Work and play in South Africa: Teaching and sightseeing in Jo’burg

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I was filling in for Dr. Kate Roach, and she provided many of the slides. Fortunately, I was able to draw from three decades of running group learning activities and from my own research on teamwork and Problem Based Learning. It helped me bring the topics to life.

What a memorable four days Shade and I had in Johannesburg, teaching the master class on teamwork I recently blogged. In this post, I’m sharing photos Shade mailed me in addition to snapshots I took on our day of sightseeing.

This master class was one of eight organized by the University of Cape Town to help engineering educators in South Africa develop new knowledge and skills. The overall set of workshops is being taught by my employer, University College London and its Center for Engineering Education.

This was the fourth workshop in the series. This particular session was held at the OM Tambo conference center–the site, the weather, and the food were all amazing. The experience transformed my impression of Johannesburg and has me wanting to return. The overwhelming sense of Apartheid I felt on my prior visit had left me feeling anxious, but gaining insight and making diverse friends has me seeing the place with a new, more optimistic outlook.

Two engineering professors from the University of Johannesburg graciously offered to show us the city on the last day of our trip. Thanks to Johannes (Yannis) Bester and Zachary (Zach) Simpson spending the day with us and giving us an insider perspective of what it’s been like to live, work, and teach in Johannesburg.

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Dr. Folashade (Shade) Akinmolayan and me visiting the University of Johannesburg campus where Yannis and Zach teach engineering.

Thanks to Yannis and Zach we got to visit two campuses of the University of Johannesburg–including a stop off to Yannis’ home which is located on the main campus. We also got to visit two sites of my choosing: the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill.

The Apartheid Museum explains the history and events surrounding the system of Apartheid used in South Africa (1948-1991) to segregate people by race. It’s a scary history indeed, but one that we must not forget.

Of our sightseeing group, only two of us had visited this particular museum before.During my 2005 visit I’d not had enough time to absorb everything, and the same happened again. In the gallery below, you’ll see two fo the special exhibitions in the museum right now. One focuses on Nelson Mandela. The other focuses on Winnie Mandela.

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Visiting the Apartheid Museum is a very solum experience.

We broke for lunch at the Apartheid Museum and then continued on to Constitution Hill, a former jail where Nelson Mandela was briefly kept before he was moved to the prison on Robins Island. Political prisoners were considered the most dangerous to the Apartheid “leadership” and they were kept separate from other prisoners. During Apartheid one could be jailed for nearly anything and life in jail was truly awful for most. Nelson Mandela did convince many of the jailers on Robins Island to see his point-of-view and some to advocate for his release. Nevertheless, he spent 27 years behind bars for promoting his political beliefs.

Before seeing this exhibition, I hadn’t known how important his mother’s Christian values and his early schooling by Western missionaries had been on shaping Nelson Mandela’s outlook on life. I had wondered how he’d maintained his determination to resit Apartheid so peacefully, when even Winnie (his second of three wives) promoted violent resistance at times.

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Shade and I after the tour at Constitution Hill we took with Yannis.

Today, Constitution Hill is the site where South Africa’s Constitutional Court meets. This group of judges deliberates on constitutional matters only. The front door of the Court illustrates the fundamental principles of today’s South African Constitution. However, this court is constantly considering how to best protect and balance individual and collective rights.

At Constitution Hill we took a guided tour and we visited the formal court chambers as well as the former men’s and women’s prisons. The old stair wells have been left standing to help show the extent of the former prison, though much of the prison building was removed and the bricks used in the modernization. The entry lobby and the court chamber are lovely modern buildings designed by OMM Design Workshop and Urban Solutions. For more on the design of the building, please visit “THE STORY OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.”

