Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Where are we going from here? Part I

Yes, I finally got Programming and Databases 1 published! Though it feels like a trip to a mirage (See Publishing is like a trip across the desert), I am really happy with what I think is a good solid course that will get students loving programming and challenge them in their walk with the Lord.

But why programming? And what are you working on now?

I'm glad you asked.

The story starts in Cameroon, with a principal and a teacher.

The tall one on the left is Henry, the principal of the Baptist Comprehensive High School. The one on the right is Emmanuel, the computer teacher. (In the middle is my colleague Ray, from California.) These guys made a journey that makes my whining about long trips seem, well, even more pathetic than it is. They rode six hours in a taxi to get to a port. Then spent nine hours seasick on a ship to land on the coast of Nigeria, only to spend another sixteen hours in another stomach-turning taxi ride over incredibly bumpy roads where there are no speed limits. When they got to Jos, they stopped at a hospital long enough to get some nausea medicine before hurrying to the event they had come all that way for: TEN3's Computer Training Outreach teacher/administrator workshop. When we asked why they had made the long, difficult trip, Henry told us, "The Internet is destroying our students. We even have some who became demon-possessed when they looked up how on occult websites. You have been using computers to teach the Gospel for a long time. We've got to learn how to do that."

A few months later, Anthony went to Cameroon to work with Henry's school and many other Christian principals in that area. While he was there, he presented them a spreadsheet he had concocted to help them plan how to manage a lab--the power supply, equipment costs, and scheduling--so they could offer the CTO to all their students. They loved that spreadsheet so much they asked if it could be expanded to run more of their schools. Anthony saw the potential for this tool helping more administrators in Africa make their schools viable, but what he had was clunky and desperately needed improvement. What the principals had asked for would require something more sophisticated than a spreadsheet.

About that time, he had a conversation with George, and George mentioned he'd like to learn programming. Anthony got an idea that maybe if George learned to program, maybe they could work together on this project. He then mentioned it to me, and I said the words that tend to thrust my life into most of its adventures:
That sounds like fun!

So George and I started learning programming, and since when we learn something useful we want to share it with the brothers and sisters we serve, we also started writing a course on it as we were learning it. It's going to be three courses to cover everything we learn to build the Term Planner (which is what we're calling the run-your-school-sustainably tool). We wrote the first course together, and now George is progressing steadily on learning to build the next parts of the tool. Then we'll write a course on that too.

It only gets more interesting, so tune in next week for the rest of the story!

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