African educators visiting Fairfield University as part of USAID/HED grant integrating service learning, technology and health education in Senegal



Project involves all corners of campus

Image: Senegal educatorsEducators from Senegal are visiting Fairfield University, public schools and service partner sites this week as part of a project that aims to train faculty in the West African nation in technology, service learning, and health education.

"They are here to learn about our use of technology in education, using service learning," said Winston Tellis, Ph.D., Stephen and Camille Schramm Chair in Information Systems and Operations Management at Fairfield. "Thus, the itinerary is designed to maximize those experiences. In addition to university classes, they will visit two area schools - Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield and the Cesar A. Batalla Elementary School in Bridgeport, both Fairfield University service learning sites."

The visit has to do with a three-year, nearly $300,000 grant awarded to Fairfield University in 2010 by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Higher Education for Development (HED). The grant basically allows Fairfield professors to bring their expertise to the direct and indirect benefit of children, bettering their health care and building capacity among their teachers.

Fairfield professors worked on a grant application to HED with an ultimate goal of training the rural university, Université de Bambey (UB) faculty in service learning, Information Technology, and health education. The objective is to help integrate service learning, middle school health education and educational technology in Senegal for the faculty and students as well as local middle school teachers.

Essentially a 'train the trainer' endeavor, the UB faculty members are at Fairfield learning about the university's learning technologies and service learning courses so they can in turn replicate them in their country or just become inspired with new ideas. Among other objectives, these West African teachers want to use technology to teach health education topics, a very important issue in their country. Bambey, a rural area located about 70 miles east of Dakar, has only one paved road running through the area, electricity is scarce, and water supply is inconsistent.

The project - "The Use of Information and Computer Technology and Service Learning to Develop Health Curricula" - calls for the visiting educators to leverage new learning technologies as appropriate for the local environment. Local middle school teachers in Senegal will also become familiar with the pedagogy of using technology to teach content. While the first content area to be taught with the technology will be health education, the pedagogy can be applied to other content areas as well.

The Senegal faculty visited the Cesar A. Batalla Elementary School, the site that Dr. Tellis's "Technology and Society" students visit each week. The Dolan School of Business service learning course involves the role of technology in the solution of social problems. Housed in Fairfield's Center for Faith and Public Life, the service learning program is a pedagogical approach that links academic study and community-based service learning. Fairfield undergraduates assist Batalla's English as a Second Language children with their language skills and teach them to use Word and PowerPoint to communicate.

On Monday, Eileen O'Shea, DNP, RN, assistant professor of nursing at Fairfield, took the Senegalese faculty to Bridgeport to tour several School of Nursing clinical sites, including the Health Promotion Center (HPC), a free-standing community nursing center. It proved of special interest to Dr. Awa Gaye, head of the Health Sciences faculty at UB. She's a practicing dentist who does considerable community service with children in Dakar. The partnership is designed to strengthen the capacity of UB's community service program.

The Senegalese educators also attended a School of Nursing service learning class, "Nursing of Children and Family." "We go into Bridgeport and work to provide prevention education and nutrition education to preschoolers, with the idea to curb obesity and diabetes," said Dr. O'Shea.

With Marsha Alibrandi, Ph.D., associate professor in Fairfield's Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, the group visited Ludlowe Middle School to learn about the experiences of the school with their existing relationships in Senegal. The school has sponsored yearly trips to Senegal in the past.

Also on the agenda is a visit to the School of Engineering. There, faculty will share the latest technology with one of the Senegalese educators, Dr. Massamba Seck, who is from the college's Information and Computer Technology (ICT) department. The group will visit College of Arts & Sciences classrooms too.

Dolan School of Business faculty members Dr. Tellis and Vishnu Vinekar, Ph. D., assistant professor in Information Systems and Operations Management, visited Senegal in January with Elizabeth Langran, Ph.D., former assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.

The initiative was inspired several years ago by then Fairfield undergraduate and Stags basketball player, Mamadou Diakhate '08, whose senior project was a proposal to introduce computers into his boyhood school in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

"Our goal is to develop their local expertise, such that we will not be needed towards the end of the project, and to leave behind a self-sustaining operation that will enhance their education infrastructure," Dr. Tellis noted. For more information about this endeavor, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/press/pr_index.html?id=2880.

Image: (L-R) Dr. Awa Gaye; Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.; and Dr. Massamba Seck. The educators from Senegal are visiting Fairfield University as part of a project that aims to train faculty in the West African nation in technology, service learning, and health education.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 22, 2011

Vol. 44, No.