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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Class Notes, November 28th

November 28th, 2009

Class today was good! I spent the entire time in the teachers' office fixing computers so I didn't get to see much of it myself. Students are losing their ability to access the internet and I'm not quite sure why. I think it is a hardware problem- the computer is simply not sensing the mesh network or the wifi access- and it is frustrating me because it makes me wonder if the kids shouldn't be taking the computers home. Either that or they need to learn even better the importance of caring for these computers.

Yet one student with a broken network seems to care for his. He keeps his in a box. He must care for it, right?

The teachers and I met yesterday to discuss what we would do in class. The newspaper idea took a bit to pick up on last week (it took the teachers a bit- the students were fine- but regardless, I figured they should teach as they are comfortable, otherwise no learning will happen). Two teachers were at a funeral so the other two teachers took over the class at first. All 100 students were there (we are now taking attendance- of both students AND teachers so that we know who deserves the computers they have, otherwise we've threatened to take them away. Also making sure teachers come so they are appropriately paid) and they all sat in a very sweaty classroom as the two male teachers took over class. They picked one topic as a class- malaria- and discussed it length. Then the students interviewed each other, walked around the courtyard taking pictures, and wrote articles about malaria.

I saw the finished result- a collection of articles with pictures of students laying around the courtyard, “sick” with malaria. Other students snuggled up against one another on benches, promoting the use of mosquito netting for mothers and babies. Ned tells me that the malaria campaign has really worked well here in São Tomé, so the articles were very appropriate for the students- something they were really familiar with and knew a lot about. I'm glad that these students were able to do something that worked for them. And the teachers seemed very pleased.

As much as I love interacting with the students, with this being the first of our final three classes, we talked at the teacher meeting yesterday about how the teachers need to be able to be self-sufficient with this program after I leave. I'm hoping to return in the summer to erase the computers for a new group of students and to check in with the program- and maybe even run classes over vacation. The teachers like the idea of a summer program. Students can come to class everyday and use their computers. Yet the teachers can't be paid by the Ministry of Education over the summer so we need to find another way around that. But until then, there are quite a few months of time and the teachers need to be able to continue running class so that these students can explore and grow. Some teachers seemed nervous. I assured them that by this point, students will know how to use their computers. It's just about expanding what they already know and using them in fun projects. As long as the teachers and students are both having fun, that's the most important part!

While I was working on the computers, one of the students came into the office during the class and started to play “SMS” really loudly- a song that is on the radio here in São Tomé. I had no idea how he had gotten that music onto his computer, and I asked him. He explained. For him it was easy. He put his computer up to his radio, turned on the “audio record” program, and bam. Then he saved the song so that he can listen to it whenever he wants. And now this kid walks around class with “SMS” at an incredible volume. I am thrilled. He has already discovered something beyond what I have thought of. The things these kids can and will do with these computers makes me thrilled. I thought maybe someday they can make their own little music videos as a project. It could be fun.

Kadma, the girl whose computer screen was broken last week, was hoping for a new computer this week. She walked into my office with her eyes on a stack of cookie boxes. “Are those computers??” she asked hopefully. I had to tell her no. It broke my heart. I watched her walk around the courtyard, empty handed. I encouraged her to go into class and share with someone else, but somehow she kept slipping out. I asked her if she wanted to sit next to me while I worked on the computers, and she said yes. I took out a globe and asked her to find São Tomé. She couldn't. I asked her to find Africa. She couldn't. I taught her both. Then when another student walked in, she showed him herself where it was.

I also let Kadma take my camera and take pictures around the class of the students with their computers. I think she had a good time being the photojournalist for the day. The kids were finally jealous of HER for once, and that made me feel good. We have to get more computers for these kids though.

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