Archive for August, 2010

Desired Teacher Development

As I said, after discussions with Jose Valente and Edith Ackermann. I began thinking about what we should expect from teachers and what our own goals for a teacher’s development should be. Based on my experience with teachers in Rwanda, I propose that teachers should/do develop in the following levels (obviously this model is not stagnant, rather a general overview and desired path which can vary widely depending on various circumstances):

Goal 1:  Understands the reasons for the laptops

Goal 2: Begins to use the laptop for personal use and uses the laptop outside of training

Goal 3: Starts brainstorming ways to use the laptop in the classroom

Goal 4: Uses the laptop in the classroom in basic ways

Goal 5: Begins to reflect on teaching practices

Goal 6: Uses the laptop in more deep ways with the students

Based on this model, for our upcoming training sessions we have decided to focus on more basic activities, more in depth for a longer period, more soon!…

Back from Constructionism 2010

The Constructionism 2010 Conference was fantastic. First, Paris is amazing, I had the opportunity to see all of those famous landmarks, views and artwork that you dream about. Second, it was great to catch up with many friends and colleagues who made me happy to be a new member of this community.

This year, the organizers from American University Paris (AUP), John Clayson and many others integrated a more broad spectrum of presenters including dancers–who lead the entire conference in dance–and even a wonderful “lecture concert.” Many of, as they were referred to at the conference, “grandfathers and grandmothers of constructionism” were there to continue to enlighten and inspire the rest of us and the “new constructionists” gave equally engaging presentations about the projects they are currently working on. Claudia Urrea, Director of Learning for OLPC, presented on the many challenges of bringing constructionist learning to scale.

Some of the most interesting group discussion came when thinking about the growing constructionist community….. are people from all disciplines welcome at this conference? What does it really mean to be a constructionist? Is programming and technology a must?, etc. How can we increase our reach and community without sacrificing our strong foundation and principles?

The presentations and poster presentations were always great, and, for me, the ones with a great story stand out, for example, there was a great presentation about a teacher in Mexico who was working hard, without, sometimes, approval our support to use Logo in his classes. But he was very determined and has continued to advocate for Logo use by “making his students into allies.” He has made major changes in his school and for his students. Many other countries were also represented, including, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Israel, Greece, Australia, Thailand, USA, Brazil and others….

But I came with the hope to get some of my own curiosities about our work in Rwanda answered. I was wondering should we really expect from teachers? Are we pushing them too much? Not enough? I have had my concerns about moving too fast and, indeed, expecting too much from teachers in too short a time. Does it really make sense to teach a teacher Scratch in a week’s time for their first training? Thankfully, I had a fantastic conversation with Jose Valente of Brazil and Edith Ackermann and they both said that we need to be more humble in our approach and that laptop programs that have been in existence 3+ years in more developed countries STILL have teachers focused on the more basic uses of the laptop. This conversation has brought me back to Rwanda more focused on more effectively developing and working with teachers.

Expo Time!

OLPC will be participating in the MTN sponsored Expo starting this Thursday–I hope all who can will come to check out our booth. We will have laptops and hope to have some students showing off their great work!

Back in Kigali!

It is nice to be back in Kigali after the great opportunity to see my family and to check in with OLPCF/OLPCA headquartered in Cambridge and Miami respectively.

Speaking with people like Claudia, Barbara, Nia, Rueben, etc. have provided me a fresh perspective on our work here in Kigali. With this renewed energy, I am having great discussions with fellow team members, two of who are new interns: Adrien and Jean-Claude and OLPC Learning Officers Jimmy & Desire about new techniques to employ in upcoming trainings. Their opinions are fantastic  and very valuable. Some of the ideas we discussed included:

  • Helping (Suggest)start an OLPC Parents Association at each school
  • Providing more information to parents, even before laptops arrive
  • A teacher of the month program
  • A rotating training for teachers during school-time
  • Teachers would have the opportunity to: run an after-school club, participate in a tech/maintenance training, create the school’s lesson plans. At the end of this period, a teacher would be assigned to lead and continue these groups.

We are now still brainstorming and preparing for a busy Fall as we wait for final decisions from MINEDUC. Right now, things are on hold as the country swings into election season. It has been another fantastic time to be in Kigali. It is so inspiring to see the strong support from Rwandans across the country. Many are coming together to support Kagame, which only makes sense with all the wonderful things he has done for this country. But whomever people choose to vote for it is still nice to see this large-scale community involvement–there are signs, people riding in trucks with music blaring, flags, t-shirts, everything! TORA! TORA! Vote! Vote!