Thursday, May 03, 2007
A previous colleague and now friend John Denny is setting up a new school in Cambodia. I asked him a few questions about what he's up to.
What kind innovative uses of ICT are you putting in place?
"To be honest from my perspective none! But from a Cambodian perspective we are modern as I am pushing all aspects towards digital communications, such as a computer in each classroom. Instead of typical cassette tape listening methods we will use computers to play CD or MP3 versions. Students can then compile listening lessons in MP3 format to play back as they please or cut a CD for home use. I do hope to get some some basic recording equipment so we can upload digital lectures, yet at present stage Internet costliness is a major block in Cambodia as they tend to charge by the MB downloaded. Our school is one of the first to use an unlimited broadband line! We have a satellite connection beamed in from one of [Thaksin - ex-PM of Thailand] Shinawatra's floating beasts. Thus I will encourage massive downloading - something new for Cambodians."
What's been the biggest challenge in setting up the school?
"First I thought it was to create a unique identity as language schools are a dime a dozen here. Thus it has taken considerable thought coming up with a doable plan that will attract students while giving them the security they need. We intend to offer a quality program second to none."
"On second thought offering a quality program is a struggle. Getting highly motivated teachers, school staff and connected issue of creating a ""culture of quality" institution-wide is not an easy task. It is a major struggle dealing with my developed world sensibilities versus the reality that in a post-conflict country things simply do not and cannot work the way one knows they should."
What would be the dream 'killer app' for helping the school, whether pedagogical, admin or something else?
"That's an easy one. I am dying to get a web-based open source school management app installed and configured. My target is OpenAdmin, if that fails Focus/SIS or CLaSS. Whatever it is, I am desperate to consolidate all school management function in one web app. Yet the bigger struggle is to get largely non computer literate staff members to understand the importance and buy-in after it is installed."
What's the local reaction like?
"So far we have distributed about 10,000 brochures. I was instrumental in totally reconfiguring the marketing strategy set by our school director. Instead of paying media corporations to advertise our school I convinced the team to advertise for commission-based sales representatives. These sales reps are given brief training on school selling points then set afoot to broadcast the message. Any student enrollment generated by the sales rep then brings them a 10% sales commission. After bringing in 6 students a sales rep is awarded an extra bonus or the chance to enroll for free in any of our course offerings."
"As per several of the highly motivated sales reps the reception is excited and enthusiastic as they can see via our brochure that this school strives to be different, is going to be a value added experience -- the type of place where students come to develop a lifelong experience in learning and sharing ( i.e. 3 NGO's on premises; special workshops, lectures and seminars, free overseas study advise, free software distribution, etc...)"
The website is still under construction, but visit: http://www.princeacademy.org