In July, Nika is proud to be asked to present at the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, held in Brisbane Australia. We will be sharing our project and collaborating ideas with teachers, therapists and learners from all over the world. Following this conference, we will be revisiting schools for autism and schools with special needs in Bali, Indonesia including Sjaki-Tari-Us, an incredible organization with schools in Singaraja and Ubud for diverse communicators and learners. This will be our second journey in working with these schools.
- Kuala Lumpur school for Autism
- Kiwanis Down Syndrome National Center
- Spastic Children’s Association Center
Our project in Nigeria was beyond all of our expectations as we were able to capture the attention of the wife of the President of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari and her foundation, Future Assured, to advance education throughout the entire country of Nigeria. Starting as a pilot project in Abuja, Nika worked directly with over 20 schools in the regional area in providing technology tools and training to over 1,000 teachers and support staff. We started with three of the government schools specifically designed for students with special needs: The Abuja School for the Handicapped, the School for the Blind and the School for the Deaf. This intervention showed us that in a short 3 days, we were able to introduce modern technology tools to enable teachers and students to create curriculum, communicate, and teach at a much deeper level of understanding. The results were astonishing and inspirational and gave us an excellent indication of the possibilities of elevating education in this area.
Soon the word about our visit spread to the regional area and beyond. Thanks to the support of the National Nigerian news, we were highlighted each evening with a segment on what was starting to happen. On our final day of training, over 500 teachers and educational support groups came to a large-scale workshop, clearly sending a message to the wonderful group at Future Assured that the special needs community is strong and proud and wanted their voices to be heard!
In a short week, The Nika Project not only transformed special education in those schools with the most severe needs but will return in February to open the first technology center to serve all students in education in all of Abuja. We are proud and honored to be a part of radical change for special education in all of Nigeria. We can’t wait to see this project grow as we continue to move the ball forward…
Also in 2013, Dan traveled to a small rural school in Eastern South Africa called Khulani. This school housed over 300 special needs students from mild to severe disabilities. Most of the students were residential and lived at the school due to how far they lived from the school and the lack of transportation or supports at home to accommodate their needs. This school was extremely rustic; there were 5 classrooms and the 300 students were separated based on a combination of their age and abilities. With no formal assessment or IEP process in place nor any tools to provide this structure, it was very unclear what the students were learning and how to assess their progress. This school had no electricity or running water in its classrooms; the only room onsite that allowed for electricity was a small covered area that served as the sleeping room for all of the students.
The mission of this initial project at Khulani was to see if mobile technology tools such as an iPad would work in this rural setting with the same effect that we see in our classrooms in the United States. Challenges for the Tech for Africa project during this initial year were:
- Adequate power to charge devices
- Lack of experience or training on using any tech tools
- Diverse languages used (over 36 languages are spoken in rural South Africa – Zulu was the main language for this school)
- Lack of training in Special Ed or Language Development
Results for this 2 week project was incredible. Dan and his colleague traveled to Khulani with 4 iPads to see the possibilities of utilizing this tool within this limited resource environment. They used the sleeping room as their teaching space which allowed them to project the images on an available wall. A minimal number of apps were used – everything was recordable so that materials could be made in any language. Dan and his inter-professional team found that the learning and integration of the technology was immediate and intuitive. By taking pictures of all the materials in the class, they were able to “bring learning to life” and see the potential for this as a larger, more comprehensive intervention.
The following year, a team of 8 professionals returned to Khulani for another visit. This team consisted of 2 SLPs, 2 Special Day Class teachers, a nurse, a librarian, and two tech professionals. Khulani had moved down the street to a newer, larger school that now had 15 classes. Over 300 students with mild to severe disabilities were enrolled with 30 teachers. Limited electricity was available within each classroom.
The team of 8 professionals spent 8 days at Khulani and in that time was able to put an iPad and projector in each of the 15 classrooms. All of this equipment was refurbished from tools used in the US. Beyond just incorporating these tools, the teachers were trained on how to adapt curriculum to meet the needs of nonverbal students and diverse learners. Teachers were given digital cameras and refurbished iPhones in order to capture materials digitally for reading, writing, communication, and math.
At Khulani, they took on several other projects during the 8 days of our project. They created an adapted library where they provided large picture books and printed out icons in both English and Zulu for struggling readers. They also rebuilt a technology training center with 20 computer stations and overhead projector. This became the training area for not only the staff but surrounding schools that came for training. At the conclusion of their project, they hosted a training for 5 local special needs schools as well as over 130 government officials throughout the country of South Africa who were curious to see what they were doing. At this training, they gave away 10 iPads, 20 digital cameras and software to create icons as a part of a drawing for all participants. Results of this project were far beyond their wildest expectations. They saw firsthand the lives of the students and teachers change as now students were able to respond; teachers inherently taught differently by providing questions and time to respond to check for comprehension. They were notified following this project that the government of South Africa had placed a large order of mobile technology throughout the country.
Components of this project included:
- Work directly in schools
- Professional developments for teachers, therapists
- Training for administrators
- Service delivery to students
- Program development
Students impacted: 300 Khulani students; over 1,000 from surrounding SPED schools
Teachers impacted: 30 Khulani teachers; 10 local SPED staff; 130 administrators around the country.
ISAAC is the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, of which Dan is a member. In 2015, Dan was asked to be the keynote speaker at the National ISAAC conference for the country of Brazil. This was following a presentation in Portugal where the organizers of this large event were inspired by the nature of the Nika Project. Tech for Africa was the beginning of the Nika Project, but then they realized that they could think larger than just Africa; the “Giving” project was now a global organization.
Brazil has its own chapter of this organization and it’s annual convention draws over 500 SLPs from all over Brazil, a very diverse and expansive country. Dan saw this opportunity to not only inform therapists about the components behind the Nika Project, but to also extend the project and plant the seeds for intervention in rural special needs areas of this vast country.
Opening the conference with his talk, “Making a Difference”, Dan spoke of the tenets of the Nika Project:
- Keep it simple – for success, the tools should be intuitive
- Limit apps – pick non-content applications so all work can be quickly adapted for ANY learner in ANY language
- Create content that can be seen,heard, and experienced – use the power of mobile technology
Dan used the outreach of the keynote address to travel to 2 schools in Brazil where he brought several iPads loaded with the core apps to run the program. He gave workshops in each school to the entire teaching staff to let them know about how to duplicate the project. Teachers were energized and excited and this “hands-on” experience taught them the skills they needed to make this happen immediately.
Components of this project included:
- Professional development trainings for professionals
- Training for administrators
- Program development
Students impacted: Over 350 students in 2 schools in rural areas
Teachers/Therapists impacted: Over 600 SLPs in attendance at ISAAC; 50 teachers in 2 schools
In 2016, we gained contacts in Bali, Indonesia and set the stage for a future visit. In 2017, Cindy will be visiting the school to gather more information, so we can make a visit sometime in 2018.
Dan Phillips spoke in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at a conference discussing Nika’s progress and establishing future contacts