Month: September 2010

A Trip to Rongai, Kenya

My Friends in Rongai Town

My Friends in Rongai

When I arrived in Kenya a couple weeks ago for the launch of our first mobile phone-based pastor training class, I spent a day with my colleague driving out to a distant village to see if our mLearning phones would work like we expected.

We drove up the Rift Valley, about 100 miles away from Nairobi, and found a small village called Rongai. We wanted to find a local pastor, show him a working model of our mLearning phone, and see if our idea made sense to him.

Along the way I had one of the most enjoyable travel experiences ever. We were walking down a road behind the main part of this town when I heard a little girl say, “Hello Sir, how are you?”

“I’m fine. And how are you?” I replied.

“Fine, thank you,” was her answer.

“May I take your picture?” was my next question.

I took her picture then showed it to her on the camera’s display. She pointed to it and laughed with a sweet, innocent little girl laugh. Then she called her sister over and asked me to take another. Then both of them laughed and pointed and called their other sisters over.

“Take another! Take another!” was all they said after that.

Then the silly poses and hysterical laughter started. I have never had so much fun with total strangers!

Rongai Town Friends

Hamming It Up in Rongai

After leaving these girls we finally found the local pastor. We showed him a working model of our mLearning phone and explained the idea to him. He quickly understood the concept, and it made sense to him.

Not only did it make sense to him, he asked how he could sign up for the class! He leads 12 congregations, and he has a lot of elders to train. Some of his elders are oral learners, meaning they don’t read, and he thought these phones would work for them as well since all the training material is video and all the phone navigation is done using icons and a touch screen.

We returned a few days later and gave him three complimentary mLearning phones; one for him and two for him to circulate among the elders in his various congregations.

Rongai Pastor

Rev. Robert from Rongai (center),
Dr. Ngaruiya, my colleague, and me

Rongai has a warm place in my heart now.

Here are a few more photos from my trip.


mLearning Class Launch

mLearning Studying

Studying on an mLearning phone

Our first mLearning class started today. It was a bit different than we anticipated, but it started.

The biggest challenge to overcome was the failure of the memory cards we brought with us that contained all the training material. All 50 memory cards were incapable of playing video after just a couple times, so we had to use the smaller memory cards that came with the phones. There were other challenges, too, but we found similar alternate solutions for them as well.

The students are all excited to begin studying this new course. None of the students owned a touch screen phone, so everyone was learning something new. A few felt instantly comfortable and were navigating phone applications like a pro right away, a few followed along with our training and picked things up quickly, and a few needed some additional help.

I think we have a winning solution, and I look forward to seeing how students respond after a couple months of studying this way. The final exam will be in November.