A few weeks ago, I caught up with Nelson, our newest member of our tutor team and the person who brings our students’ IT skills up to scratch and brings them a new world of possibilities through coding and graphics design.
Helen: Tell us about yourself – what are your interests and what you were doing before starting at Our Moon?
Nelson: I have always drawn a lot. I have taught myself to draw and paint and before I joined Our Moon, I would spend time drawing people’s portraits, doing concept art and painting landscapes. I have a good imagination, so I like to experiment to see how far I can stretch myself. I even managed to sell some of my art. My interest in art developed when I started gaming. I loved both the graphics side of gaming as well as the programming. Starting with simple Game Boy improvisations, I used Game Maker Studio which helped me understand how to make changes to games. When I acquired my first laptop, I taught myself Open GD Script and Python.
My parents thought my interest in computers was unhealthy and, in fact, took it away from me. That, of course, just spurred me on to do more! I learnt about 3D games and fed my love of telling stories through designing and building games. It was a profitable pursuit as I was able to earn money as a freelancer.
I think my strong motivation is to be able to show people how accessible IT is
Helen: What do you love about your role so far at Our Moon?
Nelson: I think my strong motivation is to be able to show people how accessible IT is. In Zambia, too many young people learn ICT at school for two years, including our students, without ever seeing or using a computer. It makes people cautious, almost frightened of computers. But I can show them that IT is both enjoyable and creative, and a great way to solve problems in new ways.
Helen: What changes have you already seen in the students’ ability to understand the computer?
Nelson: I am so happy to see our students start to enjoy their new-found skills. They are already less scared and becoming more confident, even working alone on some tasks.
My first priority, however, was to get their typing skills up as they need these basic skills in order to type up their course work. Tamali’s progress has been awesome and she is forever thinking of new applications to discover different societal problems. She has an idea that she would like to create an adaptive app that tests students on their grade 12 revision before they sit their final exams. She would also like to develop an app for medical professionals so they can readily see the availability of drugs in the area.
Ceaser is also very quick to pick up new topics. I wouldn’t be surprised if they both decide to study computer science, although it wasn’t an area of study they had previously considered.
Helen: What do you hope the students will be able to do by the time they leave our site?
Nelson: My plan is for each student to have developed simple back and front end websites and a basic game. They will have had the opportunity to create a number of different apps and will have developed an appreciation of graphics design. Along the way, they will learn about open source programming languages, like Python, and how to access the support. They will also improve on their Microsoft Office skills, moving on to Excel and Powerpoint, both of which will be useful to them during their internships early next year.
Some of the students will be able to use Python to structure their analysis for their research essays – a very useful skill for when they arrive at university next year. When you consider that these students were struggling to switch on a computer when they arrived, you can see that my targets are ambitious, but, based on their current progress, I am sure they will achieve what they set out to do.
Helen: And now for some quick fire question about yourself:
Nelson: Favourite game – Minecraft for its ability to be moulded and modified by its gamer and Skyrim, a medieval fantasy game. The latter game is very satisfying as I can upload my own art to the game I am playing.
Favourite book – without a doubt The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
Favourite thing to do in my spare time at Our Moon – play with the dogs, unless I am tired in which case, I draw and sketch.
Person I would most like to have time with: Hideo Kojima, a Japanese video game designer. He has created so many wonderfully intricate designs and I would like to get inside his head to find out how he comes up with his ideas.