Why is there a silent “feature” on my alarm clock? I was supposed to wake up at 4 AM this morning to catch a flight to NYC, but apparently there is a volume control on my alarm clock and it is turned completely down, so I woke up to many phones ringing as my brother was waiting in the driveway around 4:45 AM.
I’m currently waiting at JFK for my flight to Accra, Ghana which leaves in about 2 hours. It’s a 10 hour flight so I have 2 novels, a few movies, and the entire 4th season of 24 to keep me company.
My trip to Ghana will be similar to my trip to Zambia last year (I’m told I’ll actually like Ghana). I’ll be promoting MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative. What is OCW? About 5 years ago MIT put together a panel to determine if it would be feasible to offer MIT courses online as part of a degree program. The panel concluded that the prestige of MIT and the success of its students comes from being on campus (surrounded by nerds) and experiencing the lectures in person. So, the online degree program was scrapped, but MIT being MIT and wanting to improve the world decided to give away its 1800+ courses, which lead to the creation of OCW. Today, anyone wanting to do some self-learning or get an idea of how difficult MIT really is can go online and view course notes, problem sets, tests, and, in some cases, videos of classes. Additionally, the material is released under the Creative Commons license, so educators can also use the material in the own classes.
Despite offering these courses for free, MIT still was not satisfied because we realized that some countries can’t take advantage of the materials due to severely limited internet connections. Thus began the OCW in a Box program which puts the materials from the site onto a hard drive and ships them to universities around the world (primarily Africa, but there are some in Russia, India, and Pakistan). This allows the universities to place a local mirror on their intranet that can be accessed at faster rates.
My job this past semest was to distribute these hard drives to the remaining countries. Now I am traveling to visit three universities to assess the impact that OCW has had at the school. I’ll be interviewing students and faculty and conducting surveys. Additionally I’ll be presenting and providing demonstrations of OCW to those who don’t yet know about it. I’m hoping this will be a better experience than that in Kenya and Zambia.
I had a great time in Dallas. My friend Richelle returned from study abroad in Australia, so we hung out a lot, watching movies, and eating. We saw ICE! at the Gaylord Texan. It was amazing seeing so much ice. It was also freezing – a nice cool 9 degrees Fahrenheit, indoors. Luckily, they provided coats, although no gloves. I’ll try to post pictures soon. The exhibit closes today, so if you want to see it, stop reading right now and go to this site: http://www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylordtexan/ICE.cfm.
On Thursday, we went to the Museum of Nature and Science at Fair Park to see the Bodyworlds exhibit. It was both weird and intriguing to see a bunch of bodies in various poses. There was even a horse! You should definitely check it out. The exhibit is in Dallas through May. Details here: http://www.scienceplace.org/bodyworlds/default.asp.
While at home I also fed my movie addiction. Here’s a list of some great movies:
- The Good Shepherd
- The Pursuit of Happyness
- Rocky Balboa
- We are Marshall
I really liked We are Marshall. From the trailers I thought it was the standard sports movie: decent team faces some sort of adversity (racism, society, or, in this case, death of the entire team), some miracle occurs, the team makes an amazing comeback, and either wins a championship or comes very close. Basically, I was expecting a new take on Coach Carter or Remember the Titans. This wasn’t the case with We are Marshall. It was completely different and refreshing, combining the drama that one would expect from a retelling of such a tragic situation with a bit of comedy (thanks to Luke Wilson) and eliminating any clichés you might have come to expect from a sports drama. I highly recommend it for viewing.
I had a great time back home. I got to see my family. I got to see Richelle. I got to drive my car. I even went to Ikea for the first time; I bought an ice cube tray that molds the ice cubes into puzzle pieces. Pretty neat, but useless since I rarely use ice cubes, cheap too.
I’ll be in Ghana until January 26, then I’m back in Dallas until the 31st. On February 1 I have lunch with my favorite CEO, Rich Templeton of Texas Instruments (see picture below), at MIT. Finally, it’s back to classes on February 6.
That’s it folks. Hopefully this little update on my life will tide you until the next update; I can’t say how often I’ll update until I find a decent internet connection in Accra. I had threats of violence (from a cop no less) during the drought between this and my last post.
Update: ICE! pictures online at http://www.flickr.com/photos/clintonb/sets/72157600355305904/.