I’ve posted seven separate photo galleries below:

  1. Conference center and workshop
  2. Driving through the city of Johannesburg and visiting the University of Jo’burg
  3. Apartheid Museum
  4. Nelson Mandela
  5. Winnie Mandela
  6. Constitution Hill court
  7. Constitution Hill former jails

Conference center and workshop

Jo’burg city and the University of Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum

Nelson Mandela

 

Winnie Mandela

Constitution Hill court

Constitution Hill former jails

 

Engineering Education in South Africa: Facilitating Teamwork and Celebrating Diversity

My sister and I just crossed paths, like (air)ships in the night, at Johannesburg’s O. M. Tambo airport. At precisely the time my University College London colleague, Dr. Folashade Akinmolayan, and I were taking off from Tambo yesterday, my sister, Heather Massie, was boarding a plane in New York City. Heather was en route to the same airport.

Although Heather and I didn’t physically meet at Tambo airport, we were together in spirit–united by common causes and with more than just our flight itineraries overlapping. Finding ourselves in southern Africa at the same time would seem to be chance, but it also reflects who we are as people. It reflects values—of science, of learning, and of equality among people—that our parents instilled in us from our earliest days. Heather and I learned well from our mom (Cynthia Mara) and dad (Don Massie), and the values they gave us shape how we see the world, and how and where we work today.

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Shannon with Cynthia and Heather one Christmas after Mom’s trip to Japan.

Heather and I are both STEM (science, engineering, technology, and maths) educators, but of wildly different sorts. We both do outreach and community engagement activities with groups of diverse people and in under-served places. We both use “audience” participation to share our passions in STEM with others. We teach in spontaneous, improvisational, and highly interactive ways. We both see people as individuals and we bond quickly with others. We value our diverse friends, colleagues, and communities. We see diversity as an essential feature of creativity and we view it holistically—believing that identity is dynamic and ever-evolving and that people work everyday to develop their own identities with regard to gender, race, ethnicity and nationality, belief system, physical ability, sexual orientation and the intersection of all these and more.

As a result, Heather will be in Zimbabwe and South Africa for the next five weeks, performing her critically acclaimed one-woman play about Heady Lamar. Lamar was a Hollywood screen star, an impassioned inventor, and a self-educated engineer. She developed technology that makes all our wifi and bluetooth devices work!

Shade and Shannon workshop title slideSimilar to Heather, I was in Johannesburg this past week, facilitating a workshop for 26 engineering educators from all over South Africa.

Via this workshop, Dr. Folashade “Shade” Akinmolayan and I shared what we have learned and implemented in practice. We shared what we know from our research on group-based learning and from what we have lived, by assigning team projects to students at University College London (UK), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland), and Hampton University (USA).

img_0621Shade and I were invited to teach this Master class (one of eight multi-day seminars on teaching and learning coordinated by South African engineering educators) because we are both part of UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education. Shade is a chemical engineer with a doctorate in engineering and a focus on team-based learning. She coordinates group- and problem-based learning for the Chemical Engineering Department at UCL, though she will soon move to a new university where she will contribute to the development of an innovative new curriculum in chemical engineering–from the ground up. As for me, I’m an architecture professor from the USA who uses group-based approached to teach students in architecture, engineering, and education. I’ve taught workshops on such topics to other higher ed teachers at DIT, Hampton U, and William and Mary.

Shade intro slideShade and I found the 26 South African participants in our two-day workshop on facilitating teamwork in engineering education to be extremely energetic and engaged. They were passionate about teaching. They were enthusiastic about learning, sharing ideas, and creating new knowledge. We discussed ways to address the specific challenges they face and strategies to help support the range of diverse students in their classrooms. Drawing from experience teaching in many different places really helped.

All 26 participants were eager to discuss techniques, goals, and challenges surrounding their own efforts to facilitate learning in teams.

Shade and I made a pretty dynamic duo, if I do say so myself. We really worked well together and delivered a workshop of top quality. We will look for opportunities to offer this workshop again. Please let us know if you have ideas for future venues–for our team building workshop, or for Heather’s play.

Shannon intro slideAlthough Shade and I had literally just met—finding each other at the airport as we departed London for Johannesburg—we made great use of the day we had before the workshop to refine our plans, get to know each other, and learn to work together.

