(from newsletter)

On Thursday March 27, an exciting chapter in Caribbean education history came to an end as we finished our Guy Benjamin Pilot here on St. John. As the kids did their final presentations of the digital storybooks they created, I could not help but be amazed by their journey of the past three months.

At our very first Etoys class, I asked the kids how many computer programmers they knew. Between them they could name only three. I then told them they were all about to become computer programmers, and then we strapped them to their rocket sleds and lit the fuse. One thing that is fascinating to watch is how quickly kids learn XO basics, especially when it comes to games, music, and chat. I really only had to teach a kid or two and then sit back as the newfound knowledge spread like wildfire.

Learning Etoys was much more of a challenge, especially for kids in the Virgin Islands, who are disadvantaged by a struggling education system, while simultaneously bombarded by the latest technological distractions from the rest of the world. To combat this, we found that mentoring was absolutely essential. If kids get stuck or lost on their own, it is all too easy for them to abandon their efforts in frustration and never go back.

Also during the course of the pilot we found innovative new ways to teach digital media and programming here in the Caribbean. One of the more entertaining ways was handing the kids paper compasses, then turning the playground into a huge Etoys screen with the kids themselves as computer objects. From there they would march out their geometric and true/false programming, to cement key concepts into their mind and bodies.

Through it all, it was inspiring to watch the kids rise to the challenges, using Etoys to bring life to their creative visions. One cannot help but feel that there is a powerful new wave building, and it is fascinating to think that the kids at tiny Guy Benjamin School are among the very first in the world to jump on – and ride it into the future.

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