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A Semester in Rwanda


October 2013 Archives

Gorillas.

Okay, I could narrate this whole set of pictures, but I know you aren't going to read anything. You're just going to jump ahead to the pictures of the beasts. What you can't tell from the photos is that I was a) not using telephoto most of the time and b) not photographing the gorillas when they were closest to me, that is, right beside me. One even gave me an incredibly gentle push as it ran by me. 

Enough talk! 

North part of Rwanda (where the gorillas are, in a protected park, sadly where Dianne Fossey is buried)

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BTW, a sliverback is an older male Mountain gorilla. The adolescents are black backs. This tribe had three silverbacks and a blackback. The only tension was between the beta and gamma silverbacks. There were four or so females and seven juvenilles. This is the alpha silverback being groomed. 

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Two silverbacks and a blackback. 


First round of tests

One of the challenges here, at least for me, is figuring out how to give feedback to individual students, including formative assessment like graded assignments. I have students do in class exercises but we post most of these on the board and all students are not necessarily fully engaged. I do have a warm up exercise that they all pass in but there's nearly 70 students in each class (steadily increasing from 45 present on the first week, another concerning issue) and hard to give useful feedback on them all. I just gave my first CAT (Continuing Assessment Test) and the students did quite well, although two of them clearly answered someone else's exam (I distributed 4 versions). 

The majority of the students' grades (marks) are earned during a 2 hour written final exam where 60% so formative assessment and project based assignments are not a priority. I will be giving a CAT that includes a program to email to me within the week but, realistically, I'm going to have to let them submit as groups. They are quite collaborative and, while I like this, it does make it hard to identify and address individual weaknesses and needs.  


Random Hacks of Kindness

Last weekend I was able to mentor KIST and other Rwandan students in the Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon (Simmons students: we gotta do something like this!) 

It was a four nation, simul-cast event that had students coding for 36 hours. 

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I ended up being the person who "opened it up" for Rwanda, meaning that I introduced the event, live from Rwanda, as others were doing in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Students in all four countries formed groups and picked a topic that would have an impact (for good) in this world. This year's topic was 'resilience', with the idea that students would design software tools that would contribute to the resilience of this part of the world. 

One group came up with a clever way to determine whether soil is depleted and unable to bear healthy crops. Others suggested disaster communication protocols and emergency first aid. 

All students began working in earnest by mid-day Saturday and were hard at work when I left them Saturday night. 

(Side note: the KIST campus is very, very dark after the sudden equatorial night fall and I was not prepared to stay that late. Although, as I've said elsewhere on this blog, I am not concerned about personal crime, I am concerned about falling into holes in the dirt paths I take across campus in complete darkness. Fortunately students were wandering around with small flashlights and, very helpfully, white sneakers. I followed a couple of them out)

When I returned on Sunday morning, the students were not as fresh but they were still hard at work. We began judging at 2 pm and were done by 4:15. I bet the students were asleep by 5:04 It was a very exciting time.


An entry for Stef

This entry is dedicated to Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel. No, sadly, it's not a long description of the best chocolate in the world (which, quite frankly, must be somewhere else ...) but pictures of the flowering trees, shrubs and plants. This whole city is in bloom and, from what I can tell, continuously. No rough winds to shake the darling buds of May here. 

First, a sobering flower picture, taken on the KIST campus. In 1994, KIST was the site of the UN post whose members were among the first victims in the genocide. The bullet holes are still in the wall and there's stone obelisks to commemorate each of the ten people. 

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but, even here, are beautiful flowering trees! 

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Which are everywhere! 

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Associate Professor Nanette Veilleux has been awarded a Fulbright Grant to teach computer engineering at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in Rwanda. Follow along on her journey.

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This site is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author (Nanette Veilleux) and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

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