AFRICA - LIFE SKILLS PROJECT IDEA
adventureafrica at mac.com
Sun May 4 14:37:19 EDT 2008
Life Skills & Marine Ecology
Dennis A Stevenson
2. Email address:
denniss at iafrica.com
Cape Windjammers Education Trust
Cape Town, South Africa
I am the president of a registered charity called Cape Windjammers
Education Trust – www.capewindjammers.org .
It is CWET’s mission to use the power of training under sail for life
skill, leadership and career development thereby contributing to
sustainable peace and development in the region. Training under sail
is internationally recognized for being an efficient tool to induce
sustainable behavioral change in youth (Edinburgh University
research). It is implemented widely in many countries around the world
with the exception of the African continent. It is CWET’s aim to make
this tool widely available for South African civil society
organizations and the youth they are working with.
Our organization is run entirely by passionate committed volunteers,
and has a very lean budget.
Here is my vision for the OLPC:
Ø 90% of our trainees are still at school and most come from
disadvantaged circumstances, and many are at risk due to their gang
and drug infested environs. They are thus ideal candidates to receive
Ø We take them on a 5-day, offshore voyage of adventure.
Ø In addition to teaching them life-skills and seamanship, we have
developed a marine ecology appreciation course (several of our
volunteers are post-grad marine biologists) as well as teaching them
math and science disguised as navigation.
Ø A wet and windy boat is not a good environment for a book or a
bunch of photocopied pages. Nor for any conventional computer. The
OLPC will be ideal for the distribution of static learning material
that must be taken to sea. The lightness and the one-handed grip
suits an environment where one must always have “one hand on the boat”.
Ø South Africa has 11 official languages and any one course will
have trainees from several of them. Hence the need to develop where
possible language independent material. This fits the nature and
philosophy of the OLPC.
Ø But static material, however necessary, is not what grabs a child
(I have two sons 12 and 14 so I know whereof I speak). There is
enormous scope for interactive material in experiencing the world of
seamanship, navigation and marine ecology. I have not yet explored
all the possibilities but for instance:
o Marine species recognition and logging
o Animations of ocean currents, tides and winds
o Illustrate the way the marine species use and are affected by
the ocean currents and winds
o Animations of ships’ navigation lights, shapes and sounds for
safety at sea (first you see only the lights, secondly you state what
type of vessel(s) it is (e.g. a submarine towing a hovercraft) the the
ship is revealed
o We could simulate a marine radio network using the OLPCs and
the children could practice radio procedure, sending and receiving
“mayday” messages, etc.
o Interactive scalars and vectors, shaping a boats course
o All of these will make great games (the way kids like to learn)
Ø Logging and Blogging: the youngsters learn that the ship’s log
needs to be written up regularly. In like fashion we expect them to
keep a log of their experiences and thoughts. Where possible we want
them to put up a Blog on the net. Here is an example from the girls
we sent to take part in the Tall Ships cultural exchange in Europe
We also taught them how to use a video camera and how to film on board
a ship and so in addition to written journals they made a video
journal (available on request). How much better if each child had an
OLPC with a built in camera, and could make their own multimedia
journal entries as things happen or thoughts occur to them. Where we
are using more than one vessel the children would be able to exchange
experiences across boats on the mesh network.
Ø The multimedia journals will be taken back to their school and
community where they can be projected from the OLPC while the child
gives his/her report back.
Ø After the 5 days at sea plus the preparation and debriefing days
the OLPC will have become an extension of the child and they will go
on to use them to explore and discover more and more knowledge.
Ø Having been on a sailing adventure and arriving home with a
laptop will give the child a lot of credibility among their peers and
community. This will allow them to exercise their newfound self-
confidence and leadership skills. And to break out of the “you’ve got
to be in a gang to be somebody” trap. We expect each child that we
have invested in to be a multiplier and to influence many others.
8. Description of your experience, both with hardware and software:
Ø 25 years in the Life Insurance Applications development team of
an international, Fortune 500, financial services company, the biggest
in Africa (see www.oldmutual.com).
I started in programming, and progressed to systems analysis, systems
design, application systems architecture and Business/IT strategy and
process design. I achieved the positions of Chief Architect (Life
Assurance) and the Principal Consultant for Strategy and
Architecture. I was especially valued for my innovation and human/
machine interface design, constantly being at the forefront of new
technology exploitation. I have had the advantage of having been
schooled in the days when memory and random access storage were tiny
and code had to be very tight and sparse, plus having lead design in
the days of designing for the client server environment where the
client was a PC and the server was a mainframe. Early on in my career
I designed the first online, real time updating, system using a
database, in the financial services sector in South Africa. Late in
my career I had the pleasure of designing the first Insurance sales
system operating on a salesman cell phone and resulting in an issued
policy on the mainframe legacy systems all within the space of the
I designed the web-based sales system for our UK company. I published
numerous websites starting in 1995 right up to the present.
Ø 5 years as a consultant at the head of my own company (see www.ITStratCon.com
Ø And now, though I still have the company, I don’t accept
contracts anymore because I am involved full time with being
o A stay-at-home Dad for my two early teen boys.
o President of Cape Windjammers Education Trust
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