In the summer of 2002,
the University of Colorado at Denver (UCD) was selected to be one
of five universities to provide technology training to a group of
five Afghan women. Apryl Johnson, an Instructional Designer at the
Center for Innovations in Teaching and Technology (CITT), assembled
a group of instructional technologists to provide week-long face-to-face
training sessions with the women to teach them necessary technology
skills, so they could assume a leadership role in the reconstruction,
and development of Afghanistan.
The foundation for this project was created,
when President Bush, and Afghan Interim Authority Chairman Hamid
Karzai, launched the U.S.- Afghan Women's Council in January 2002.
This council, comprised of leaders from the government, business,
and media of both countries, would faciliate public-private partnerships
to empower the women of Afghanistan to play critical roles in the
rebuilding of Afghanistan. This council sponsored 14 Afghan women,
currently working in various ministries of the government, to travel
to the U.S. to participate in the State Departments International
Visitor program. The program's focus was to teach the women computer
technology, the internet, and software programs, proposal development,
grant writing, communications and leadership management at a public
The problem was that we had very little knowledge
as to what their skills and abilities were, and the program schedule
was chaotic, with many last minute changes. The CITT scrambled to
gather information on the womens language abilities, assess
their technology skills, and design presentations, instruction and
handouts. I was to teach them how to use and research information
in the internet, as research on the web had been one of my main
work areas at CITT. We wanted to design instruction that would be
of most benefit to the challenges they faced. The information given
to us was superficial, so we assessed them the first morning they
The environment for assessing the women was chaotic. Each
woman was at a computer trying to fill out the technology assessment,
while being asked questions by reporters such as, "What do
you think about President Bushs policy on Iraq, do you think
we should attack?" or "What do you think about September
11th etc." Observers were positioning for photo-ops, and it
was difficult for anyone to focus. The women were jet lagged, struggling
with the language, and media scrutiny. People involved were offering
random suggestions. The instructional designers were weathering
the scene, and looking forward to the following day, when we would
have the women to ourselves in the lab.
After everyone left we looked over the assessment
results, and shared our observations. The women were reasonably
skilled with technology, they could all use MS word, some could
use Excel, and they were familiar with the internet, even though
they hadnt had much experience, due to infrastructure damage
in their country, and suppression by the Taliban government. Their
language skills were varied, but they had a translator with them.
One of the heads of the delegation suggested
that we limit our use of the translator in order for them to "practice
studying their English." I thought this was unwise, as their
language skills were not that strong. Based on my limited experience
with foreign languages, I believed that the technology information
would be difficult enough for them, and suggested we rely on the
translator. My opinions to the delegation were ignored. We all left
to revise our presentations, instruction, and handouts given what
we had observed.
The learning environment was the 5032 computer lab in the
North Clasroom building. Every woman would have
a computer laptop donated by Dell. We planned to have four instructional
designers in the room to be available to assist the women one on
one, while each of us presented our material.
Instructional Design Goals
The goal for learning technology was so the Afghan women
could eventually write international grants to help rebuild their
country. They would need to be able to research information and
funding sources, create budgets, and give presentations.
The CITT presentations would cover
Computer basics ( to operate
the Dell laptops)
Searching the Internet
My instructional goals for the women were
Have a basic understanding of how the internet
Understand what a search engine was, and practice using one
Experience going through a search pathway for relevant materials
they would need for future web grant searches and language tools
Copy and past graphics and information to a second document to
create and enhance their presentations.
objectives are detailed in the class outline on the Afghan Materials
Rationale for Approach
I took the translator aside and gave him a list of words
that I would be using in the next days presentation, so that he
could prepare translations for some of the more difficult concepts
I had to teach. I also told him that I would be using him a lot,
asking about his internet skills, which were fine. I left to revise
my instruction to make it simpler, and more in depth for how to
use the web for research and document preparation. The sources for
the handout were patched together from a variety of web resources.
I assembled it by researching, and copy/pasting relevant information
simplifying the language for the users.
Click here to see Instructional handout
The following day I began my presentation. With one hour to teach
this material, this was definately teaching under pressure. As the
second presenter, I was able to observe that not using the translator
made it almost impossible for the women to follow along. The scene
in the room was also stressed, because the program schedulers were
realizing that they had not portioned enough instructional time
in the week for the women, instead scheduling them to go to Elitch's,
museums, luncheons, and photo-op interviews.
The translator and I stood together, I introduced
the concepts I had outlined and he translated. The women immediately
looked relieved. We sped through the instruction with the women
raising their hands, and conferring with the translator whenever
they had questions, or needed clarification. After seeing my success
in using the translator, all the presenters opted for having his
assisstance.I was glad I had used the translator because most of
the information was new to them. While they were familiar with typing
and using some software programs, they had never seen Google, or
known how to surf the web, they were also unfamiliar
with URLs, and copy/pasting information and graphics, off the web.
When I showed them links in Dari, they were excited to see something
The Afghan women were very bright, strong
individuals. One had run a school for girls in her home during the
Taliban occupation, an act that had been punishable by death. All
had survived under more stress than most of us can imagine.
Evidence of Value
The CITT did not collect evaluations from the women. We
all had enough to do simply giving instruction. I did have opportunities
to socialize with them at lunches, and receptions. They were all
lovely women, who were appreciative of what we had taught. They
told me that they had found the internet search instruction especially
useful, for researching further international grant writing sources.We
all only wished theyd had more classroom time.
Reflecting on the instruction I believe most of it still
looks useful. I had tried to collect materials
that they could use for their future training and research. In my
presentation, I took a small risk in relying on the translator.
Having experienced communicating with Tibetan refugees using translators,
I understood their usefullness in bilingual teaching.
My example helped enhance the rest of the weeks training.
Thinking back to this time, and these women,
looking at their pictures, and remembering their stories I wonder
how they all are doing. I kept in touch for several weeks after,
but lost contact after that. I know one of them declared amnesty
in Canada, and did not return to Afghanistan. Ive heard little
about Afghanistan since the US invaded Iraq, and cant help
but worry that the invasion would have added stress to an already
Pictures of the women and the CITT designers
in the lab are offered below.
You may also want to check out the links to the Afghan-U.S. Women's
Council and the U.S. State Department to learn more about this educational
Click on this link:
learn more about the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council.
Click on this link:
to read Secretary Colin Powell's remarks at the U.S.-Afghan Womens
Councils "Women in Government" Reception.
Demonstration of Competency 2:
Designs instruction or human performance strategy to meet the needs
This responsibility was met by the creation of the presentation
outline and handout to impart instruction in a short amount of time,
under less than ideal circumstances.The CITT assessed and anticipated
complex learner needs, and then matched them through appropriate
presentations and handouts. (These assessment form results have
unfortunatly been lost in the CITT server transition)
Demonstration of Competency
Understands how to capitalize on the capacities and abilities of
This project meets the this resposnibility through anticipating
the women's instructional needs, and choosing to use a translator.
As previously noted, having
experienced communicating with non-english speakers via translators,
I understood their usefullness in bilingual teaching.
Further in preparing useful instructional materials, I tried to
keep the resources focused to the skills they would find most relevant.
For example, I included resource links to:
Language tools for Dari
I then had them go through a search pathway to fundraising sources,
so they could practice getting to useful information, and copy/pasting
it to future documents.