of the Ntimigom School in Kenya. From the top of the hill, she glances out at the wide-open spaces, and watches life – and cows – pass by.

Inside the low-lit classroom, under a dusty chalkboard, a group of 14 teachers involved in The Kilgoris Project fire up their e-readers and re-teach each other lessons learned the day before. Later on, Sara watches some of the teachers gather under a tree to read (in Kiswahili), discuss, and laugh about one of the thousands of regional and international e-books available on their Kindles.

For Sara, these are aha! moments when everything clicks. This is where, in her mind, the vastness of what’s possible out there – out in Kenya, and out in places like it – intersects with the reality of what’s happening in the classroom right now. She has a sense of something Worldreader already knows: Something big will be unfolding in many other classrooms around the world as the Books For mission gains momentum.

Sara, a teacher from North Carolina, won Worldreader’s video contest and a trip to Kenya, courtesy of eDreams. She’s on the ground helping our Director of Research Zev Lowe, our Kenyan point person Betty Kihagi, and head teacher Shadrack Lemiso, among others, ramp up Kilgoris.

View from the classroom

View from the classroom

“It is a surreal experience looking outside the classroom, seeing  the expansive rural Trans Mara landscape, and knowing that inside the classroom education is changing on a global scale with access to literature via one piece of technology.  That is very exciting,” she said.

At home, Sara teaches other teachers how to use technology and has helped establish an e-reader program at a local high school. At Kilgoris, primary school students will use e-readers. In both cases, Sara sees how many teachers latch onto the devices.

“I see a lot of similarities between teachers in Kilgoris and teachers at home,” she said, adding that adult learners have a pattern for understanding new technology.  “For instance, regardless of where teachers are, it’s not enough to teach them the ‘how’ you do something with technology. In order to really engage them, you have to give them examples of ‘why’ a specific technology is used in the classroom.”

The differences were small cultural ones she didn’t quite expect, but found work-arounds for, she said. One such thing was explaining typing on e-readers.  Teachers in Kenya use cell phones, which speeds up new technology adaption. Cell phones, though, typically do not have space bars or individual buttons for the  alphabet letters.

“I had one of those moments teaching about search techniques, where as a trainer I realized I had lost the group.  I had to say, ‘Wait a second, let me back up. Let’s talk about the long bar on the bottom of the e-reader,'”  she chuckled.

While Sara’s expertise is being put to good on the ground, she’s also looking forward to bringing lessons from Kilgoris to North Carolina. High on that list is getting her own kids and students interested in African literature.

“I find the stories so rich. When I return, I  want to share world literature with my students,” she said. “I’ll be able to show them a book from Kenya, a book I know the students will be reading here at the same time. I will be able to share the cultural experiences discussed in the book in a way that’s real for them.”

Way to go, Sara! Thanks for everything you’re doing there. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Two teachers figuring it out


Teachers reading underneath the tree during lunchbreak