IN THIS ISSUE...
Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction
Note: Jon-Lea is on a three-year leave from Paradise Valley Community College so she may join her husband at Cairo American University. She writes of her adventures with technology in the mix of both the ancient and modern worlds of Egypt. Lately she's been having a bit of trouble with e-mail, but luckily the fax has been a reliable technology! You may contact her, Internet allowing, at firstname.lastname@example.org
What a difference a year makes! I am amazed to observe all of the changes that have taken place in Egypt since my arrival last summer. Technology has become more common, more needed, and more current. As a testament to the acceptance of computers as a way of life, I was intrigued to find amongst the ancient shops of the tentmakers' bazaar, a high-performance computer system that would make Rick Sheet's technological endorphins happy.
As my husband and I were seeking to purchase an Arabic design tent, we wandered the narrow stone streets with ancient minarets guarding the marketplace. We passed through shops filled with hand-sewn tents and wall-hangings, and met one shop owner who had all of his business records on a computer that was hooked up to the Internet. Periodically, it would announce the time, the temperature, and the current stock exchange rates. The computer rested in an ancient building that had served as a sultan's elegant home 400 years ago; it is now supported by a maze of scaffolding and prayers. The contrast between the ancient ways and the modern changes in Egypt keep one amused and aware of the way technology is changing our lives.
Distance learning is changing the way Egyptians think about higher education. Rapid changes in the business world has initiated a rush toward American style education. Last year the government permitted the privatization of higher education. At least five private universities began new campuses which are working through partnerships with American universities. Distance learning programs are now allowing students to earn degrees from accredited American universities. As well, enterprising American educators have recognized the highly motivated and skilled pool of students in Egypt.
I am acting as a mentor for a grant-funded program which brings a virtual Egyptian culture program into the classrooms of an elementary school in Portland, Oregon. Through computer cameras, e-mail, and video recordings, a team of photojournalists will be the eyes and ears of this school as they study Egypt and develop questions about its history, culture, and economy.
On a daily basis as Regional Coordinator for Advising for the Middle East and North Africa, I am challenged by the development of new technologies. Most of our Mid-Eastern sites will be offering TOEFL and GRE testing at computer-based testing centers. Also, through the use of the Internet, the assistance of students with higher education programs in the United States has become simpler. Most American universities have on-line admissions and web sites that provide up-to-date information. Universities are developing pre-arrival mentor programs to connect students through e-mail and are answering questions which support international students in their transition to the United States.
Lastly, technology continues to influence our personal lives. The Internet has become a regular way of staying in touch with friends and family. Because written English material is both hard to find and expensive, the Internet has been a wonderful link for personal and professional information. Additionally, mobile phones were legalized this year, and it is reassuring to know that one can phone home if he or she is stranded on one of the Red Sea's deserted beaches.
Despite the frustrating hours spent trouble-shooting a technical problem or learning a new software program, computers and technology are changing lives in Egypt by bringing information and education into peoples' homes and lives. Most of these changes have been reserved for businesses and the higher socioeconomic groups but, through the efforts of various development programs and the Egyptian government's commitment to modernize its systems, technology is slowly becoming accessible to all people. The awareness and desire are here; only time and money stand in the way of a more universal use of computers and technology.