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TECHNOLOGY WITHOUT BORDERS - WHERE SERVICE AND EDUCATION MEET




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Our Vision

As we have seen too often in developing countries and post-conflict situations, a dependency is created on outside money and expertise to create infrastructure and begin the long road back to economic recovery or social reconciliation. Development is often hindered, or stifled outright, by the lack of economic opportunities and access to quality education. Because TWB has no governmental or political affiliations, it is in a unique position to foster development in areas where, due to political instability or security concerns, normal business interests are not yet in place. TWB programs prepare the ground for foreign investors, and NGO's to use local talent in developing the systems they will implement to do business or run their organization. We create capacity, allowing people to directly participate in the technological advancement or reconstruction of their economic, political, and social infrastructure.

We Make a Living by What We Get;
We Make a Life by What We Give.


TWB in media

On November 24th, 2003, the second anniversary of the establishment of Technology Without Borders, our Executive Director spoke with Madam Madeline Albright on National Public Radio regarding diplomacy and TWB work in Serbia. Listen to this short QuickTime piece with the link on the right side.

 


 
How it works: The TWB Program

The TWB Motto: "Where Service and Education Meet"

From the client standpoint, TWB offers unparalleled service for a remarkably affordable price, functioning like the best IT solutions providers. It's what's happening in the background that makes us unique and where our motto comes into play. Unlike for-profit solutions providers all our income from projects goes directly to the programmers, the communities they live in, and to developing new programs for communities in need. We seek to help people at a grassroots level, giving them the skills to help build stronger and more stable communities.

 

Self-Learning
Many TWB students have already taught themselves some key skills. Others are coming to the TWB program with only basic computer knowledge. Self-learning can be an enormously effective and empowering method of learning when coupled with other targeted techniques. At TWB we give the students the skills to work on their own and in peer groups encouraging a sense of self-reliance and community.


Scaffolding

Scaffolding is a learning system that utilizes several different core methodologies. Like learning any language, programming languages have an inherent structure and rule system. The ways in which we learn our native language's grammar are not dissimilar to the ways in which we believe students acquire new programming or design skills. It is from a combination of direct learning via textbooks, tutorials or instructors, peer teaching and mentoring and experiential learning and practice that our students not only attain a mastery of a given subject, but also learn how to teach their peers.

 

Linear versus non-linear education

In the past educators used a linear methodology, or building-block theory, in educating students. It has been shown in many studies that this is not how most of us acquire knowledge. Scaffolding offers a modular approach to learning that emphasizes building skills bit by bit, often in what seems like disparate subjects, but which, when seen in context of a whole curricula, offers the student a comprehensive understanding of the modules and how to put them into practice.

Figure A

Module1

Module 2

Module 3

Module 4

Module 5

Module 6

Module 7

Module 8


In the figure above we see a number of modules. The scaffolding methodology consists of lessons that may incorporate module 1 and module 7 in the same lesson, followed by module 2 and module 5. While seeming haphazard, we are building connections between the core modules as we might build a scaffold, section by section, with each component re-enforcing the next. This learning methodology consists of a number of methods.

  • Direct Input -learners receive instruction from TWB educators
  • Controlled Practice -learners use knowledge acquired in supervised setting
  • Skills expansion -lessons build on previously acquired skills using themes and techniques which encourage self-learning
  • Peer Teaching -lessons focus on group work within the class re-enforcing skills through coaching work with peers
  • Building simple applications - taking skills from the lessons and beginning to build simple applications. Putting theory into practice begins to build connections between learning modules giving the student a glimpse of the whole paradigm

Learning by doing

Textbooks and tutorials will only take a student so far. A good deal of programming and design knowledge is acquired through having to apply what students learn in principal. TWB's core methodology is built around experiential education and peer instruction. Through interaction with their peers and developing real-world projects under the supervision of senior TWB staff, students actively put into practice the skills they have acquired in the classroom. These offers a student the best of both worlds; making an income to support themselves and often their families, and getting an education.

 

The TWB program creates complete students. Some of the skills acquired during the 3 year TWB program can be found below

  • Unix/Linux/FreeBSD/Windows administration
  • SQL and database design and development (MYSQL, MSSQL, ORACLE)
  • Web scripting languages such as PHP, Cold Fusion, and .NET (ASP)
  • Programming languages (Java, C++, C#, Perl)
  • Graphics and multimedia applications (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash)
  • Project management and coordination
  • Business management (basic accounting, running a small business)
  • English Language training focusing on spoken and written language skills
  • Teaching methodologies and concepts
  • Teaching practice

Peer teaching

TWB students in their 3rd year of training must act as a mentor to a junior student. Under the supervision of a TWB instructor we teach the senior student how to teach, thus solidifying their knowledge while encouraging students to help one another. TWB believes in the 'Open Source' methodology that has developed over the years. Communities of programmers all over the world have contributed to the development of applications and operating systems through communication, shared knowledge and a deep sense of community. TWB seeks to apply these principals not only in programming but also in student's interaction with their communities.

 

Communication
The foundation to good client management is good communications skills. English has become the lingua-franca of business and international communication and how well you use the language reflects on you and your company. Building applications means extensive work with the client to elicit what exactly the application must do. Often clients have only a vague idea of what they need and it is the job of the project manager to make sure the client gets what they want and the project stays on budget. Too often, developers think they know what the client wants and build without a clear plan. This leads to "scope creep" and an end product that no one is happy with. Without good communications and project management skills developers will never be successful. 

All TWB students go through intensive English training to ensure that their spoken and written skills are up to the task of managing TWB client relations.

 

TWB learning centers

Through the creation of learning centers in the community TWB students actively participate in the training of other students as well as learners in their community. For example, in addition to a student's peer teaching requirements in their 3rd year, they would also be required to teach a basic Microsoft Office class for learners in their community. Under the supervision of TWB senior staff members, the TWB student would be responsible for creating a curricula and syllabus and actively monitoring student progress. TWB requires senior students to complete 35 hours of supervised teaching before graduation. 

 

 

 
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"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." -- Mark Twain

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 - A trip to Moscow
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