Teaching to learn

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela

Over the years I’ve lectured every so often on various technology topics at Notre Dame, but this past Spring semester I had the opportunity and honor of co-teaching my first class at the University of Notre Dame. The course was titled “Global Health, Mobile Phones and Appropriate Technologies” and was taught under the Eck Institute of Global Health. Our students were primarily masters candidates studying global health. Although it turned out to be a great deal of work, preparing for class and building lectures, this proved to be a wonderful experience, personally and professionally. In addition it provided a nice chance to meet and learn more about our students and the diverse interests they were pursuing in the field of global health or international development.

University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame

My colleague, Dr. Joseph Bock, Director of Global Health Training at the Eck Institute, shared much of his expertise in conflict early warning, early response and violence prevention, which are all thoroughly covered his new book Technology of Nonviolence: Social Media and Violence Prevention. Dr. Bock also covered topics like crowdsourcing and crisis mapping, which are also in his field of research. While I focused on the technologies and platforms used in global health settings, in addition to the work I’ve been involved with in the Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) field.

My introduction to the class actually started with me on a Skype session from Nkozi, Uganda, where I was working on an mHealth project which was to study the use SMS to improve maternal health care in a local village. You can read more about this project, which was funded by the Verizon Foundation.

During the course of the semester we covered so many wonderful topics and technology platforms. We even had several guest speakers, to lecture about everything from data collection to solar to impact evaluation to electronic medical records and more. Many of the platforms and technologies we discussed also included some quick “lab” time to test and experiment with how these tools might be used in a global health setting. Just some of the tools we focused on:

Ushahidi Crowdmap
Open Data Kit (ODK)

Teaching this class was a very humbling and enriching experience, as these students are sharp, driven change makers. After the semester, the students went to all corners of the world to conduct their studies in the field and many even made use of the tools and ideas we presented. 🙂 If we do this again, I think I’d bring a bit more focus to the class and not be too broad in the subjects, in addition to spending more time on labs. In the end I really think I learned more from our students, than maybe they learned from me and I was forced to dive deeper into these areas than I had previously, which was a good opportunity for me to learn more. Teaching to learn.


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