Sunday, June 21, 2009

Week Five, Challenges and Successes

This week, 125 students in Fiji had their first ever technology class. It's really a joy to teach these classes. Students here are remarkably respectful and appreciative, so they learn fast.
Teachers are intrigued by the machines, but they have a habit of wandering off "to make a phone call" just about when I appear in their classroom (not all, but more than one). It's really hard for me to tell students I can't begin their lesson without their teacher present, but it's also really important to me that teachers begin to learn how to troubleshoot the typical problems students have with the laptops. I also don't want them to feel that they need to have an outsider present in order to be able to use the laptops in their classroom. Here is a photo of one of the teachers who did a fabulous job of working with his students during their first class. Extra hands are helpful when you have twenty+ first time computer users trying to figure out how to click and drag!
I had thought teachers would play a bigger role in the maintenance/power management, but the students are happy to take charge and feel more ownership of their laptops. I think I'm going to include students in the maintenance (how to reflash) class that I'm planning to run in Week Seven.I had hoped to finish the intro classes at this school for classes 5 thru 8 this week. I was close to meeting the goal, but Friday afternoon classes were canceled for a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. As soon as we are done with that intro class, we will set up a time table so that each class will have a morning or an afternoon where they can use the laptops (with lunchtime set aside for a recharge). The head teacher and I discussed that until we are able to develop lesson plans with teachers, we should still give students the opportunity to use them. Using the laptops is similar to using the library - it's nice to have a librarian there to read-aloud, but it's also a great learning experience for students to wander off and explore their own interests.
We also had our second class with Class Seven, and their teacher brought out their maths homework: find the height of the Eiffel Tower, the length of the Great Wall of China, the height of the highest peak in Fiji. Students were able to use WikipediaEN (the preloaded content since the wireless router doesn't reach their classroom) to find all their answers. It was our first lesson where we needed to use the Space Key, and several students put MANY spaces between words. The search engine in Wikipedia couldn't recognize Great Wall with the extra spaces, which made for a great discussion of how much smarter students are than laptops. And everyone also learned where the Erase button was so that their search terms were recognized and their homework was finished during school. Remember how great it was to finish your homework during class?!

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