The workshop went off without a hitch, and the learning the 28 of us achieved was highly impressive. As Shade remarked, the event was a great confidence booster for us as workshop facilitators. It was, in my view, a confidence booster for all 28 of us (participants and facilitators) because we are all engineering educators trying to innovate our teaching practices so that students learn more and develop a wider range of skills crucial for engineers to have, and we all walked away with stronger and more robust strategies.

We received this very kind email at the conclusion of the workshop:

Dear Organisers,

Good day.

I wish to express my heart-felt gratitude to all the organisers and funding partners for the invitation and funding to participate in the Master Class programme of 24 – 25 April 2018.

It highlighted, in a detailed and understandable manner effective teamwork fundamentals, strategies and ethics.

The facilitators showed quality planning, timeliness and precision in delivery and coordination that motivated active participation: leading to a hugely successful programme.

While looking forward to participate in future programmes, kindly please accept my respect and regards.

Thank you.

With kind regards,

Williams Kehinde Kupolati

What a lovely message to receive!

This wasn’t the first trip to South Africa for Heather or me, although it was Shade’s first time going there (she’s a British citizen, born and raised in London).

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I was in Jo’burg and Cape Town in 2004, when Professor Brad Grant and I brought a group of Hampton University students there to study urban design. Wee looked at how urban design has been used to enforce racial and ethnic segregation. We also studied how contemporary architects and designers are working to counteract the adverse effects of decades of segregation and strife. I produced a booklet about the HU trip to South Africa. I can’t get the blog platform to upload the document for you, but please just email me to get a PDF copy. My email address is: irelandbychance [at] gmail [dot] com.

Heather was in Zimbabwe and Cape Town last year, performing as Hedy Lamar and conducting play-writing workshops. That followed a visit she made with our dear family friend, the late African-American playwright Leslie Lee. Leslie’s memory lives on the in the work Heather does every day. Now, Heather is back in Zimbabwe and South Africa again, with an action-packed itinerary that will look something like this:

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For details and performance dates, see www.HeatherMassie.com/HEDY

Harare International Festival of the Arts – Harare, Zimbabwe – May 3, 4 & 6, 2018

Unizulu Science Centre, Science Festival – Durban, South Africa – May 9-12, 2018

Women in Tech – Cape Town, South Africa – tbd May (17, 21 or 22), 2018

Thope Foundation – Cape Town, Khayelitsha, South Africa – May 18 & 19, 2018

Makukhanye Art Room – Cape Town, Khayelitsha, South Africa – May 20, 2018

George Arts Theatre – George, South Africa – May 24-26, 2018

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre – Johannesburg, South Africa – May 28 – June 1, 2018

As of this past Wednesday, the only definite dates with set show times were the Harare ones, but she will probably be performing on all of the listed dates. Please check Heather’s website for specific show times.

Here’s a gallery of images from the workshop:

I hope to share images from our tour of Johannesburg in a future post.

Hello to Africa!

Welcoming new visitors from Africa.

I’m excited to welcome new visitors from Africa.

I’m happy to report that people from three different countries in Africa have found their way to this blog in the past few days.

It appears that some places in the world are more difficult to reach via blog than others: the region around China, the Sahara, and Greenland are still missing from my map.  Perhaps that says something about the distribution of population (Greenland and parts of Africa), resources and Internet access (parts of Africa and China), and restricted freedom of information (China)?

In any case, I’ve enjoyed sharing ideas with my African friends ever since my first visit to Tanzania (in 2003).  Since then I’ve returned to Tanzania and visited South Africa and Tunisia (all with students) as well.

A highlight of my life experience has been the Fulbright program I conducted in Tanzania in 2005, though I am still working to make sense of many things I saw and experienced.

Fulbright-Hays flier. Program conducted by Shannon Chance (PI) on behalf of Hampton University and the US Department of Education.

This is a flier for the Fulbright-Hays program I conducted on behalf of Hampton University and the US Department of Education.  (I wrote a grant proposal that was accepted, and I served as Principle Investigator of the grant and also as director of the program.)  In the group photo, I’m standing second from the right.  Many people in this photo are my friends on Facebook still today.