David Stern

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Dr. David Stern spent the last seven years of his schooling in Niamey, Niger, before returning home to the UK to become a pure Mathematician. Three years ago his interests in Mathematics, Education and Africa brought him to Maseno University, Kenya where he has been working as a lecturer. The biggest and most obvious need when he arrived was for the applied statistics students, since they were unable to apply anything. The root cause of the problem was that computers were not being used and so some MSc applied statistics graduates were coming out computer illiterate and unable to use a statistics package. Given the great need for statistical support in NGO’s and research institutes in Kenya this was an obvious place to start.

One of the big lessons that David has learnt over the last three years is that generally the limiting factor in African educational development is not money but expertise. Over the last three years he has organized five events with visiting international Mathematicians or Statisticians, with very little external support. Two of these events involved courses being given to the statistics postgraduates and a few staff, in both case the course materials were then left and in following years the staff that attended gave the courses themselves with David’s support. The next event which he is heavily involved in organizing is a conference (http://www.strathmore.edu/maths/), the aim of which is to expose people to inspirational talks and speakers.

More recently David has become very involved with eLearning, in particular his group in Maseno University is currently administering an electronic course in statistics (eSMS: Statistics Made Simple) originally developed at the Statistical Services Centre (SSC) Reading University, UK. He is also heavily with the universities general eLearning policy and currently preparing proposals for two blended/eLearning postgraduate degrees programs one in Research Methods and the other in Modeling.

David has three ongoing projects which are highly relevant to this initiative. The first is the launch of a new Mathematical Science undergraduate degree program, this is a compromise between a few new ideas and a program that can realistically be given by the current staff. The second is an initiative integrating statistical ideas it to the undergraduate IT courses, all degree courses at Maseno include an IT component, and currently three courses are being developed and given with an online component and materials on a group of 100 first year students. The third initiative is in schools, here CAST, Genstat and Mathematica player are being presented to teachers as tools to help with the teaching of the current curriculum, some teachers are volunteering to create lesson plans to which Kenyan teachers will be given access.

Contact:
dstern(at)maseno(dot)ac(dot)ke (unreliable) or
volloholic(at)hotmail(dot)com (reliable)