Teaching the teachers
An exciting online project has seen volunteer mentors from Adobe training CCF teachers and staff in digital design skills, with the hope they become among the first in Cambodia to gain official certification.
Working as a STEM officer at CCF’s flagship education facility, the Neeson Cripps Academy, Ly Vannmei knows what impact sharing her knowledge can have with the students she works with.
The young Cambodian is a passionate believer in the power of education and the role she can play in inspiring CCF students to discover the joys of science and the world around them.
Now thanks to an innovative online training program, linking CCF with volunteers from American multinational software company, Adobe, Vannmei is learning new skills that will benefit not only her but fellow teachers, staff and students.
Vannmei, 25, is among 26 CCF teachers and staff taking part in the training to improve their media design skills in Adobe products such as InDesign and Photoshop, after the success of a similar project last year.
The partnership has been facilitated and led by Team4Tech, a U.S-based organisation which brings together professionals from the tech industry with nonprofits to provide learning opportunities in under-served communities around the world.
Team4Tech also instigated the first link-up last year, which saw volunteers from Adobe visit CCF and provide digital media training for teachers and students. Adobe also donated 50 Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) licenses to CCF.
Afterwards CCF launched four new digital arts classes - Graphic Arts, Production, Animation and Web Design - at the NCA based on the workshops.
A second team of Adobe volunteers had been due to travel to CCF in Phnom Penh again this month (August) but the trip had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to technology, however, the project has gone ahead online with Adobe staff taking on virtual mentoring roles connecting them from around the world to CCF teachers and staff in Cambodia.
“This year, we have had to completely pivot to online,” Says Gail Shen, Program Director at Team4Tech.
“We have set up Zoom calls and virtual break out spaces for mentors and CCF staff to meet and connect. It is working very well. They [the mentors] can really get to know that person across the weeks and tailor the program and training to be impactful to that person.”
Each mentor has been paired with two to four CCF trainees.
Over 10-weeks, Vannmei and her fellow CCF staff will be schooled online with weekly virtual meetings and homework to complete in their own time.
These skills, in turn, can be passed on to fellow teachers and CCF students, unlocking educational and greater job opportunities.
And it’s hoped that some of CCF participants will be advanced enough to go on to be among the first in Cambodia to be trainer certified in Adobe CC products.
“I choose to study InDesign because I think it can be helpful for me now with my students to help engage them in activities, and in the future,” says Vannmei, who is at the beginner stage.
“It is very challenging for me to start, using the tools and software, but our mentor is always there if we need her, so I do not feel alone. I am learning a lot but it is still a process.”
Mean Cheysambath, an E-learning Facilitator teaching computer skills to CCF primary students, is also learning InDesign, although he’s at an intermediate level.
He’s excited at the prospect of sharing his new skills with his students and creating new lesson materials.
“Currently, my team and I are learning and creating a book using InDesign about ITC for Primary,” said Cheysambath, 29.
“I am very glad that I had a special chance to learn with Adobe, they are really friendly and helpful.”
Vannmei and Cheysambath are both keen to learn more Adobe applications, such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere Pro.
As well as building staff capacity, the mentorship will equip CCF teachers and staff with the tools to create Khmer materials to train other staff members, students and the surrounding Cambodian community.
By the end of the project in early September, it’s hoped that at least half of the CCF participants will be able to complete trainer certifications in Adobe CC products, becoming among the first teachers and educational staff in Cambodia to do so.
Vannak Heng, Education Project Coordinator for CCF, said the link up with Adobe and Team4Tech will equip CCF staff and students with the practical tools to address the skills gap in Technology and ICT in Cambodia.
In the beginning, it was about introduction to software and learning how to use it. This year, it’s about design skills and making sure that our teachers are accredited in Adobe software. If we have teachers or staff who pass that exam, we will be the first in Cambodia to have that.
The long-term goal is for CCF to become a hub for knowledge and exchange, creating content that can be shared throughout Cambodia. This could include content such as information about STEM and curriculum resources such as science posters.
It’s clear that the Adobe virtual volunteers are gaining as much from the online experience as their novice CCF trainees.
While they may not be at CCF in person, the connections forged virtually have been just as strong, as experienced by Angie Bush, Head of Brand Purpose Partnerships for Adobe and one of the mentors, who has been linking up with CCF in Phnom Penh from her desk in San Francisco.
“In many ways, it’s an even more unique experience as all of us join forces to figure out how to manage what is normally a hands-on mentorship and digital skills training program from the various countries where we live and work,” she said.
“I’m already feeling such an incredible sense of camaraderie, enjoying the laughter and good humor as we figure out the ins and outs of how this all works, and a deep sense of commitment from all involved because we know that, in our small way, we are contributing to a better future for the children and families that CCF exists to serve.
I am beyond excited to be working with such incredibly dedicated staff at CCF and Team4Tech, have met new friends and colleagues from Adobe and am inspired everyday by the extraordinary children and families at CCF.
Team4Tech’s Gail Shen, a former educator and teacher, agreed that the volunteer mentors gain as much from the experience as those they train.
“Part of what makes these projects really exciting for me is not just the impact on the nonprofits but knowing that some of these volunteers are really going to be changed forever,” said Gail.
“They go back to their own communities and companies, and many of them continue to volunteer or start fundraising.
“They go through that transformation, eyes more open to the need that is out there and how technology really does fill that gap, especially in education.”
The last word goes to Vannmei, who voices the appreciation of all the CCF teachers and staff taking part in the online project.
“I would like to thank Adobe so much for the course and teaching us. If they did not do this, I do not think I would have the chance to learn it.”