Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Many Heads Together: The ICT workshop

One of the most successful workshop (according to the participants feedback) was run from 1-5 of August in the University of Khartoum. The workshop title was “ICT for ELT in the Horn of Africa: Options and Approaches”. The reason behind the success story of the workshop was the type of organization between the different partners and trainers of the workshop.
The organizers of the workshop were the British Council Khartoum, the University of Khartoum and Clarity Language Consultants Ltd, a language software producers based in Hong Kong with contributions from the Open University of Sudan (OUS) and Zain Sudan. The British Council was able to support participants from 14 different Sudanese University and the British Council in Addis Abba was able to support two participants from Ethiopian Universities. The University of Khartoum supported 10 of its teachers and provided the venue. The three main organizers worked very closely to organize all the logistics of running this hands-on workshop.
One of the main objectives for this workshop was to try d to shed light on the different options and approaches for the use of ICT for English language teaching. Traditionally Africa has lagged behind the rest of the world regarding the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in language teaching with inadequate ICT infrastructures, limited financial resources, large class sizes and relatively low ICT skills among teachers and students, commonly cited as the main reasons for this. However, this situation is gradually beginning to change. In Sudan, for example, ICT equipment is now widely available and, in Khartoum and in other major urban centres, mobile Internet is increasingly becoming available. At the same time, education ministries and universities are proving more willing to invest resources in ICT facilities for learning, and, while this tends to be more focused on science and technology subjects, there is a growing realisation that these can also be used for English language teaching.

The workshop aimed at raising the participants’ awareness of the role ICT can play in language teaching and related fields, such as professional development training, and to explore ways in which it can be used effectively within the contextual constraints teachers face in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is aimed primarily at tertiary level teachers of English / teacher trainers with a degree of ICT competence and an interest in seeing its use expanded within their university or institute.
The main topics of the workshop were:
• rationale for using ICT for ELT
• practical ideas for using ICT in lessons
• getting to know a new program
• common technical problems and how to overcome them
• overview of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) software available
• integrating ICT materials into a course of study using Moodle
• using social networking / wikis / blogs / newsgroups
• ICT as a tool for professional development
• Examples of e.Learning from Sudanese and Ethiopian Universities.

The training consisted of a combination of input sessions, discussions and practical activities. At the end of the week the participants were expected to prepare a set of materials and training plans so that they can cascade the information they have received during the workshop to their colleagues when they return back to their institute.
A factor also for the success of the workshop was the venue. The workshop was conducted in computer lab with a good lan and wireless internet connection. All participants had access to a computer and those with their laptops were able to connect through a wireless. Software needed for the training were installed in the computers. The connection was so excellent that a one hour presentation was delivered from Hong Kong.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Is teaching two hours per-week of English language for a class of 250 students enough? This is a question we keep asking ourselves everyday when we go into our classes. This is our dilemma, students do need English language in their academic study and even when they graduate. But how can we teach them in such a limited time and how can we make these large classes learn English language. These are the challenges that face us everyday. But what is so positive about our teaching situation is that our students are really motivated to learn English.
I become so angry when I meet other teachers at the university who start accusing us for the poor level of our students. We inherit these students as false beginners from the general education system. I just wonder how did get a pass mark in the General Education Certificate . Limited time,large multilevel class, lack of resources these are all reasons that make it impossible for us to improve the situation of English language at U of K.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stories from IATEFL

Last week I was in Oman presenting in the ELT conference at Sultan Qaboss University where I met a friend whom I met earlier at IATEFL Harrogate. After my presentation, I and my friend started chatting about the teaching of English language in Sudan in the past and how great we were. She went on and told me about a man whom she met by chance at IATEFL. She told me that the man visited ELSU at my university as it was renowned in the Middle East, and perhaps further afield, for the work the unit was doing in English for Specific Purposes (ESP). ELSU was established in the University of Khartoum with the help of the British Council at 1973. The man was called David Blackie. He told her that when he visited ELSU in the 70s he learned a lot about ESP as ELSU was the only centre in Africa and the middle-east specialization in ESP at the time. Due to the experience he learned in ELSU and seeing books produced in the department such "Scientific Writing" and "English for Science", and meeting John Swales who was head of ELSU at that time, he was able to write "English for Math". I was caught by the story as I was the head of the department that was built on the ashes of ELSU.
When I returned to Khartoum I was determined to use the story and memories of David Blackie in my presentation for the higher administration of the university to convince them to establish ELSU again but on a much bigger scale. I asked some of the teachers at the department to go book hunting and try to find all the books that were published by ELSU and especially David Blackie "English for Math". After searching in stores where all the old stuff of ELSU were stored, we succeeded in finding some books among which was "English for Math". I scanned the covers of the books and used these covers in my presentation. Yesterday I gave my presentation to top directors and the policy makers of the university. I used the memories of David Blackie and made them see how great ELSU was and how poor we are now. They were really moved and by the end of my meeting with them the decision was taken changeour department into a huge language centre. This is just the beginning, we have a long journey to go.
So this is why I like conferences.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tessa Woodward's plenary speech

Today we had a great plenary speech in day 1 of IATEFL Harrogate by Tessa Woodward.Enjoy

Africa Networking at IATEFL Harrogate

"WOW a lot of Africans are in IATEFL this year" this is a sentence which I kept hearing yesterday and today in IATEFL. A lot of Africans are able to attend IATEFL this year because the British Council has done a great job of offering full sponsorships for so many teachers from Africa to attend the IATEFL conference this year. It was a great feeling to see teachers from different countries of Africa meeting , talking, sharing and networking. We even decided to start our own mailing list in Yahoo as a start, so it could be developed into a forum or a bigger association. I was given the job of starting the yahoo group which I started already and trying now to send invitations to my fellow teachers of mother Africa. It is a great feeling.

Friday, March 19, 2010


With the new director of the British Council, Richard Weyers more attention is being given to English language in Sudan. The British Council is running a three weeks course in the Teaching Knowledge Test offered by Cambridge University for tertiary level EL teachers.The course was orgainzed by Gray Ben, the English language advisor, at the British Council. The course will be located into two different venues at the same time to facilitate attendance of teachers. At the end of the course the teachers will take the TKT test. At the same time some local staff are being trained by David Watkins to become a future TKT trainers. As a member of the local staff being trained I feel really excited for an opportunity to learn something new. For two days we have been trained by David Watkins and we will continue to attend the course itself to observe professional trainers doing the training.
We are all hoping to see the TKT working well and we are hoping to have CELTA very soon in Sudan

The Time for Change conference

Time for Change: Developing English Language Teaching in Tertiary Level in Sudan' was the title of the conference held from the 1-3 of March by the British Council and the University of Khartoum. The conference was co-chaired by Mark Krzanowski from Westminster University and me from the University of Khartoum. The main themes of the conference were teacher training, assessment and use of technology in the classroom. In the first day of the conference I presented the plenary speech entitled 'Time for Change: Developing English Language Teaching in Tertiary Level in Sudan'. In the second day the plenary speech was presented by Mark Krzanowski entitled ' Current International Developments in English Language Teaching (ELT) and Implications for Tertiary Institutions in Sudan". We had presenters from different Sudanese universities and from Africa and UK. Also some publishers participated in the conference and we had presentations from Cambridge University Press, Macmillan and Garnet. On the third day of the conference the participants were divided into different groups as to open discussion so as to be able by the end of the day to draw the final recommendations of the conference to be presented to policy makers at universities and the Ministry oh Higher Educations. The conference was a success in the quality of the final recommendations. The conference was the first step in the road for change in the teaching of English Language at tertiary level in Sudan.