This week saw a deluge of thunderous rainstorms at the camp. Electricity was out for whole evenings and nights and Internet service was intermittent at best. When electricity was available, I rushed to insure that the XOs got charged and fortunately the children saw no interruption in classes. This curtailed my ability to write as my computer was often lacking charge and the loss of signal severely limited my ability to post.

All the rain also wrecked havoc on the road, still my taxi driver was stalwart and managed to navigate the swamped areas often forgoing the road altogether to ensure transport to and from the school. Fireflies and a random glimpse of a sliver of moon solely illuminated two nights this week. I read by the low beam of a flashlight. These past few days were conducive for contemplation and reflection. A stark contrast to the ebullience of the classroom.

Tuesday through Friday covered lessons 16 through 19 of the Waveplace course. Tests (aka conditionals) were introduced for the first time, “color sees color” tests, checking scripts, methods for detecting a bug, and animating with multiple sketches. All of these also entailed disseminating useful hints for organizing, trouble-shooting, and general maintenance.

Patrick delivered lesson 16, Roxanna both 17 and 19, and Geovany lesson 18. It is difficult to convey how truly impressed I am with both their preparations and classroom rapport. It’s obvious that multiple hours are spent in the evening prior familiarizing themselves with the nuances of the lessons, creating compelling graphics to illustrate the concepts readily and allowing them to display confidence and skill during their delivery.

They continue to foster an environment of focused, exploratory learning. Their own self-esteem extends outward and serves to imbue the class with positive energy. David makes himself available to assist wherever needed. Lacking a computer to take home in the evening, he spends the actually teaching time doing the lesson to refresh and uses our planning hour to puzzle out difficulties he may run into. This weekend, he is armed with a computer and charger and will be introducing the players list and it functionality on Monday.

Three of the children have some trouble grasping the underlining concepts of Etoys. A singular task – drawing an object, naming and saving, locating a menu – is not a problem. However combining multiple sketches, navigating multiple menus and locating desired commands is overwhelming for them. The underlying “sense of it” has still not clicked for them. We take turns working with them offering different voices and slightly different methods in approaching various tasks. Still they are happy with their work and delighted when a script performs in the way they expect it to. On their own time they are creating simple graphics and scripts. One child has been creating a sun and a tree repeatedly, each time a bit different from the last. Yesterday it was clear that they had finally grasped the concept that a sketch has its own paint palette and if you want to change that sketch you must access it and make changes from there. Over and over they have been frustrated by their attempts to do this action from the toolbar palette only to find that their changes were not integrated into their original sketch. We had demonstrated this many times. For some reason yesterday it sunk in. This was a breakthrough moment.

At the other end of the spectrum, five of the children are truly excelling. Animation and scripting is fascinating and clearly rewarding to them. They see potential and possibilities. They crave techniques and methods to actualize what they are imagining. They are attentive during the presentations, rapt even. Occasionally they will wander to the front of the room in order to read the scripts directly. They have difficulty refraining from booting up their XOs during the lesson and I often think they have succeeded in secretly doing so. The exploratory hour has become for them an intense time of innovation and practice. All of the children have been impressed and encouraged by the sharing of their achievements.

Ruben has created Pepito, a dancing female figure who fancy foots it across the screen and back again in a village with illuminated windows and a spouting volcano in the background. Jose has embarked on creating a tale following the adventures of a boy and his friendly but mischievous amigo the shark. His sense of graphics, including his use of typography is compelling. Julissa’s story begins in a park, swings swaying, and a trio of young girls playing. Aaron has created a monkey break-dancer who changes color as it cavorts rhythmically about. And Luis is engaged in an abstract creation of universal proportions. Spheres, and complex geometries that spin and interact. His own personal view of an imaginary galaxy. All awesome accomplishments.

The rest of the children more typically display the waning in and out of attention. One thing will delight more than another. Distraction comes a bit more easily. Still they are intent and focused. They help and encourage each other, sometimes copying elements from another child’s story that they admire. We had a plethora of butterflies for a while. Still imitation is a form of flattery they say. By end of class Friday, all but two had at least three pages of their stories well underway.

We mentors have also been working on stories. Roxanna is purposeful and secretive about hers just yet. No one knows whether the graphics she has been creating for class are incorporated into it or not. Geovany is the master of airplanes. And mine is describing experiences with frogs, fireflies, insects, and such at the camp.

This week also brought us Shyra, a Peace Corps volunteer living and teaching English in the nearby pueblo San Jose. The children were thrilled to meet her and a few recognized her as she taught some of their older siblings at the secondary school. She was blown away by the XOs and more importantly the children’s level of skill in using them. Aaron volunteered to introduce her to the XO and Etoys and spent half an hour doing so. At the moment she expresses her doubt that she can learn this. She feels daunted by computers but the children’s expertise in just three weeks is encouraging to her. Aaron’s step-by-step introduction began with just opening the XO, then explaining the home page with its access to the tool and application bars. He led her to Etoys and demonstrated how to make an initial sketch that left her thirsting for more. Aaron thought that was enough for one day and burst forth to join the football game in progress. Everyone was happy to welcome her to our team.

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