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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Class Notes, November 14

Summary of class, November 14th

Students arrive for class by 8am. Class lasts from 9am-12pm. Students have been directed to charge their computers at the school before going home Friday night. This way they will be able to have energy, regardless as to if there is energy at the school. Some students have used their computers the night before so they have no energy. They must wait for it to turn on (it ends up coming on at around 10:45 or 11am).

The other students are anxious for class. I arrive at about 9am. A few of the teachers are late, but all in all there are six of us (some leave earlier and later, but for the most part there are at least three or four of us there at a time). The teachers seem uncertain as to what to do. I have asked them to be in charge of teaching the class, but I see that they are a little bit lost, so I decide to take it over myself.

First, we find out that students have been deleting programs off their computers by accident. This is a problem, and one that we tackle right away. The first thing we explain to do is how to delete a program- to show what kids should NOT do! That way we can stop the deleting.

As for the other simple things, the kids are pretty fluent in the computers already. They know how to take pictures. They've used the “escrever” application. Many kids know how to chat and network with each other already. It's hard to keep a class of 70+ 11 year olds focused, but the general plan is to explain something and then go around and help everyone.

After explaining what not to do, I get them to open the “escrever” application. I give them an assignment. Their assignment is to pick a partner and to interview them. They are to write the interview in the “escrever” application, then take a picture and put the picture in with the interview. Together we work to think of good questions to ask each other- name, where you live, what your favorite subject is in school, why, who you live with, what your favorite color is, etc.

The class is three hours but we don't cover much. It's hard to do that with a class so big. Some students take forever to type- it is imperative that we give those students as much time as possible to pick up something that may be quite foreign to them. We explain how to insert accents, and how to rename your file so you can find it more easily in the Journal application. Some students even change the color of their text. Most students are not sure how to add a photograph, but we also explain that and for the most part everything goes smoothly. We try to work off the idea of delegation- once a student understands a program, we ask them to go around and help other students.

When the students get unruly, I clap my hands in rhythm and get them to follow suit. It sort of works. Sometimes they just start clapping in rhythm not listening to the fact that my rhythm is changing. We'll get there.

After the kids finish up the interviews, we break into five groups with five teachers- each leading one group. Then we go into different classrooms where the kids present their partners. They are ashamed to do so, and many kids do not listen. I think presenting is new to them. But it's another good learning experience.

After this, we teachers give them a homework assignment. They must interview someone at home- a parent, a relative, a neighbor- and do the same thing as they did in class. We brainstormed questions to ask, such as “what is your favorite food to cook?” and “what is your favorite thing about São Tomé and why?” Then we instructed the kids to write these questions on either their laptop or in a notebook, to go home, conduct interviews, write up full-sentence summaries of what happened, and take a picture and include it in the article.

Miguel's group is going to be graded on their assignment, which is great!

Now to think of what to do in class on Saturday. I want to keep them involved in different projects so that they can broaden their learning each week. I think this Saturday they should share their interviews- little presentations again. Then...I'm not sure. Maybe starting the idea of a newspaper. Maybe using the video application. Maybe we could introduce the newspaper project, and have kids break up into groups of four to write articles. They can brainstorm what they want their articles to be about. We can teach them how to link up together on a network so that they can all brainstorm using their computers. We can require that they interview at least one person for their articles. Then they can present as groups to the class what their article is going to be about. Then their homework can be to actually do these interviews and work on the articles. They can write them in class the next Saturday if not before. That could work.

The idea is to get them exposed to as much as possible. After the little newspaper assignment, maybe teaching them how to use the internet and get online would be a good idea. Or maybe we should do this before. I'm not sure.

The children are horribly excited about their computers. They love the fact that they can take them home. There has only been one case of theft so far- and the parent is looking fiercely for it, because they know there are no replacements. And apparently there won't BE any replacements either, meaning that we'll have to pass the computers down year after year.

But the kids are excited. There was even one kid at school today that told me she had a computer and couldn't find it. I asked her what her number was and she said #72. We looked around for it. Then another teacher came by and was like, “what?? You're not in this class! Go home!” The kids are so anxious to learn that they are lying about being in the class. They are dying to use these computers. I watch the kids use these machines and I see their brains work. They have had these computers for a week and are already so empowered. Taking them back at the end of the year will be the saddest thing...and then that begs the question if it was ever worth it to begin with.

But no matter. The teachers are also very excited about what the program has brought along so far. Miguel tells me that if the whole school can one day get their hands on these computers, by God, what a difference it would make for the school. I agree. It would make a world of a difference.

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