How to Teach Kids About Computers When You Don't Actually Have a Computer

Richard Appiah Akoto draws a computer on the blackboard and his students follow his lead. (Photo: BBC News/YouTube)

Teachers in the United States are always being asked to do more with less. They're given smaller budgets and larger agendas in schools that employ fewer teachers and take in more students. But none of these struggles can quite compare to the challenges faced by a computing teacher in Ghana who teaches his students how to use computers — without using a computer.

Richard Appiah Akoto, who goes by the nickname Owura Kwadwo Hottish online, recently posted photos of his classroom, and they've gotten quite a response. Akoto is an information and communication technology (ICT) teacher who has the challenge of teaching his students without use of an actual computer. So like any good teacher, Akoto improvises by drawing pictures of a computer interface on his blackboard.

Akoto recently shared images of one of his computer lessons, in which he can be seen using multi-colored chalk to draw the features of Microsoft Word software on the blackboard. In one of the photos, you can see his students drawing the same images in their notebooks.

One might ask, why bother which such a tedious agenda? But here's the kicker: Even though the students at Akoto's school, Betenase M/A Junior High School in the rural town of Sekyedomase, Ghana, don't have computers, they are still required to pass a national exam that includes a section on computing skills before they can move on to high school.

So Akoto does what he needs to do to ensure that his students understand the material in the curriculum. He told Quartz Media that he has drawn computer interfaces many times for his students over his six years as a teacher and just happened to share the pics this time on Facebook. He has his own personal laptop, but it has a different interface from the one Akoto is required to teach, so he doesn't bring it to class for fear of confusing the kids with a computer that's different from what they'll see on their test.

The good news is that those Facebook pics, which have since gone viral, made their way to the right place thanks to Cameroonian tech entrepreneur Rebecca Enonchong, who sent Akoto's pics to Microsoft Africa with the tweet, "Hey @MicrosoftAfrica, he’s teaching MS Word on a blackboard. Surely you can get him some proper resources."

In response, Microsoft sent Akoto to its annual Global Education Exchange Summit in Singapore and will join the Microsoft Certified Educator Program so he can receive additional training.

Others also stepped up to the plate and helped out Akoto. NIIT Ghana, an information technology training institution, donated five computers to Akoto's school and one for Akoto himself. A PhD student at the University of Leeds in the U.K. inspired by Akoto also donated a computer.