There are two fantastic motivators that push me along on this venture.
First there are the children and their curiosity and love of the activities offered by the XO (Computer) Club. They of course love the camera tool, making music and playing Happy Birthday, and solving mazes. They do not yet know of the new things that we want so much to share with them, such as maps and also the science e-books from Fequiere Vilsaint who is offering us his 36 science books in Creole for grades 2, 3 and 4. But the teachers and the visitors who bring new ideas are thrilling to them. This week we’ll take them outside the compound to interview people in town. We’ll get to watch their confidence build!
Off to interview! The second factor to keep me marching ahead is the director himself, Pasteur Lex. Lex has established firm goals for the children and every one of his students so far has passed the government exams. This is a remarkable thing! But even more remarkable to me is the fact that he is also asking more of the children. He is not satisfied with succeeding using rote learning, and so encourages the kids to expand their horizons and be genuinely curious about learning in areas of their choice. He sat down and chatted with us one evening and told us that he will not take seriously anyone who denounces XO laptops as unfashionable and underpowered. Whether one person or a thousand look down their noses (just past their almost $1000 iPhone) Pastor Lex reminds us without hesitation of the children themselves who have proven to him that these XO laptops are indeed wonderful learning tools. Such a brave stance from a school director! We are truly blessed to have connected with these particular directors and this particular school. And so, onward we push with fierce energy! We are heartened by this vote of confidence.
Pastor Lex and his wonderful family
This is Monday. We expect between 10-15 students to attend the club on this first day, from 9-11AM. (Again from 12-2PM and 3-5PM) Amazingly, 24 arrive! Fantastic! An even number, so pairing them into groups of two will work easily. Bill presents the theme and Junior translates for the kids. The topic is Newspapers. What is a newspaper? What is a headline? What is an editorial? What is advertising? What is an interview? Why might an e-newspaper be better than a paper one? Many have never seen a newspaper before. Although Bill shows his home newspaper on his laptop, Jeanide has quickly discovered a physical newspaper (French) downstairs that she shares with the club.
There is very little written Creole in Haiti aside from advertising, so the children do not see much of their own language in print. Most of the parents do not read. We hope to help change this by providing e-books and library books, some of them even created by students from other schools.
Today the students take their laptops outdoors and practice taking photos, like good journalists.
When they return to the classroom, we talk about questions to ask at interviews. First, emphasis on permission for an interview is mentioned, then accepting a refusal graciously and saying thank you at the end. They spoke about being sensitive to people who might not want to share details of their lives, such as their age (which they may not know). The kids came up with a long list of things to ask. They began copying from the chalkboard until Jeanide made it clear how to go about taking brief notes instead.
Using the laptop as a hard surface to write on. A trick of the trade. Elisabeth and Jeanide demonstrated an interview with humor. (Elisabeth said she had a daughter! Not true!)
Then the children practiced interviewing each other. The best pairs presented their interviews to the class!On Monday and Tuesday, the children went on outings to conduct interviews in town. They became more relaxed about them as time went on. They had to request permission for Bill to videotape the interviews. Generally, people were willing to comply. There were successful interviews with a fish saleswoman, charcoal vendors, and a nice man who had a sewing stall in the marketplace.
After morning class, I delivered gifts to the school’s director of pedagogy: in addition to such things as markers and construction paper, there were solid geometry shapes, science class models of frogs and butterflies and a few French books too. The teachers need motivation also!
The tech side of things:
It was Monday, too, when we decided to use the Missionary Room as our computer lab. Ever hopeful, we needed to be able to eventually install new material on the laptops and so they had to be set up assembly line style in numbered order. Junior, Bill and Adam lugged the boxes in from the storage area and Elisabeth and I got to work setting things up.
Unpacked Mission of Hope laptops in orderWaiting for the software installationTwo long tables of laptops were set up with their chargers and batteries attached. Eventually we had a third table at the ready as well. These were most of the numbered laptops belonging to Mission of Hope. And now we waited for instructions to move ahead. And then we waited some more! Being in different physical areas from the tech guys meant that we had no idea if progress was being made. Come Tuesday, I had enlisted a new helper to speed things up when we got the go ahead signal. This was ever-so-helpful 15 year old Stephen Penberth, from St. Louis, Missouri.
Unbeknownst to me, back in Birmingham Alabama, Anna Schoolfield evaluated Software Release 12.1.0 for us Monday to see if that fixed our digital library nightmares, to know if it was even worth (trying) to download that giant 656 MB operating system to Haiti.
Yes was the answer — what a huge favor she provided us!
It took ages to download…setting in motion the marathon rest of the week, a marathon we never knew would be finishable or not. The “brain transplant” was a success. Even more surprisingly, by Thursday night most everything came together when George and Adam returned the master server (digital library disk) to Silar’s Orphanage back in Port-au-Prince. WOW!
More photos below.
It is getting dark, Tuesday night.Ready to install new softwareA visitor arrives…Adam works on Bridge Activity and TuxMath installationThe driver is here and we can soon go back to the beach for dinner. Time is 10:30pm!On Wednesday there were many activities, but boxing and labeling all 230 laptops was completed in the morning. Thank you everyone, both near and far!
Stephen wraps things up before we box things. Another visitor arrives: a praying mantis puts in a good word for us! “Seigneur, sauve-nous” 3 laptops, 3 batteries, and 3 chargers in each boxBoxes of exceptional casesMama said there’ll be days like this,
There’ll be days like this my Mama said