Friday, January 16, 2009

Despite the Floods...

... we had our first XO courses this week!
We were scheduled to start our trainings this week, and despite valient efforts by the weather (worst flooding in 30 years, 40 inches of rain in 5 days, buses not traveling) we held both of our classes on schedule!

There were a few moments when I was fairly certain this wasn't meant to be:

Obstacle #1: I was at a training on another island last week and my Sunday flight didn't leave because of wind at my destination airport, my Monday flight didn't leave because the departure airport was flooded, and the next round of storms was expected to arrive Tuesday (the day of our course).
Solution #1: I took an overnight ferry Monday night, arriving a few hours before our 11am Instructor's course.

Obstacle #2: When the weather is bad in Fiji, people don't go to work. This is absolutely understandable once you've experienced bad weather in Fiji. If you don't have to go outside, you shouldn't. Attendance at my class was bound to be low.
Solution #2: What we lacked in quantity, we made up for in quality. One librarian, one Ministry of Education Officer, and the Provincial Adminstrator were all in their offices despite the torrential downpours. They are now ready to show you how to begin exploring your XO.

Obstacle #3: The power went out in the library about an hour before my instructor course, and still hasn't been returned. Surprisingly, this is not storm-related. Their power bill wasn't paid. So, we are trying to teach a computer class in the South Pacific in the summer without AC, we can't recharge the XOs from our office, and the wireless router is temporarily useless.
Solution #3: We moved our first Student Course to the PA's conference room. We still don't have a good place to recharge them or internet access, but hopefully the power will come on next week.

Obstacle #4: One of the employees who wasn't coming to work due to weather was the person in charge of contacting at-risk youth to attend the courses.
Solution #4: Thankfully, this somehow happened even in her absence. Without me having to do anything. These laptops are so appealing, and the offer of a free training apparently doesn't come along very often. Even though I had asked them to reschedule the course until Monday with hope that power would be back on, I still had eight students arrive an hour early on Friday! (What a wonderful problem to have!)

All in all, our first course went really well. The librarian who is trained to help instruct the Intro to XO Course was out sick (Obstacle #5, no good solution), so I had to call in a fellow volunteer to act as my extra eyes. But the students learned quickly (about half had never touched a computer before) how to operate Sugar, and they were chatting with each other in no time.
I walked them through the different views, how to join others in Chat, to view the Moon (which we haven't seen for a week because of the clouds), and to explore the Maze, and they taught themselves how to use the Video function. I'm still uncertain about how to use many of the Activities, but I think these students are likely to be teaching me soon enough.

We spent an hour and a half together, and if the batteries weren't draining, I think they could easily have been attentive for another hour, expecially if this Intro also included a first glimpse at the internet. I'll be scheduling a follow-up course with this group as soon as I return from leave at the end of February. Until then, their assignment is to get their library cards so they can access the XOs while I'm away.

Here are some pictures of our first official XO students!

Using the camera to take a picture with a friend...

So intense...
My favorite volunteer helping out with the lesson...