Tag Archives: teaching

Fabric Arts and Crafts in Sierra Leone

Fabric shopping, Sierra Leone, July 2017

While visiting Sierra Leone in West Africa earlier this month, my daughter Jessica traveled with fellow TechWomen mentor, Terri Khonsari, and with Ibrahim Kalokoh and Joseph Ellie of Families Without Borders Tech Center (FWB). Some of our activities were arranged by Mrs. Thaimu (“Mrs. T”), an entrepreneur in Makeni who works with FWB.

In addition to giving presentations at FWB, the University of Makeni in Makeni, and at Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown, we wanted to learn more about Sierra Leone. In particular, we wanted to purchase some of the elegant fabric and embroidery that we had seen Terri wearing in the Silicon Valley.

Our first day, Mrs. T brought us to her home to show us samples and discuss options for design.  Then, we went fabric shopping, followed by a trip to the tailor. Most of the fabric we purchased was cotton, often with local designs but mostly manufactured outside of the country.  One variegated brown cloth  was made locally from kola nuts. Our shirts, tunics, and dresses were completed in just a few days. We ended up fabric shopping several times during the whole trip: the vast design range and high quality of available materials are remarkable.  Jessica and I will be sewing with our new fabric for quite a while!

In addition to fabric, I purchased a batik panel at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary gift shop. It shows a woman in local costume against a map of Sierra Leone. I made it into a pillow for my office – to remember my first trip to West Africa.

Mrs. Thaimu, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Fabric shopping, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Embroiderer, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Tailor, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Embroiderer, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Kola nut fabric with embroidery, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik pillow and embroidered clothes, July 2017

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Truth on the Internet, Sierra Leone

Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, July 2017, photo by Salwa Campbell

While Jessica and I visited Sierra Leone earlier this month, we gave presentations to Terri Khonsari‘s technical center Families Without Borders, and the University of Makeni in Makeni, and at Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown – to about 300 students in all. We answered many questions but variations of one question came up most often everywhere we went: “How do you tell what is true on the Internet?”

Since we were presenting on web research, e-learning (also known as educational technology), and blogging, and since the topic of fake news has been much discussed worldwide during the last year, I suppose we should not have been surprised at the frequency of this question.  We answered it in a variety of ways, including many that have been widely discussed elsewhere. For example, Factcheck.org provides this list on “How to Spot Fake News”:

  1. Consider the source
  2. Read beyond the headline
  3. Check the author
  4. What’s the support?
  5. Check the date
  6. Is this some kind of joke?
  7. Check your biases
  8. Consult the experts

Two other ways we answered the question:

  1. During our Internet Treasure Hunt exercise at Families Without Borders in Makeni, we asked the 50+ students to find out what the CIA World Fact Book thought was the population of Sierra Leone, and then what Wikipedia said (since they do not agree). We then asked them to find an error on the Wikipedia page and discussed how these mistakes or differing opinions can happen.  We encouraged them to help by correcting the Wikipedia page and directed them to instructions on how to do so.
  2. At Fourah Bay College in Freetown, after asking about Finding Truth, a first year Engineer asked me why someone does not fix the Internet – make it always correct. I looked at the large and eager young audience and asked why someone does not fix them – make their own answers always correct. They laughed. I followed up by saying that the Internet was and continues to be created by people of many viewpoints who may want to deceive, or who may not know what is correct, or for whom there may be many versions of Truth.

Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

University of Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson and Salwa Campbell

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Blogging and Girl Time in Sierra Leone

Jessica Dickinson Goodman and Katy Dickinson at Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Jessica and presented on “Best Practices for Research, Online Learning & Blogging” and a variety of other technical and educational topics during our visit last week to Terri Khonsari‘s technical center Families Without Borders, in Makeni, Sierra Leone.

During the electronic Treasure Hunt (10 timed questions that the students had to answer by searching the web in teams of five) and during the first session on blogging, we noticed that the young men tended to take over, so we scheduled a special session just for the young women the following morning. The girls stayed for twice the time we had planned and had great fun!

