Archive for December, 2010

Profile of a colleague in New Times

My dear friend and colleague Desire gets a nice profile in New Times Newspaper.


First day of the “A day in the life” XO documentary camp

Today was the first day of “a day in the life”
documentary camp. We have invited a total of 30 students from both public and private schools: ESCAF, EPAK, Green Hills & La Colombiere. In addition to the student participants we also have two teachers from ESCAF and Green Hills present in an effort to spread powerful ways of working with the laptop among the private schools.

We wanted to hold a camp focusing on documentaries for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because we wanted to focus on using an activity that is simple and takes no time to explain. We always advocate not to teach laptops, rather, teach using the laptops, but because our time with students and/or teachers is short, we usually end up using most of our time explaining HOW to use the deeper activites, rather than USING them. Additionally, we wanted to give a voice to Rwandan students. They are able to share with the world “a day in their life” from their eyes. Each child will make their own documentary, then, we will compile all the short documentaries and make a full-legnth feature film which will be shown in a Hollywood-style premiere in January.

Something new we also wanted to do during this camp is to properly document our work so that these kind of activities can spread through Rwanda and other “OLPC countries.” Desire is conducting research. He is distributing questionnaires, conducting interviews, and watching for learning moments. Jimmy is making sure everything is recorded through video. This documentation will not only bes used for short term but we also hope will evolve into a means for a more long term research on the affects of our work and the project more generally.

While most of the day was to get familiar with everyone, one major outcome was when the visiting Headmistress of a school noted to our team that she realized she would have to start to change the culture of her school, once she noticed that her students were much more reserved and scared to express themselves than the other participants. She plans to foster a more interactive and free environment moving forward.

Kids Documentary Camp

I am excited to share that MINEDUC and OLPC-Rwanda will be holding a joint Documentary Camp in which Rwandan children will create a short documentary about ” a day in their life.” They will work in groups, harnessing advanced mathematical, programming and social science skills and edit together their short documentaries into a final film to be premiered for their parents, community and esteemed stakeholders. We also hope to involve the local Rwanda film community, “Hillywood.” We will start the work beginning next week. I love this idea of the camp because although we advocate “not teaching the laptop” due to time restraints, for example, just 1-week with children, we end up teaching the basics and have little opportunity to go very deep. This time, children will be using Record and some editing software, they will have time and space to focus on their documentaries and already have the necessary knowledge needed to use the laptop. We plan to have participants from La Colombiere, Green Hills, ESCAF schools.

A great teacher at the OLE workshop

Desire and I are still at the OLE Curriculum Workshop. It is not always easy work as it is hard to get a large group to try to think in a new and different ways. I am part of the team that is creating the English curriculum. I work with one group, in particular, working on the P6 (grade 6) portion. Arsene, a young teacher from Kicukiro Primary School is part of the team. He is absolutely fantastic. He not only understands powerful ways to integrate the laptop into his teaching, but, most importantly, he is open and understands new ways to work with his students. He shared with us that he likes doing group work with his students and letting them explore and do research on their own. He frequently uses Memorize, the offline Browse content, and Write to help his students during class time. Additionally, unlike some of the groups, he is not afraid to go slowly through the curriculum and really think of ways to make children enjoy the lessons and incorporate all of his local and teaching knowledge to change what was previously there.

I asked him on a drive home what made him so different and very open to new education ideas. He had trouble pinpointing something, but I then asked him how he was able to communicate in English so well. He said that, during school, he had a visiting teacher from Canada. He said she was different from any other teacher he ever had, she taught his class English using a guitar and through song. It was clear this had impacted him and helped to change his own teaching philosophy. This is a testament to some of the great projects in countries such as Rwanda. Sometimes it can be difficult to feel like you are making a difference but this teacher made a huge difference which is now making a much bigger difference for, potentially, the entire country!

Arsene also confided that trying to teach in a non-traditional way is not always easy. He said that he is constantly receiving complaints from the parents of his students because the way they monitor the work of their children at school is by the quantity of notes they have in their notebooks. They always complain “you are not teaching our kids! They have so few notes!”

I thought this was an interesting point not only to realize the realities a teacher faces, but also the big changes required within the culture and community for a large-scale change in education to occur. It is a concrete example of how important it is to do this work before laptops are given to schools.