Dawn of Civilization – Bandung

By: Kate Huth

I have been coming to Indonesia for over 20 years and in that time I have seen a lot of changes throughout the country. One of my first memories of Indonesia is the fact that it took me a week to figure out which side of the road people drove on, because everyone seemed to drive right down the middle regardless of direction (it is the left by the way). Now that is different, roads here have rules and they are enforced, a bit, at least in some places.

Some of the biggest changes here have been political. My first visit was to a country ruled by a dictator who had been in power for nearly 40 years. This time I arrived just in time for the counting of the votes from the presidential election. People here take democracy seriously. A country without compulsory voting still achieved over 70% of eligible voters going to cast their vote. It was a tight election and one thing not reported widely in the international news was the death toll associated with the election. Not from rioting, not from government crackdowns and not from opposition reaction to the news. Here the death toll was of electoral vote counters where over 200 died on the job trying to get a result out to the population.

Dumplings, lime juice and coffee from a hawker stall.

So why did I choose Indonesia? Well, it’s home. Like I said, I have been coming here for over 20 years but what I might have missed was that I have lived here for about five of those. When I had the chance to go anywhere I decided to come home for a while.

Right after I finished my assessments I packed my bags and was off. A mere four days of travel later (with a stop for breakfast in Singapore) and I was in Bandung, my home for the next 10 weeks.

I am in Bandung a medium sized town surrounded by volcanoes (10 in the direct area). All of them are active, as in none have been declared dormant, and most let off gas and ash daily – people here only worry if they stop. Life here runs at a different pace; not actually slower but it can look that way to those from the outside.

While one of my reasons for coming here was the chance to come home for a little while the other reason was the way in which people in Indonesia have taken charge of making the changes for themselves. Two decades ago this country had a major change from a dictatorship to a democracy. This was quickly followed by a severe economic downturn and a rise in both fundamentalism and terrorism. However the majority has decided that this is not the way that they want to be and are doing what they can to change things.

These start with the little things – like changing the types of anti-mosquito programs that are in use. It seems little to those who are not in an area ridden with mosquito borne diseases but here you can get malaria, dengue, zika, Ross River, Bahma Forrest to name just a few. But these changes have other side effects. In fact one of the most interesting side effects of the changes to this is with the cats. They now have tails. When I first came here cats would be born with tails but these would turn into clubs at about six to eight weeks. Now you get grown cats with tails. This hasn’t been seen here in the feral cat population for over 50 years.

The group I have been working with is another locally produced change. While education is compulsory here until the end of year 9 (junior high school) some people really aren’t able to access this education or make use of it in their lives. The rise in the availability of technology and the reduction in the cost of technology here has meant that a great many of those who are unable to afford to continue in traditional education have the ability to access education by other means. The only issue becomes the cost of that access. There are a lot of platforms out there that provide education over the internet or via apps for people who want to use it but a great many of them want your money. This group is a little different. The education app is free, free to download, free to use and free of ads.

I have been working in education for the past 15 years and in that time have used a lot of different resources. For my AFE rather than go somewhere and teach I decided to work from the other end of the teaching platform. Every time a teacher or a student uses a new resource we put very little thought into what goes in to making the thing we are using. Most teachers know what effort goes into making a worksheet, a lesson to go with a video or a song, a test or an assignment but little thought is given to what goes into the new technologies we are continually being asked to use in the classroom and in our daily lives.

Where I am working is like a teenagers dream job (at least for a lot of the teenagers I have taught). We sit around all day playing computer games, reading blogs (in my case e-books) and watching YouTube.

The main game we play is the product Dawn of Civilization; a multi-level teaching tool for literacy and English language. We read and watch YouTube because one of the parts of the teaching platform being produced is a classification system for these things so we need to check for accuracy and what is being added to the library.
This is one of the most relaxed workplaces I have ever had the privilege to work in. I’m not saying that we all come to work in our pyjamas (at least not every day) but it is a friendly group working towards a common set of goals.

It has been a bit of an eye opener when it comes to what goes into the creation of the games. Like I said, since I started teaching I have been making resources but when you don’t have a class to try them on it is different. Making these games doesn’t have the feedback loop that teachers rely on to change and improve them. When you are in a classroom you can see if a resource is having the desired outcome, if it isn’t you can change it on the spot. Teaching through games does work but it is harder to measure when you don’t have a room full of students in front of you for each step of the process. So here, we make, test, adjust, change, re-test, test with people outside, measure, ask, listen, test and change again; the whole time hoping and planning that the game stays engaging and that the users continue to learn from what they are doing.

The one thing I have truly learned in this time is that playing computer games as a job is a lot harder than my students would have ever believed.

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