Microsoft Honors Ghanaian Teacher Who Explained Word to His Students on a Blackboard
Computer science can be a hard enough topic for any teenager, but one teacher had to teach computer science basics without a computer.
Last month, Interesting Engineering reported the story of Richard Appiah Akoto -- who also goes by Owura Kwadwo Hottish -- a 33-year-old information and communications technology teacher in Ghana. The middle school where he works had no computers, so the teacher dedicated his time to drawing an entire version of a computer screen on a blackboard.
Thanks to a new partnership with Microsoft, Akoto will finally be able to give his students the hands-on education they need -- and only use the blackboard for occasional notes.
He posted his labors on Facebook in mid-February, showing the process and then his exhausted face at the end of class. In the post, Akoto was teaching Microsoft Word without a screen in sight.
"I love ma students so have to do what will make them understand wat am teaching," Akoto wrote in the post.
In fact, the teacher prepared for each class by drawing these outlines 30 minutes before students enter.
"Every subject is taught on the blackboard here," he said in an interview with NPR.
The Facebook post went viral.
Initially, commenters reached out and offered their support to Akoto and his troubles. One benefactor from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom even sent the teacher a laptop for both himself and his students.
"I always understand from the teachings of Islam that useful knowledge is crucial for the benefit of the self and humanity," Amirah Alharthi, a PhD student in Leeds' department of statistics, told CNN.
Akoto later received a second donation of five new desktop computers for the middle school including a personal laptop for Akoto himself.
The post didn't stop with a handful of donations. Twitter users reached out to Microsoft so much so that Microsoft picked up on the teacher's trials. The company decided to send Akoto out to Microsoft's Education Exchange in Singapore.
It was Akoto's first time out of Ghana, yet he was well-received by fellow educators who understood the struggle of not having sufficient technology for their students. The only computers available to Akoto's middle school were both broken.
He explained his situation further at the Microsoft event.
"I wanted to teach them how to launch Microsoft Word. But I had no computer to show them,” he said in an interview with the software company. “I had to do my best. So, I decided to draw what the screen looks like on the blackboard with chalk."
He said he continued to opt for visuals whenever the lessons would best be served with visuals. And as any computer science student or teacher will know, that's nearly all computer science lessons.
"I have been doing this every time the lesson I’m teaching demands it," he continued. "I’ve drawn monitors, system units, keyboards, a mouse, a formatting toolbar, a drawing toolbar, and so on. The students were okay with that. They are used to me doing everything on the board for them."
Akoto had previously said in interviews that his students can take what they've learned from these blackboard lessons an apply it to a real computer -- but not with ease.
"They sometimes fumble behind the real computers," Akoto said.
However, after this exciting partnership with Microsoft, Akoto's students might get the hands-on practice they need to succeed in computer science.