Saturday, March 23, 2013
On Thursday March 21, 2013 this Nigerian writer who has been called the "founding father of African literature in English" died at age 82. Achebe's works, taken as a whole, focus on the pathologies of Africa. He was a very wise man.
It has been well over 50 years since the publication of Things Fall Apart. These days, when I arrive in Abuja international airport on my way to teach at the African University of Science and Technology in Abuja (AUST), the car that takes me through downtown to the campus travels on a new freeway being constructed by a German company. The future campus of AUST will be designed by an Italian architectural firm. Just this week, there was an official ceremony where the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana handed over the keys to the new headquarters of Ghana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, designed and constructed by Chinese companies.
You wonder, why after 5 decades of independence, have so many African countries not yet found ways to seriously involve their own scientists and engineers in infrastructural development?
This question reminds me of one of Achebe's proverbs in Things Fall Apart: "Those who do not know where the rain began to beat them cannot say where they dried their bodies."
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
|Cormier's video What is a MOOC?: http://bit.ly/hikML9|
Background and Timeline
In 2001, in a pioneering move, MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), announced its intention to place all of its courses online (MIT OpenCourseWare) and make them available free of charge to everyone. Within 6 years MIT had completed the publication of virtually the entire curriculum, more than 1,800 courses from some 33 disciplines.
In Fall, 2011, Stanford University experimented with an online course-hosting program that attracted hundreds of thousands of students, allowing them to take courses free of charge.
In April 2012, the New York Times reported that 2 computer science professors (Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller) from Stanford University had collected $16 million in venture capital and formed partnerships with four leading universities (Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and the University of Michigan). This venture was called Coursera. In the video referenced below, co-founder Andrew Ng explains how he views the MOOCs as social entrepreneurship and repeatedly explains to a confused Fox newsman why he believes it is important to serve the neediest people--while someone in San Francisco may easily be able to pay $5 (the cost of a latte) for an online course, a poor young person in Kenya may find that same $5 unthinkable.
By August 2012 Coursera had attracted a million students from 196 countries [the top users were from the US (38%), Brazil (6%), India (5%), and China (4%).]
By September 2012, Coursera had added an additional 17 universities. Coursera now has over 60 university partners and 2.8 million students. In late February 2013 Pennsylvania State University (where I work) announced it was contributing 5 courses.
The original idea behind the MOOCs was that in general students would receive certificates of completion, but not be given university credit. However, that may change in the future as the value of completing MOOC courses evolves.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
More photos are available on flickr
Sunday, February 3, 2013
- The opportunity to savor the beauty of the surroundings and new buildings
- The unveiling of busts of Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere with stirring words of wisdom on the plaques below them: "Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation." (Nelson Mandela) and ". . . intellectuals have a special contribution to make to the development of our nation, and to Africa. And I am asking that their knowledge and the greater understanding that they should possess, should be used for the benefit of the society of which we are all members." (Julius Nyerere)
- The vibrant music and dancing and celebratory feeling among all who attended to see this dream becoming real
- Listening to the heart-felt words of the President of Tanzania (Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete), the Vice President (Dr. Mohamed Gharib Bilal), the Vice Chancellor of AIST-Arusha
(Prof. Burton L.M Mwamila) [see picture top right], and Dr. Frannie Leautier, Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) [see picture below]
- For more photos from the inaugural event, see AIST-ARUSHA 2012 as well as the NM-AIST photo gallery.
Monday, April 16, 2012
in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise:
Butterflies will soon be free!
There's a song in ev'ry silence,
seeking word and melody.
There's a dawn in ev'ry darkness,
bringing hope to you and me.
In our end is our beginning;
in our time, infinity;
in our doubt there is believing;
in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see."
Monday, August 8, 2011
When on sabbatical leave at the University of Ghana in 2008 I heard people say that the University of Cape Coast (UCC) had some of the best university science programs in Ghana. I was concerned, therefore, when I realized that among the Ghanaian students admitted to the African University of Science and Technology (AUST-Abuja), in 2008 and 2009, there were no UCC students.
In March 2010, on my way to a meeting at AUST, I decided to stop in Ghana and visit UCC. After contacting the Dean of Physical Sciences via e-mail, he kindly extended an invitation to me. I met with fifteen or so teaching assistants with first degrees in physics and chemistry, and shared with them the AUST vision, but never heard back from any of them. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when in the following July, three students (two females and a male) came up to me in AUST-Abuja, smiling, and introduced themselves as among the students who met with me at UCC.
In December 2011 these three UCC students will graduate with MSc degrees—two of them in Theoretical Physics and another in Materials Science and Engineering. Congratulations to them!
Continuing with my series on the education of females, I asked if the two women, Janet Sackey and Ivy Asuo, would be willing to share a bit about their experiences and what motivated them to pursue careers in science and technology:
Saturday, May 28, 2011
I also spoke with two of the computer science students, Adedoyin Adegoke and Dorothy Maduagwu. They shared some of the challenges they have faced as they seek to pursue their academic goals.