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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Class Notes, November 21

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Class today was complicated, but this is only a function of the complexity of the material that we are getting into. We had energy until about 10:30am, so roughly the first half of our class period. However, we had forgotten to take the power strips out of the Director's locked office, so even though we had energy, the majority of the students were unable to use it.

For the most part though, students had appropriately charged their computers before coming to class, so they were ready for a lesson.

Kadma, one of the students, came to class today with her mother and baby sister. Apparently Kadma was struck by another student (one not involved with the program) and her computer was hit. The screen suffered permanent damage and no longer functions. This was the second incident in two weeks of a broken or lost computer. We agreed to find the student who did this and to make him receive consequences for what he did. It is very unfortunate because Kadma is a lovely student who has always been wonderful in class. Yet we don't have a single computer that we can give her, or a part that we can replace. We have absolutely nothing to offer. She can only share with another student now. Her computer is broken forever- her opportunity taken away.

We are worried about losing our computers forever, but we are in a conflicting situation. If we stop letting the students take the computers home and leave them in the Director's office, they will be much safer. However, they will also never be used. Right now, the students are taking these computers home and using them regularly. Their knowledge expands every time they go home with these computers. For now, the information teacher, Miguel, and I agree that a few broken computers is worth the wealth of learning that these students are receiving- that wouldn't be received in the director's office. But we are wondering how far the limit will take us until it is safer to leave them at school.

Another idea is to put them in a sort of laboratory environment- an empty classroom where the students can access their computers during all hours of the school day. However, it still significantly decreases the amount of personal computer time. Also, this “empty classroom” we speak of currently does not exist- and we're not sure how we would get one.

Right now, having only recently discovered that OLPC is not going to be giving us computers every year, we are trying to see if we can get some sort of corporate sponsorship, grant, or other form of funding for new computers each year. We would really only need to buy new computers every two years are so (to recycle them through the fifth and sixth grades), which would be $20,000 every two years (or say $10,000 per year). Not sure how we can get this funding, but doing what we can. It's really a small amount of money for the effect it would make.

Today two teachers come, as well as myself and my friend Kilson, who is São-Tomean and interested in lending a hand. We break into three groups, one teacher in each group and Kilson with my group. We do presentations of the homework that the students had last week, and the students do a great job presenting their parents, neighbors, baby sisters, and other people. They successfully wrote an article and inserted a picture and I am very proud of them for that.

After this, we explained the next project. Each class will make their own “São João School Newspaper”. The classes broke into groups of four. My class consisted of five of these groups of four (including one group of five). We brainstormed different topics of discussion and each group selected a topic. The idea will be to write about this topic in groups of four, using the “record” activity to record video interviews, using the “write” activity to write up the article, and using the “share” function to allow all members of each group to participate. Next week we will have trouble organizing the students again, as we were missing between 10 and 20 students today (and three teachers- and I have no idea why they didn't come to class!). But that's something we'll have to deal with tomorrow.

The students are also quite actively erasing their programs. I'm going to work on getting those programs back over the upcoming week, but we have already explained what not to do in terms of erasing programs. I suppose it will just be handled one student at a time, until they are more able with their computers.

We practiced going on the “browser” activity and connecting to the internet. We put in a website address and hit enter (this took some time itself, because the students had to learn the “erase” button and enter and how to put in colons and slashes). I don't know if the wireless was working, though, because the computers weren't connecting to it. Then the internet turned off. However, students are crazy about internet. They are dying to get on it. The day that it works will be a wonderful day for them.

They also love music. They have successfully found the music library on their computers and play from this library regularly. Often when I am talking I tell them that they have to turn their music off, because at least two people are playing music. The students want to be able to put their own music on their computer, though I'm not sure this is possible. What they CAN do, though, is create their own music using TamTam...and that will have to be another project for another day.

The classes move slowly and the weeks are going by quickly. It's frustrating how little time we have left- only three Saturdays. Three class periods. Maybe we should look into adding another class period per week?? I wonder if I should stay. But with Christmas, even the kids will be on vacation, right? Doesn't it make sense to go back home and see what I can do from there? I just wish the flights didn't cost $2,000. If they cost less, this would be a much easier decision.

Two good things: The teachers have found ways to be paid. They can add the extra hours outside of class to their time sheets and be paid by the Ministry of Education. Ned from STeP UP has also helped me to find a grant program from the American Embassy in Gabon. It is possible that they will be able to fund our great need for a generator, as well as gas and parts. This would be absolutely incredible, if possible.

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Want your donation to be tax-deductible? Send a check to STeP UP with OLPC in the memo. Then mail it to:

Eric McClafferty
Kelley and Drye
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