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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lesson 4...and the teachers are still happy

After class today, the teachers pull me aside. “We just wanted to say,” they begin, “That...before you came along, we had no idea how to use Etoys. We are learning a lot. It's great!”

I'll be honest; I swelled with pride upon hearing that. It was such a relief to know that the teachers are appreciating class. Today was a particularly difficult day. We covered lesson 4 in Etoys, which I think is when things start to get a little bit complicated. First, I showed them how to save things to the Squeakland Showcase. This took a good amount of time as the internet was really slow. I told them the students wouldn't have to do this, just them. I gave them login names and passwords that they could use, and I said if they wanted to share projects created by their students, they could save them to a USB drive and then upload them themselves, or even login under the teachers' name on Etoys, so that the kids don't have to go through what could be a disastrous few days of trying to get everyone set up in Squeakland (for example, it took a couple of class periods to get everyone email addresses. I don't even want to think about the Squeakland Showcase!).

After that, I told everyone to draw something quick over a period of 30 seconds. The class today would not be about drawing- we already know how to do that. Instead, it would be about how to manipulate a drawing. Three of the teachers drew up nice pictures really quickly. Two of them had troubles with their computers so it took longer. Then as I helped those two teachers with their respective problems, the three teachers would continue to embellish their pictures until they just had to the do the thing all over again because the picture started to get too detailed. Good grief, it must have taken an hour just to get five little drawings made. I think the teachers saw that I was mildly frustrated, but I still tried to make a joke. When it took me literally 60 seconds to draw a flower, I laughed about how I could have drawn a whole garden of flowers by the time they had each finished their respective drawings! They laughed too.

The issue is that the teachers are at this point quite comfortable with the way the XOs and Sugar work. The problem, however, is that the teachers are not comfortable with some mechanical things that Etoys requires- clicking and dragging, for example, or, something that is really hard, clicking and dragging and pressing “shift” at the same time (Miguel was having trouble with this and as I patted him on the back I joked, “I know it's three fingers at once, but don't worry, you'll get it- you do have ten fingers, anyway!” and he burst out laughing). When entering in on the Navigate activity, the teachers are constantly adding extra letters, forgetting slashes, etc. Reminds me of the “good old days” when I was first learning how to use the Internet and I was forgetting little details like that, too.

Though this might come in handy when teaching scripting- because now the teachers can relate to the need to have everything exactly right or the computer won't respond correctly.

So once the first hour passes and we have our drawings in order, everything else goes smoothly. I printed the images that the Columbus School for Girls students created- large replicas of each handle in the halo- and distributed them among the teachers. The teachers were then able to write little notes on the page of each handle so that they could remember what each one does and how to use it. Great! By the end of the afternoon, we had forests, gardens, strange and unusual sizes and colors of cheese, houses, roses and squiggles (the squiggles were created by Professora Arlete. She took absolutely FOREVER to do everything – she gets frustrated pretty easily with the computers – so when she FINALLY made the first squiggle I just said “stop it right there, that's plenty!!!”).

Thank god.

At this point it had been about an hour and forty minutes. I asked the teachers if they wanted to continue into the next lesson or if they wanted to rest and go home. They opted to go home. This was fine; we did a full lesson and that is all that was important. For a few minutes, we sat around and talked about the future. This week it's just me and the teachers doing lessons; though because of students' exams we won't have class tomorrow. Next week the teachers need to grade the exams, but there is the possibility of teachers being able to come and do a class in the afternoon, either with just me or with the students. Miguel had told the students to come to class this Friday and we would give them the low-down.

I told the teachers that their homework tonight was to essentially decide what they wanted to do. This needs to have a strong foundation, so if they don't even want to teach the students at all until the fall, we can consider that if we have a plan. Instead, we can spend this summer learning Etoys at a slower pace, and lesson planning for the incoming school year. Or, we can start students up on Monday, keep them for about 90 minutes and then have teacher classes in the afternoon (sort of like how Waveplace did in Haiti) so that the teachers can always stay a step ahead of the students. Whatever they want to do, it's fine by me- as long as they find a solution that works for them.

So that's where we are. They are thinking about how they want to organize their class, and I will support them. They'll tell me the verdict on Friday. I still need to talk to the director about paying (or his lack of paying) the teachers for their work over the school year, but I am hoping that my presence is already reminding him that he needs to turn their hours into the Ministry of Education. The teachers have begun to ask me for their own personal laptop computers. When I talked to them, I realized that it seems that they are not looking for anything special- just something smaller than the enormous computers that are in the computer lab, something transportable, and something adult-friendly (unlike the XOs). I told them the only thing that was holding me back was the shipping fee, but they said they would pay it.

Well, if I can arrange for some donated laptops and then have them pay the shipping, we're golden. So that's my plan right now.

Roberta still hasn't made an appointment with the American Embassy, so I need to get on her back about that to make sure we have time to do it while I'm still here. I'm also hoping to talk to the Taiwanese Embassy, which apparently takes interest in medical and educational projects on the island (and if we have public health curricula, they could definitely pay for that). A few things to do on my list, many of which hopefully will be worked on tomorrow when I have a day off from school.

Polly and I took the motorcycle into town today to meet up with Michelle and Jared, her two American friends, again. Jared is doing his Fullbright on São Tomean history and identity, essentially. It's very interesting work. I just saw the dog throw up a big pile of rice, gross. Speaking of dogs, there is a disintegrating dog in the road over the first hill going into town. I didn't notice it until Polly mentioned it. It's been there for a few weeks now so it looks like a pile of dirt in a dog shape. Nice image, right?

Anyway, took the motorcycle into town, got espresso and pastries, did some tourist shopping, enjoyed the sunlight, and all in all had a great time. Tonight Ned is having my welcome and Polly's goodbye party so a few of our friends are coming by for calulu, an amazing São Tomean stew. The party is supposed to start in about an hour and a half and I'm excited for it! Only a little bit bummed that my supposedly “found” luggage has, in fact, not been found, and therefore I can't look particularly cute because I lack makeup, earrings, a comb, and other previously necessary commodities.

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