Launched in 2002, Dramatool is a web-based platform described as "an international meeting point for drama/theatre education". Available in Amharic, Chinese, English, French, Kiswahili, and Spanish (as of this writing), this website is an effort to empower drama and theatre practitioners through networking. Run by the Eastern Africa Theater Institute (EATI) and the Swedish National Organisation for Authorised Drama Pedagogues (RAD), the site serves as a meeting point for those who are interested in how drama/theatre can be used as a tool for change.
Dramatool is an initiative that uses information and communication technology (ICT) as a networking tool for grassroots practitioners seeking a platform to share their experiences and communicate with like-minded colleagues. Dramatool is run by a team of 11 people from 5 countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Sweden, Tanzania, and Uganda) who have experience in working with drama and theatre as a tool for an inclusive and humane society. The Dramatool team believes that the internet is a valuable tool to allow for multiple ways of fostering knowledge exchange and the creation of community. The Dramatool therefore aims to be an open forum, which is available to anybody who is interested in and works in the area of drama education and performing arts.
Specifically, Dramatool provides a centre of reference to those who are looking for information regarding certain fields of performance. The online database is envisioned as a repository of helpful material that can be accessed freely by all who are interested (but with the rights of its use being reserved by the author). The website includes a library that houses papers, presentations, research reports, and the like. Reports about activities that have taken place or are taking place can also be submitted to the library for reference. The site can also be used to announce and publicise ongoing events. It is hoped that in the long run, the site will feature scripts, which could be referred to or even staged through arrangement with the author.
In addition to facilitating the sharing of information and knowledge, Dramatool seeks to stimulate connections among practitioners working around the world. To that end, the site offers an inventory of addresses and contacts which allows people working in theatre for change to keep in touch with other people and groups within the network. In addition, an interactive forum is designed to be used for discussions about various topical issues in this field.
One area of interest for Dramatool is education; thus, there are plans to conduct a distance education initiative on the website. As of this writing, a pilot of the project has been launched, with practitioners from East Africa, Latin America, and Sweden taking an e-course in intercultural paedagogy being offered by the University of Högskolan Väst, Sweden. It is hoped that the programme will be opened up to a wider population and that Dramatool will be used as the platform for this.
In addition to using ICTs, the Dramatool team draws on face-to-face connections. The team has traveled widely in order to conduct various workshops on issues related to the use of performance arts to facilitate education and to transform society by raising awareness about children at risk, gender, HIV/AIDS, corruption, and so on.
Art for Social Change, Education, Technology.
In October 2000, a small group theatre practitioners from Sweden, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda who believed in the importance of drama, theatre, and education to improve society met in Awassa, Ethiopia to discuss the possibility of networking among practitioners. The meeting was held during the first Children and Youth Theatre Festival by Eastern Africa Theatre Institute, EATI. The meeting ended in an agreement of cooperation between RAD, the National Organisation for Authorized Dramapedagogues, and EATI to stimulate future connection and collaboration among practitioners at a grassroots level.
The Dramatool website emerged from this process. Its development was informed by a basic needs assessment undertaken in 2002-2003. The major objective was to understand practitioners' needs regarding the content of the website, as well as possibilities in terms of access to computers and the internet. As part of this research, the team asked questions such as the following:
- What are the needs of other practitioners?
- In what way can a website meet those needs?
- How can it reach out to the grassroots level?
- What is the information technology (IT) infrastructure like in particular areas?
- Is it possible to work with IT in rural areas around the world?
- If a practitioner is not IT-literate, how can this challenge be overcome?
- Is it possible to use drama as a method to develop IT paedagogy?
- How can practitioners learn from each other and document the learning, thereby building their own "university"?
- How can the creativity of drama/theatre people and the flexibility of a network strengthen the democratisation movements in Eastern Africa, Sweden, and throughout the world?
Eastern Africa Theater Institute (EATI) and the Swedish National Organisation for Authorised Drama Pedagogues (RAD), with funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
Dramatool website on July 26 2007 and October 31 2007.