We also worked with Terri to set up a special daily time during which the technical center computers are only available to girls, so that they could get more serious hands-on-keyboard experience.  So far, we have seen these five blogs come out of our sessions:

  1. MakeniGirls
  2. Salone Stories
  3. Modern Baibureh
  4. Flowers of Sierra Leone
  5. Tity in Sierra Leone

Jessica Dickinson Goodman at Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Jessica Dickinson Goodman at Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

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Families Without Borders, Sierra Leone 2 July 2017

Families Without Borders Makeni Sierra Leone 3 July 2017

Jessica Dickinson Goodman and I are on a trip to make presentations at Families Without Borders in Makeni, Sierra Leone.  We have been making presentations about the web, research, blogging, and social media.  This blog is being posted as a live example of How to Blog – it was written live in front of 28 students.  The students want you to know that they love each other and they work hard to get things done.  They welcome visitors to their country!  Thinking of Sierra Leone, they want to say:

  • They are rich in their culture.
  • “Salone” is a land of religious and political tolerance.
  • Their land is wealthy in mineral resources and agriculture.
  • Sierra Leone is a peaceful nation and it is not always about bad things.
  • The natural habitat is beautiful, especially the ocean and the Lion Mountains.
  • They have two seasons: rainy and dry.

Jessica Dickinson Goodman at Mrs. Ts home, Makeni Sierra Leone 2 July 2017

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Extra Gear? Gifts for Sierra Leone

Gifts for Sierra Leone trip June-July 2017

My daughter Jessica and I will be visiting Families Without Borders in Sierra Leone next week with Terri Khonsari. If you have any extra laptops or smart phones we can bring – no matter how old or dead – the students will be delighted with your donation. Please contact me soon!

I have visited the inspiring and fascinating continent of Africa at least once a year since 2010. With TechWomen Delegations, I have been to Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa, plus participating in Delegations to Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa below the Sahara. With People to People, John and I visited Ethiopia. My only actual vacation in Africa was to Egypt in 2010 – a much longer trip than planned since our family was stranded there by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.  This will be my first trip to West Africa.

I bring gifts on each trip for our generous hosts and for new friends and colleagues. For my first TechWomen Delegations, I had custom pencils made but more recently, I have brought San Francisco keychains and geeky pens and toys given away at events like the Grace Hopper Conference.  For this trip, I bought keychains, the Willow Glen Wells Fargo Bank branch gave me a big bag of red pens, and I am also bringing packages of stickers for the children.

However, the best present for the students in Sierra Leone would be empowerment and greater connection to the wider world.  Your outdated computer gear can help them.  I hope to hear from you!

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Image Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Sierra Leone Trip – Families Without Borders

Families Without Borders Gala 10 June 2017

Terri Khonsari, my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman, and I are traveling to Sierra Leone in a few weeks to visit the Families Without Borders school Terri manages in Makeni.  Jessica and I will be making technical and business presentations in Makeni and in Freetown. Terri and I are both long-time Mentors for the TechWomen program.  We have been discussing this trip for years.

More about Families Without Borders:

    We believe in building communities from within through education and empowerment of local youth. We begin by recruiting top students from disadvantaged families. We enroll them in a four year Bachelors Degree program of their choice complemented by a full servant leadership and personal development program. The program includes: advance computer skills, communication skills and financial management.

On Saturday, John, Matthew, Jessica and I joined TechWomen IdaRose Sylvester (with her husband Neil Hendin) and Samera Edwards at the Families Without Borders annual fundraising Gala. We enjoyed good company, good food, and good music. Jessica even learned some drumming.

Terri Khonsari Families Without Borders Gala 10 June 2017

Jessica Dickinson Goodman and John Plocher with drummers at Families Without Borders Gala 10 June 2017

Here are Hamid and Terri Khonsari with four TechWomen Fellows from Sierra Leone at the Families Without Borders Gala in 2015:

Hamid and Terri Khonsari with Sierra Leone TechWomen 2015

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Using Twitter to Create Black-positive Monument List

Martin Luther King Memorial Washington DC 2015

When friends and family find out I use Twitter daily, they often ask: “But what is it good for?” I finally have a good answer to this!

On 30 May 2017, I responded to a tweet from Brittany Packnett, who has almost 75K Twitter followers and describes herself as: “#BlackWomenAtWork. Educator. Activist. Speaker. Writer. @BuildLovePower creator. @TeachForAmerica VP. #CampaignZero Co-Founder. Obama Appointee. Thoughts mine.” We asked for suggestions for a list of Black-positive monuments in the US. Within a short time, there were dozens of replies and suggestions.

That’s something I love about Twitter – getting the word out very fast and collecting information and suggestions fast from a vast and often well-informed audience.

Here is the list (so far) of Black-positive Monuments in the US.*  What would you add?

*updated 12 June to include Thurgood Marshall, John Mitchell, and Maggie Walker.

TechWomen Fellows at Smithsonian Washington DC USA 2016

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