As I watched the videos of the children and their XOs, it sure looked like a lot of fun! Some of the best learning I have ever experienced came in the guise of doing something interesting and often goal-oriented.
While some may enjoy learning everything and anything without a context, this is not the norm (from what I have seen). I never did read the dictionary. Learning while doing was something I learned as a teaching technique while working with Peter Coad. When we combined courseware and lesson plans with trying to accomplish a goal, the learning took on new meaning.
You can see the same thing with the children and their Waveplace projects. Though the typical learning was through the mentors and “doing,” you could even see some children mentoring their peers. The goal of making a story and the items in it do something is a strong force for causing the children to seek our information, to try things, to experiment.
My three children have been in the Quaker education process (our son is now at Penn State). My twin girls are currently finishing up 7th grade. I can see the same benefit to their learning when they apply the elements being learned to a project or an interesting context.
Admittedly, this is a harder teaching method, as mentoring is much more hands-on. However, having personally mentored hundreds of software developers in the realm of object-oriented and agile methods, I can attest that the lessons sink in much better.
For the children and their XOs, I think the subtlety is about learning to learn by exploring, by doing, and by helping each other, and by accepting help from mentors.
In Early May I headed back to Haiti to check on the Waveplace pilot at Mercy and Sharing’s John Branchizio School. Haiti is one of the most turbulent places in the western hemisphere, and since I had last been there in February, rising food prices had caused rioting and the ouster of the country’s Prime Minister. During this time, by necessity Waveplace’s pilot had been put on hold. When I touched down on the Port au Prince tarmac it was relief to see that the city was back to normal. (Though I did have a UN soldier standing guard with an automatic weapon outside my door 24 hours a day – but that’s another story)
I met that evening with Emile Jean Rousa, lead mentor and talked about the progress the kids had made so far. It was quite encouraging, as despite the political troubles holding up classes, and the fact that it was too dangerous for the kids to take their laptops home with them to practice, they were extremely motivated working with their XOs and were making significant progress.
When we were able to get everything together for lessons to resume, I have to say it was pretty surreal. We had to use the orphanage’s cafeteria, where the only light came in through decorative holes cut into the concrete walls. It was almost like being in a futuristic movie, with these kids lit by their XO screens and gritty streaks of sunlight as they concentrated on learning the skills needed to paint on the computer.
What was also otherworldly was how disciplined and focused the kids were, as well how well the mentors were able to guide the kids through the steps needed, despite the conditions. (Steps, that keep in mind, were totally foreign to the kids who had before this pilot, never even touched a computer before.)
It struck then me that easiest part of Waveplace Haiti pilot is the kids actually learning the XO and eToys. It’s just every other single thing that’s difficult!
(written by Jeanie Haas, from newsletter)
Nicaragua, the poorest nation in Central America, is a beautiful country which has suffered more than its share of woes in recent history; devastating earthquake and hurricanes, civil war, corrupt government. Still, its people are warm and welcoming, accepting and hopeful.
Our family has been involved in projects in Nicaragua for about 15 years; micro-enterprise, schools, orphanages and more. We especially love working with children, as they are the future of this special nation. So it was a great joy to stumble upon Waveplace via friends in Sanibel, Florida, and we are happy to be partnering with them to bring their creative technology to the children of southern Nicaragua. Our plan is to work with a school in the small, rural town of Buenos Aires, using both Nicaraguan instructors as well as an American who lives in the nearby town of Rivas. As with any project in a third-world country, we face challenges; the school currently has no electricity but does have large holes in the roof! Even if we do get electricity, long blackouts are common. But the hurdles only make us want to work harder to find creative solutions and make the end success even more rewarding. Currently we plan to use bulk battery chargers and plug them in at a nearby rustic camp that has a reliable generator.
We’re very excited about this pilot project and the opportunity to impact this community, where an average daily salary is 3 dollars and most travel by ox cart. This program will open up a whole new world for these children, which we believe will positively impact their families as well.
Please join with us in reaching out by donating to Waveplace. There is no better way to bolster the ailing American image worldwide than through outreaches such as this! And there is nothing quite like the smiles that are given in return.
To say that the last few months at Waveplace have been busy strains the very definition of the word. Aside from finishing our first pilot and helping our second through some very tough times (see below), I’ve been traveling the US, fundraising for our Saint Vincent and Immokalee pilots this summer. We’re also laying the foundation for as many as thirty courses with 600 laptops next fall.
More than this, we’ve completely revamped our Squeaky Tales courseware, half of which was unveiled yesterday to a select group of “beta” reviewers. What you see on the website under Tutorials is the “alpha” courseware we used in St John. Our beta courseware is a vast improvement, which we’ll be testing out this summer. After the pilots, we hope to take the courseware and create a professional textbook and DVD series.
Before that’s possible, we need to raise more money, as we’re now reaching the end of our startup funding. With months left to finish our pilots, courseware, and film, we’re short on funds. If ever there was a time to click donate to help, this is it. Each dollar we receive will allow us to improve our courseware and documentary.
Waveplace has been a roller-coaster ride, no doubt, but we’re getting closer and closer to realizing our vision, that of engaging the children of the world to take ownership of their own education, so that they may excel in jobs that don’t yet exist, so that they may someday solve the problems of the future.
(written by Senator Louis Patrick Hill, from newsletter)
Upon viewing the final projects implemented during the Waveplace Pilot among fourth-graders at the Guy Benjamin Elementary School on St. John, I concluded that the project has enormous potential for Virgin Islands students.
I also came away deeply gratified that the non-profit entity, Waveplace Foundation, had selected the Virgin Islands as a viable location to introduce a pilot program calculated to stimulate learning among children (particularly those outside of the continental United States), with emphasis on the development of language skills, the very bedrock of acquiring an education.
The Waveplace Project, utilizing the XO computer and Etoys instruction, has tremendous potential for impacting our struggling Virgin Islands educational system. There is a contradiction for children who “Live in Paradise” as their ability to receive a first-rate education is often fraught with difficulties. The geographic challenges of an island community prevent students from taking advantage of educational opportunities available to students on the mainland. What is at stake for Virgin Islands students is the opportunity to avail themselves of cutting edge education technology on par with any other jurisdiction, utilizing the One Laptop Per Child and the Etoys instruction. This flexible technology will propel the students into a new world of exploration and creativity, the control of the educational environment in the very hands of the student. It will provide a massive change in the method of student instruction, allowing both appropriate and self-directed lessons, collaboratively developed by student and teacher.
In receiving a free laptop, Virgin Islands children participated with unbridled enthusiasm as instructors familiarized each student with the technological wonders of the instrument. The children worked diligently with their teachers as they learned to not only tell their stories but graphically design them, complete with animation. As these stories were projected on a large screen, each child came forward in a “show and tell” presentation. . . and each took part in editing each other’s work, contributing suggestions on how best to improve verbiage and animation.
The ramifications of this technique to stimulate an interest in learning are awesome; it will expand the horizons of Virgin Islands children in directions unique to the potential of each child.