(by Adam Todd, from newsletter)

Imagine for a moment a small school in a small town on the outskirts of one of the smallest cities in the poorest country in Central America. Imagine a school without electricity or running water, windows without screens or glass, roofs littered with holes and areas that have collapsed, tables and chairs that are virtually falling apart. With all of this in mind, we couldn’t have thought of a better place to run the first Waveplace pilot in Central America.

Only an XO would be versatile enough to adapt to these conditions and allow children who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn computer skills to then be able to turn around and rank some of the highest results in the recently held Waveplace Awards ceremony. Wrangling the Seymour Award for the top student, Wendy was the icon of our success with her story of a Butterfly Queen. After our overwhelmingly successful pilot in Buenos Aires ended only one question remained for us, what next?

Two weeks later on the National Nicaraguan News came the top story of President Ortega’s Announcement that the largest cell phone company in Nicaragua had donated 3,200 XO laptops to the Ministry of Education in an attempt to “elevate the quality of education” throughout Nicaragua.

Soon after the announcement I had the Ministry of Education tracking me down asking questions about the XO’s, Campo Alegria, and Waveplace. Suddenly our small school in Buenos Aires become much more than a “pilot” and was now the starting point of a nation-wide prototype that would spark the interest of the government and 200 schools spread throughout Nicaragua.

Yesterday we completed the initial basic training of the first forty schools that have already received laptops. Starting with an overview of the XO and a general introduction to some key programs most useful to elementary schools in Nicaragua. The teachers quickly became aware that Etoys would be the most important tool on the XO for their school children and that they would need more than just an introduction. Immediately the question was raised: how and when would they get further training in order to begin teaching Etoys to the 3,000 students currently waiting?

Most of the teachers had never touched a computer before and it was amazing to see their faces as we navigated to the video application and seeing them suddenly realize that they were being recorded by the XO’s video camera. Many ducked and a few even began to put their makeup on as if the XO was an electronic mirror. It was a great feeling to see all of the teachers leaving the day feeling encouraged and ready to get started on such a monumental task ahead.

Nicaragua is advancing slowly. Even as the meeting wrapped up yesterday we were greeted in Managua with chaos and rioting in the streets as the political situation continues to deteriorate after the recent municipal elections. Questions still remain: How will it look to train over 3,000 students and teachers on an XO? Where will the funding come from … and what hidden obstacles that are yet to be seen lay ahead. All things considered, we all agree, it will be worth the journey.

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