RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Class Notes, October 23 - November 7

Arrival in São Tomé: 23 October, 2009

October 23-30- Learned Sugar platform and general XO use, collaborated with teachers, especially computer teacher Miguel da Boa Esperança, and director, José António, of São João school about how we would organize the program.

7 November, 2009- Letter to Paul:

My name is Beth Santos and I am a volunteer with STeP UP (São Tomé and Príncipe União para a Promoção), an NGO based in the city of São Tomé, STP. Though I'm doing a few different things here, my primary role is to help ease the kids at the Sao Joao school into using their XO laptops on a regular basis. Therefore, I took a little do-it-yourself crash course on how to use the XOs, taught the teachers
almost everything I know, and have been developing a program Saturday mornings where the kids can use the computers.

The school has been pretty adamant about not letting the students take the computers home. They are afraid that, for one reason or another, the students will never return them (be it they break them, lose them, the computers are stolen, etc). Finally, after a very long and frustrating non-class today (due to lack of access to the office where the computers were being held, then, finally when we got in, the
electricity went out), I convinced the teachers to let the students take the computers home over the weekend, provided they return them on Monday. At least now they'll be able to have a little at-home time with them. I know that you are planning to return to Sao Tome sometime at the beginning of next year. By that point I'm hoping the students will be well accustomed to taking the computers home regularly. But for now, I thought I'd keep you posted with what's currently happening and the difficulty we're having getting the teachers to bend to OLPC's endeavors!

Currently, we have a computer class arranged every Saturday morning, as mentioned. The teachers feel they should be paid for their attendance and teaching (something I'm working with the director about). This is also something that might need to be addressed when you make your way over. I'm trying to explain to the teachers that the computers should be used as tools, and not as things to be learned and
then subsequently forgotten. Some teachers want to give classes to students and then pass the computers onto other students. I'm trying to explain that learning how to use the computers is only the first part- that actually using the computers in the classroom is most important.

Anyway, "petty" things that will hopefully be resolved by the time you make your way here. I'm also helping OLPC to translate the instruction manual into Portuguese, so that by the time I leave in mid-December, hopefully the teachers will be able to help themselves if they have questions.

Things that I need your help with:

-There are a few new students in the class and they don't have computers. Are we expecting to get a new shipment sometime soon for the students that don't have any?

-I'm curious about the long-term goals of the program. Are you expecting the kids to keep the computers just this year, and then afterward pass them onto other kids? The reason I ask this is because
the computers have been given to 6th grade students. In 7th grade, they move to high school- a completely different school, where OLPC hasn't made an appearance. So either we teach the high school teachers how to use the OLPCs, we return them to the incoming 6th grade class, or (what I suggest) we wait out the year, give them to the 5th grade class next year, allow them to keep the computers over two years, and then continue the cycle again after they go to high school. But I was
curious as to what OLPC expects to do with new students coming in every year.

-Right now energy is a big issue. I'm thinking of raising a little money so that we can buy a generator, but that is only a short-term goal. Ned wants to know what you think about using a pedaling mechanism to create crank energy that we can hook up to a battery and power the laptops with (I think he said he explained this to you already?). The example he showed me was a really slick design that has been used in OLPC Afghanistan.

Paul's response, 16 November 2009:

Hi Beth,

Good to hear from you.  James told me that you had arrived and was working with Sao Joao school with the OX laptops.  I really appreciate your assistance. Let me see if I can answer your questions and provide some clarification.  There will not likely be any more computers.  This was a one time distribution of 100 computers per site (country).  There may be another RFP this winter but it is
probably not likely that additional computers would be headed to STP given that not all the African countries have yet to receive a deployment.  I think your suggestion on the long term use and ownership of the computers makes sense. OLPC (the NGO) wanted the children to take them home but there was some confusion caused by our team of interns and that was not how they and the school director left it during  the summer break.  The idea may be to have as many students have an opportunity to use the computers as possible.  That wold mean handing them out with each incoming 6th grade class.  I think the director has a some leeway on how he wants the computers to be used.
Having said that, I do think that the students should be able to take the computers home to experiment and teach others.  The teachers should also learn how to incorporate the computers into the class.  Payment for the teachers should be a through the school and Ministry of Education.  I think that, we do in the US, as the teacher improves their skills and studies for advanced degrees and certification they are financially rewarded.  This is something I can take up with the Minister when I arrive in January.  Translating the instructions into Portuguese will help in this regard.  Concerning the energy.  it has always been a problem.  The mechanical approach to power is the better solution because of the initial cost of the generator and the ongoing fuel needs. I hope this helps.  Keep me posted and I'll follow up when I arrive on January 1.  Question: how did you connect up with Ned?  Also, my daughter was part of the team last summer.  She had accompanied me for the last three summers to STP and is in love with STP and Africa.  She is a freshman at Truman State University (studying romance languages) and would be happy to help clarify things or just chat.  Thanks.


No comments:

Post a Comment


Please click the button below to donate to STEP UP OLPC to support the São João school's computer program in São Tomé:

Donate $200 and you will be paying for a computer for at least FIVE very special children at São João (as estimated computer life is five years). Thanks so much!

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
3050 S St. NW, #400
Washington, DC 20007